Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future

No 8 Faversham Road, Lenham

We have recently finished excavations on land at No 8 Faversham Road, Lenham. The excavation formed the second phase of a three phase project that is being carried out on behalf of R M Brookes Ltd prior to and during the redevelopment of the site.

The site (1) lies within an area of moderate to high archaeological potential situated adjacent and to the north of the historic centre of the market village of Lenham. To date little archaeological data exists for Lenham or its immediate environs, but this picture is rapidly changing due to new development and through the work of organisations such as Lenham Archaeological Society an active community group bringing together local knowledge and new information from recent and ongoing investigations.

Lenham village lies at the foot of the North Downs and the Pilgrim’s Way (an ancient trackway with origins in the prehistoric period). Limited prehistoric discoveries have been made within the environs of the village the most notable of which include Neolithic flint scrapers at Court Meadow, Bronze Age settlement features at Swadelands School and potential late Iron Age settlement activity at Lenham community centre. Roman features are also being rapidly identified and revealed on the periphery of the village, including pits and ditches at Lenham Community Centre and along Old Ashford Road. Equally speculation has grown for the potential of an Anglo-Saxon settlement in or near Lenham since workmen discovered the burial of three individuals with two iron knives, a sword, spear, shield boss and a small buckle during the reconstruction of the chemist’s shop in The Square in 1946.
Site viewed from The Square
A late Anglo-Saxon foundation for the parish church in Lenham is indicated by the popular dedication to St Mary. By the medieval period Lenham was a notable market village granted as a right by William I in 1086 to the abbot of St Augustine’s, Canterbury, lord of the manor of Lenham. Henry III confirmed the market charter in 1217, when an annual fair on the feast of St Augustine (26th and 27th May) was also granted. Post-medieval Lenham included at least one windmill for the production of flour as well as several public houses, two of which The Red Lion and The Dog and Bear founded in the fifteenth and early seventeenth centuries respectively are still present within the historic heart of the village. More details about previous finds and listed buildings in and around Lenham can be found on Kent County Council’s Historic Environment Records (HER) website.

The recent excavations at 8 Faversham Road revealed a number of features the earliest of which dates to the Anglo-Saxon period. This was a large steep-sided and round-based pit (2) with a clay lining and it may have been used for the storage of foodstuffs or water. It contained a laminated sequence of fills that processing (3, 4) has revealed to contain abundant charcoal, animal bone, cereal grain and seeds that most likely represent refuse discarded after the pit went out of use. Significantly the fills contained several sherds of sandy early to middle Saxon pottery (AD 410–800), including a rim sherd from a small shoulderless jar. No further features were identified dating to the Saxon period during the investigation, indicating that the site may lie on the periphery of a settlement, perhaps in an area used for land management. Environmental analysis of the material from the fills should help to identify the nature of the land use within the area during this period including the types of crops being grown and the local environment.
The Anglo-Saxon clay-lined pitProcessing pit fillsProcessed sample
The majority of the features revealed during the investigation related to post-medieval (AD 1550–1900) land use and activity that was occurring within the environs of Lenham. The site is situated adjacent to Faversham Road that joined the Ashford to Maidstone road at Lenham providing a route across the North Downs to Faversham. A roadside ditch (5) was identified that contained abundant oyster shell and charcoal with clay pipe and pottery indicating a possible seventeenth-century date for its backfill. An east–west aligned ditch was also identified containing similar material that may have acted as a field boundary as part of land management in the area.

Interestingly the roadside ditch was abandoned in favour of a brief period of ribbon development that expanded outwards from the centre of Lenham along the road. At 8 Faversham Road this development was formed initially by a series of posted structures that may have been used as small agricultural structures or further boundaries. At some point most likely during the late eighteenth century a small oven (6) was constructed to the rear of properties fronting onto Faversham Road. Only three courses of the oven survived later truncation and consisted of a subcircular structure with an entrance into a larger subrectangular working pit. The oven may originally have had a domed roof or perhaps a small chimney. The excavation revealed an in situ deposit of ash and clinker that may be the residues of the final firing; slag material was also recovered. Further analysis will hopefully identify the types of material that were being produced here. Occupation at the site during this period may have been informal without substantial dwellings, but that the area was intensively used is indicated by the presence of a large subsquare cess pit (7) located to the north of the posted structures.
Excavating the roadside ditchThe ovenThe cess pit
By the nineteenth century substantial development fronting Faversham Road had commenced with the levelling of the site using layers of building rubble, chalk and clay prior to the construction of a large stone and probable brick building with an adjoining yard surface. The building was located to the north of the yard and appeared to have no internal features. Perhaps this was used as a store room. The yard surface (8) was constructed adjacent to the road and incorporated a brick-built drain that led from the road to a small soak-away. The surface of the yard was heavily worn with several patches of repair consisting of uniform unfrogged bricks. Material discovered strewn across the surface included nineteenth-century building nails, a glass marble, an iron billhook, the back plate of a pocket watch, clay pipe stems and several glass bottles.
The yard surfaceThe brick buildingRecording the brick building
A further building (9, 10) was constructed later at the south end of the site abutting the still extant building at No 7 Faversham Road. This building was constructed of brick and formed a small dwelling no more than 2.8m wide and approximately 4.5m long. The investigation revealed that the two downstairs rooms were brick floored with back to back corner fireplaces. Finds from within the rooms included a button and three coins. Together the development may have formed a combined yard and store for a small agricultural holding. The paved yard would have provided hard-standing for loading and potentially the dwelling was occupied by labouring families. To the rear, a large brick-lined well (11) was identified, the upper fill of which contained several late nineteenth-century glass bottles and parts of three shoes.
The well, the building and the yardThe excavation team
We were very happy to welcome a visit from Years 5 and 6 of Lenham Primary School who were all excited to see and experience the local history that lies beneath their feet. Further visits were welcomed from the Lenham Archaeological Society and many members of the public. The Trust would like to thank R M Brookes Ltd for commissioning the works and their outstanding attitude and understanding throughout the archaeological programme.

Ross Lane,
Project Officer
November 2014

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