Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future

Westgate Parks Community Dig

August 27th, 2014

Here are some photos of the community excavation in Westgate Gardens over the August Bank Holiday weekend.  The weather was good for three days, but work had to be called off on Monday in the face of some extreme Bank Holiday conditions!

The dig was still extremely successful with over 600 people stopping to watch over the three days. The team was made up of over 60 volunteers who between them uncovered the flint surface of Roman Watling Street just outside the site of London Gate in the Roman town wall. Coins found in soils that built up over the road suggest that the road and gate might have gone out of use in the fourth century.  Lots of Roman tile and pottery was recovered; some was washed and displayed on site, more remains to be cleaned and dated. The 30 Roman coins will be cleaned and dated by the Trust’s coin expert.

The community dig, which will continue next summer, is part of Canterbury City Council’s HLF and Big Lottery funded Westgate Parks project.
Westgate Community DigWestgate Community DigWestgate03_2378
Westgate Community DigWestgate Community DigWestgate Community Dig
Westgate Community DigWestgate Community DigWestgate Community Dig

Festival Walks

August 26th, 2014

As usual our Friends group is offering daily (sometimes twice daily) walks during the Canterbury Festival.  These walks are a major fund-raiser for the trust and we are most grateful to those who have agreed to lead them.  If you want to come you must buy tickets in advance through the festival bookings – bearing in mind that many of our walks book up very quickly.  All walks this year will cost £8 (of which FCAT gets a proportion) and last around two hours.

Monday 20 October, 10am
Canterbury in the Nineteenth Century: Doreen Rosman
Explore the diversity of Victorian city life: slums and elegance, cattle market and iron foundry, brothels and a missionary college
Meeting Place:  Lady Wootton’s Green (off Broad Street)

Monday 20 October, 2pm
The Village of Charing: Sarah Pearson
Throughout the Middle Ages Charing belonged to the Archbishops of Canterbury. See its medieval palace, old church and village street.
Meeting Place: Charing Parish Church

Tuesday 21 October, 10am
Introductory Tour of the Dover Western Heights:  Keith Parfitt
A circular tour, with an experienced archaeologist, of some of the most interesting parts of Dover’s Western fortifications. Moderately strenuous.
Meeting Place: Public car park adjacent to St Martin’s Battery off South Military Road, Dover (OS reference:  TR 313 407)

Weds 22 October, 10am
The Jews of Canterbury : Jonathan Butchers
A walk and talk through Canterbury showing the medieval and early modern sites relating to Jewish life in the city.
Meeting Place: The Old Synagogue, King Street

Thursday 23 October, 10am
The King’s School Canterbury: Mary Berg
From Marlowe to modern times: a walk through King’s School’s history with tales of its buildings, pupils and masters.
Meeting Place: The Mint Yard Gate, The Borough

Thursday 23 October, 2pm
Tour of Medieval Sandwich: Sarah Pearson
We will take in the central area and buildings of this once thriving port, discussing its origins, growth and decline.
Meeting Place: Town Quay Car Park (Fisher Gate)

Friday 24 October, 10am
The Village of Bridge: Meriel Connor
An iron-age helmet; Roman armies; stage-coaches; grand houses; a racecourse, a railway, war-time tanks – and more.
Meeting Place:  Bridge Parish Church

Saturday 25 October, 10am
The Story of Canterbury: Doreen Rosman
From the Romans to the eighteenth century remodelling of the city. See and hear how life changed over the centuries.
Meeting Place:  Lady Wootton’s Green (off Broad Street)

Saturday 25 October, 2 pm
Canterbury’s Medieval Hospitals: Sheila Sweetinburgh
Some ancient hospitals withstood the upheavals of Henry VIII’s reign.  Some still fulfil functions envisaged by their medieval founders.
Meeting Place: Maynard’s Hospital, Hospital Lane (off Stour Street)

Sunday 26 October, 10 am
The Stones of Reculver: Geoff Downer
A look at the history, construction and building materials of the walls of the Roman fort and St Mary’s Church.
Meeting Place:  Public car park at Reculver

Monday 27 October, 10 am
The Village of Harbledown: Peter Berg
An Iron Age fort, a medieval leper hospital, the Black Prince’s well – all part of the story of Harbledown
Meeting Place: St Michael’s Church, Harbledown

Monday 27 October, 2 pm
A dry pub-crawl!  David Birmingham
300 inns and taverns have graced Canterbury since Chaucer’s time.  This walk will discuss a dozen of them.
Meeting Place:  Canterbury West Station

Tuesday 28 October, 10 am
The Director’s Walk: Paul Bennett
Explore iconic medieval buildings – a church, an inn, a shop, and a house or three – with the Archaeological Trust Director.
Meeting Place:  The Buttermarket

Tuesday 28 October, 2 pm
James Beaney:  A Canterbury Lad Made Good: Alan Barber
Rags to riches story of this remarkable Victorian character, benefactor of the Beaney Institute.
Meeting Place: St Mary’s Hall (former church), Northgate, Canterbury

Weds 29 October, 10am
Elham: a village shaped by its medieval market: Derek Boughton
An easy walk round the village, looking at the street pattern and historic buildings.
Meeting Place:  The Square (by the church)

Thursday 30 October, 10am
Walloons and Huguenots: Michael Peters
Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Canterbury was full of French-speaking refugees, who left a lasting mark on the city.
Meeting Place:  The Buttermarket

Thursday 30 October, 2pm
History of Canterbury in around 30 objects: David Lewis
The BBC charted world history in 100 objects.  Explore Canterbury’s history through 30-odd street objects and oddities.
Meeting place: Corner of Monastery Street and Longport

Friday 31 October, 2pm
Canterbury’s River: David Birmingham
A Roman river-side city became a medieval borough of monastic water-mills and evolved fine municipal gardens
Meeting Place:  Castle Grounds, Gas Street

Saturday 1 November, 10am 
Canterbury Cathedral Precincts: Maureen Ingram
The towering Cathedral tempts us to neglect its immediate surroundings but its precincts contain much to interest and surprise.
Meeting Place:  The Buttermarket


Romans at the bottom of the garden

August 21st, 2014

A community dig in the Westgate Gardens hopes to uncover one of Britain’s oldest roads – Roman Watling Street. A test-pit on the site has confirmed that the road passes through the park as well as uncovering Roman pottery, so there should be plenty to see as the dig gets going.

Over 40 volunteers will be working over the Bank Holiday weekend (Friday to Monday) with staff from the Trust on hand to talk about what is being found. The weather is set fair, so take a walk to the park and catch a glimpse of Canterbury’s ancient past.

The community dig is part of the Westgate Parks project. To find out about the project visit

Bronze Age themed resource for new Prehistory programme – the BOAT KIT

August 14th, 2014

Summer 2014 and the three year European project ‘BOAT 1550 BC’ has just closed.  When we began planning for this, Prehistory barely got a mention in the English school curriculum but from September, schools are required to teach the Stone Age through to the Iron Age to children at Key Stage 2 (7 to 11 year olds).  So now teachers are ravenous for all things prehistoric!

Well, we can help them with that. As a product of ‘BOAT 1550 BC’, we now have twelve, identical BOAT KITs lodged with the CAT BOX collections for loan to Kent schools; in accordance with  the project aims, sets of kits are also held in Northern France and Flanders, for use with schools there.

The BOAT KIT contains a Teaching Guide, USB pen of digital resources, replica bronze axe, pottery ‘Beaker’ and bronze dress pin, catalogue from the ‘BOAT 1550 BC’ exhibition and other items for simple classroom activities.

‘I am feeling much more positive about teaching Bronze Age and the new curriculum next year and I am now actually trying to work out how I can schedule it for my year group rather than somebody else’s! The resources that you have provided are terrific …’  Key Stage 2 teacher, Maidstone.

You can order a BOAT KIT by going to the CAT BOX page for conditions and loans catalogue.
The Bronze Age BOAT KIT
Find more about the BOAT KIT and associated activities.

What lies within?

July 3rd, 2014

Here are the CT scans promised in our post last week.

The pots all come from part of a Roman cemetery excavated recently on Rhodaus Town behind Augustine House and the former Peugeot garage.  Some twenty graves were found, all in a small rectangular enclosure in a cemetery which seems to have been established in the late third century, and  in use until the late fourth. The graves differ from other late Roman burials found in Canterbury in that they are more elaborate in terms of their construction and their contents. The fact that they were clustered together in a relatively small enclosure also serves to set them apart from other Roman graves in the vicinity.

The CT scans were made whilst the pots were still filled with soil to find out whether any votive objects were present within them. Such pots often contained foodstuffs or personal ornaments and the pictures clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology.
Rhodaus Town grave 1Rhodaus Town grave 5Rhodaus Town grave 9
Rhodaus Town grave 14Rhodaus Town grave 16Rhodaus Town grave 17
Rhodaus Town grave 12Rhodaus Town grave 16

Row, row, row the boat

July 2nd, 2014

On Sunday 10th August, weather permitting, an intrepid crew will attempt to paddle the replica boat between Folkestone  and Dover harbours. The crew has been in training at weekends for some weeks now and is gearing up for the 8 mile row in the open waters of the Channel, so everything is crossed in hope that fair weather and calm seas allow the challenge.

Good vantage points for viewing and cheering on will be Copt Point and Samphire Hoe and, of course, a welcoming party at Dover Harbour would be especially appreciated. It could be some celebration!
Crew in trainingCrew in trainingCrew in training
And there’s talk of entering the Great River Race, billed as London’s River Marathon, on Saturday 27th September!

News from the Finds Room

June 25th, 2014

Some of the late third- and fourth-century pots recently excavated at Rhodaus Town in Canterbury. Several at least date to the second half of the fourth century. Note the very unusual large stamp-decorated pot with face at the back of the picture. They have been described as the best assemblage of complete Roman pottery vessels to emerge from Canterbury since the 1970′s.

Most were part of burial groups and some were CT-scanned before their contents were removed. Pictures to follow.
Rhodaus Town Roman potteryRhodaus Town Roman pottery

Spring clean

April 9th, 2014

The replica Dover boat has been sitting happily in Dover Marina since October, riding out the winter. Last week we fished her out for a spring clean and a bit of TLC. She’s now been cleaned up and her seams made good, ready for an active year ahead. Hopefully she’ll be going back into the water very soon and we’ll bring you some photos of her in her newly cleaned state then. We have big plans for her this year, so watch this space…
The replica Dover boat

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