We are working with the Churches Conservation Trust and Dover Archaeological Group over five weekends - between Sunday 22nd January and Sunday 19 February – on a small community excavation at St Peter’s Church.
The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) is the leading national charity caring for historic churches at risk and looks after 350 churches across England. St Peter’s is a highlight of the collection and CCT recently completed a project to open up access to the medieval tower so that visitors can enjoy views across the town. The next phase of development is part of a project to install a toilet, outside the building, on the south-west side of the church and the excavation is to take place in advance of these works.
St Peter’s Church may have been founded as early as the mid eleventh century, this date indicated by mention in a document of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury. The earliest surviving fabric dates from the twelfth century, but most of the fabric seen today is of the thirteenth and fourteenth century. In 1661 the central tower of the church collapsed, destroying the south aisle, which despite plans proposed in the nineteenth century, was never rebuilt. The remains now surround a small paved garden – and this is where the excavation is to take place.
Two trenches are to be excavated, down to the level of the original aisle floor.
Annie Partridge, our Community Archaeologist writes: ‘This is a great opportunity for people to get involved with local archaeology and will allow us to investigate the remains of the south aisle of St Peter’s and find out what happened when the tower collapsed. We expect to find masonry and parts of the original tower including architectural details.’
Indeed, response to news of the project has been almost overwhelming – especially in light of the constricted area of the excavation! On-site opportunities for volunteers are largely taken up, but visitors to the excavation will be welcomed.
Come along between 11 am and 3 pm (from Sunday 22 January then Saturdays and Sundays to 19 February)!
In far from ideal conditions – freezing fog which got worse as the day went on – an enthusiastic team made a great start over the weekend. Vegetation was removed and the former garden topsoil was cleared. In the process we turned up lots of roof tile, pottery and bottles, some glazed floor tile (which might prove to be medieval) and a piece of medieval stained glass.
The weather was far more friendly for our second weekend at St Peter’s and we made good progress. We successfully removed the demolition level and most of the finds recovered so far have been cleaned by a team working inside the church. Next week our main task will be to record and survey exposed features. Finds processing will continue.
Weeks 3 and 4
As you can see from the photos we have been busy over the last couple of weekends. We have uncovered some graves dating between 1750-1850, which we will leave undisturbed, and surprisingly, what had appeared to be a large burial vault turned out to cover an old and forgotten boiler house which supplied heating to the church!