Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future

December 1st, 2011

St Lawrence Cricket Ground

Following earlier phases of work on the Bat and Ball site of the county cricket ground, completed in spring 2011, a new phase of excavation to form a large soak-away for new housing began in November 2011. All our previous work was directed towards preserving archaeological remains in situ, with great care taken to remove organic topsoil, record any exposed archaeological remains and then seal those remains beneath geotextile, a marker layer of sand and thick rammed and rolled layers of hardcore, over which new houses have now been built.
Site under excavationExcavation of interior of building
Although new buildings have been successfully ‘floated’ over important archaeological remains (significant parts of St Lawrence Hospital, founded in the mid twelfth century), late in the build process modification to storm water services for one part of the new complex is urgently required. To facilitate adequate drainage for the new houses a new soak-away was deemed essential by engineers and consent was obtained from Canterbury City Council to carry out an excavation for the soak-away.Our previous work had uncovered part of a substantial building in this position and modifications to the engineer’s scheme have taken place to reduce impact. Nevertheless, the present excavation, an area measuring some 11m by 3m will see the removal of intact masonry and associated deposits.The building lies immediately to the north-west of the Hospital cemetery as defined by previous evaluation trenching and, on the basis of observations made during the topsoil strip, was rectangular, 7m by 16m and aligned long-axis north-west–south-east.   The soak- away is located over the north-east corner of the structure, where a buttress has been identified extending at 45 degrees to the main body of the building.  The corner walls are 0.8m wide and survive to a depth of 1m, clearly indicating a substantial buttressed building.  Two phases of internal chalk floors are presently being investigated.  Outside the building, deposits of demolition debris and make-up and perhaps a courtyard are under excavation.The location of the building, close to the Hospital cemetery, its alignment and the size of the footings forming a buttressed corner, suggest that we may have exposed part of the chancel of the Hospital Church. The present excavation therefore provides and unexpected insight into the medieval archaeology of the site and will clearly add greatly to the results of our earlier work.A final phase of excavation, at the rear of the Bat and Ball, in an area that once contained the ‘Home Farm’ of the Hospital is likely to get under way in the coming weeks.

April 11th, 2011

St Lawrence Cricket Ground

St Lawrence main drive St Lawrence Bat and Ball site
Excavation started in November 2010 at the St Lawrence Cricket Ground as part of an extensive refurbishment and development scheme. At present our work is concentrated in two areas: the former ‘Bat and Ball’ car park which is to be developed for housing, and on the cricket ground’s main drive. Previous archaeological works undertaken thus far include a desk-based assessment, three phases of evaluation and a geophysical survey. The site is situated immediately adjacent to the Old Dover Road which follows the line of the Roman road from Dover to Canterbury.  A cremation, probably of Roman date, was excavated in 2008 during evaluation with the potential for more to be identified as work on the main drive commences.Two earlier phases of evaluation in 2006 on the ‘Bat and Ball’ site identified remains relating to the medieval Hospital of St Lawrence close to the site’s north-west boundary, an associated cemetery lying to the east and pits and ditches that perhaps formed part of the hospital’s grange or home farm to the south.  The hospital was founded in the early twelfth century and dissolved in the sixteenth.  Following its dissolution many of the buildings were converted into a manor house, remains of which were also identified during the evaluation, together with traces of an ornamental garden.  The cricket ground itself was first established on the site in 1841.

Prehistoric and Roman

Very few remains from these periods have thus far been identified on the site though two prehistoric pits were recently uncovered and excavated in the south-east corner of the ‘Bat and Ball’ site. Several flint scrapers, probably late Neolithic in date, were recovered from the first of these with the second containing large quantities of burnt material and flint-tempered pottery. A growing assemblage of worked flints has also been recovered from colluvial (hillwash) material identified in several areas of the ground. Only a single potential Roman feature has been identified in the form of a ditch close to the main entrance to the ground containing several sherds of Roman pottery in its fill.

Medieval discoveries

During the planning process the decision was taken to preserve the majority of the hospital buildings and cemetery on the ‘Bat and Ball’ in situ (ie they are to be left undisturbed). A small area of one of the hospital buildings and the area of the probable grange is, however, being excavated.

So far it is clear that a flint wall identified in the northernmost part of the excavation is of medieval date though the building it formed part of was heavily altered following the hospital’s dissolution. While no medieval deposits have so far been excavated within this building it is likely that they will be encountered as the site nears completion.

To the south of this the site is very different, almost rural in nature, with a series of intercutting (and with one exception, post-medieval) quarries having removed much of the medieval archaeology. Several large pits have been identified in this area, one of which contained cess and should, following the processing of samples, produce interesting environmental remains. Two complete pots, together with a large amount of broken pottery, were recovered from the upper fill of this feature (see photo below) and add to an increasing assemblage of medieval pottery and other bulk finds from the site. Other medieval finds include glass vessel fragments and silver coins.

St Lawrence medieval pots
One of the more interesting features identified on the ‘Bat and Ball’ is a clay-lined rectangular tank probably originally used to store water. Following disuse it appears to have again been used for the disposal of cess. The site’s only medieval quarry, which lies slightly to the east, produced similar cessy material containing what appeared during excavation to be mineralised faeces.Monitoring during the removal of old services beneath the main drive revealed fourteen burials which indicated that the hospital’s cemetery, previously assumed to be confined to the ‘Bat and Ball’ site, extended slightly further to the east. Only one row of burials was identified, providing us with the eastern limit of the hospital cemetery. After some debate it was decided that these would be excavated and not preserved in situ; they had already been badly disturbed. Whilst it is still difficult to say much about the individual burials, it is clear that two of the burials were of juveniles. In the south-east corner of the ground, interesting medieval remains have been uncovered during work on a new entrance on Nackington Road.  Two large circular pits, the sides of which were heavily scorched, cut down into the natural Brickearth.  Excavation revealed large flues leading to the base of the pits. Early thoughts are that they are medieval lime kilns similar to some uncovered in Southampton during the 1960s.
St Lawrence medieval lime kiln

The post-medieval period

The majority of the project has so far concentrated on the removal of post-medieval remains relating to the manor house that existed on the site until the early nineteenth century.  In the north-western area of the site one of the medieval hospital buildings had clearly been re-used as part of the manor. A large peg-tile hearth has been uncovered, built against one of the medieval walls.  A series of built structures lying to the south appear to have formed outbuildings relating to the main house.  At least three phases of walling have so far been identified one of which apparently enclosed an open yard area. Two large cess tanks have been excavated within this range of buildings one of which contained an early nineteenth-century bone syringe which might have been used as an ear syringe, but could have been used in the treatment of syphilis, a disease rife in the early nineteenth century.

St Lawrence pegtile hearthSt Lawrence cess tank
Several brick and flint-built paths together with a large number of ‘planting pits’ appear to represent the remains of a formal garden.  The majority of the ‘planting pits’ contained large quantities of brick and stone rubble in the base, presumably to aid drainage.  A piece of worked stone, probably from one of the medieval buildings, was recovered from one of these and bore both a mason’s mark and some form of incised inscription. We are eagerly awaiting identification of this script. A substantial gravel lane has also been identified, which can be traced on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century maps leading from Old Dover Road.  A small number of post-medieval pits, one of which was found to contain a horse that had been buried upside down have also been recorded.
St Lawrence inscribed stone
Much of the manor is known to have been pulled down by 1839 and demolition rubble seals the building sequence.The excavation work continues alongside construction work. Bellway and Kent County Cricket Club are funding the works, O’Halloran-O’Brian and Cardy Group are the main contractors. We would like to thank all concerned for their ready help and cooperation.James Holman,
Project Officer

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