The Trust is involved in a variety of community and outreach projects across Kent. We work with a range of partners including the local councils, museums, local and international universities, national heritage organisations, and local charities.
You can find out about the projects that are currently running and what volunteering opportunities we have on offer in our current projects. Opportunities can be found by following the links or by contacting us.
Our past projects are also listed here with links to the reports and outcomes.
St Mary's Church, Chartham (2010–2011)
‘Finding Eanswythe: the Life and Afterlife of an Anglo-Saxon Saint’ was a community-led project about a nationally important heritage in Folkestone, Kent. The focus was on Eanswythe, an Anglo-Saxon, Kentish royal saint, the granddaughter of Ethelbert who was the first English king to convert to Christianity under Augustine.
Young History Makers
C·A·T worked with the Horsebridge Centre in Whiststable on their Heritage Lottery Funded funded project combining art and heritage to explore the history of Whitstable. Our focus was on telling the story of the Pudding Pans found off the coast of Whitstable, and supporting the participants in creating an exhibition showcasing their artistic responses to the story.
East Wear Bay Archaeological Project
A community project with the aim of researching the archaeological landscape of East Wear Bay, Folkestone. Lead partners being Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Folkestone Research and Archaeology Group, and Dover Archaeology Group.
We are grateful to Folkestone and Hythe District Council for their continuing support of the project.
Past partners have included:
Situated on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Dover-Folkestone Heritage Coast, the area is famous for the fossils eroding from the cliffside in The Warren. Unfortunately this same erosion is threatening extensive archaeological remains along the cliff top.
The archaeological site at East Wear Bay has a complex history. As presently understood, following some activity during earlier prehistoric times, this area grew to particular importance during the Late Iron Age, when it served as the focus of a quern-stone production industry and probably functioned as a port of trade with the developing Roman Empire. After the Roman Conquest of Britain, a major villa complex, whose full extent is yet to be ascertained, was established on the site surrounded by a system of ditched fields and enclosures that replaced earlier ones belonging to the Late Iron Age settlement.
Background to the Project
The cliff and beach at East Wear Bay is known as The Warren and was a popular tourist destination in the Victorian period through to the Second World War. Roman remains had first been discovered eroding from the cliff-top at East Cliff, above East Wear Bay in about 1919, sparking the first archaeological excavation in 1923.
The main process of erosion is called 'rotational slip' although landslides are also common in this area. The geology is Gault Clay and the base of the cliff is easily eaten away by the sea during winter storms when the tide is especially high. Understanding the erosion process is critical to understanding how much of the cliff has already been lost and estimating how long the site has before it is completely destroyed.
The Villa sits on top of the cliff at East Wear Bay. The wooded area below the site is part of The Warren and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The excavations at East Wear Bay can be divided into the following seasons:
1923–4 by S.E. Winbolt on behalf of Folkestone Town Council
1989 by the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit (KARU)
2010–2013 A Town Unearthed: Folkestone before 1500
2015–2017 East Wear Bay Archaeological Field School
Further information about these excavations can be found in the Conservation Management Plan.
The Archaeology of East Wear Bay
The earliest evidence that humans were present on the cliffs above East Wear Bay dates back as far as the Upper Palaeolithic (c 10,000 BC) with a flint blade found at the end of the 2016 season.
Mesolithic (c 8,300–3,500 BC): We have a collection of flint microliths and blades which implies that people were hunting and fishing in the area.
Neolithic (c 3,500–2,150 BC): We have yet to find structures dating to the Neolithic but we do have pottery sherds and flint tools, suggesting that there was a settlement in the immediate area.
Bronze Age (c 2,150–800 BC): The Bronze Age is represented at the site by metalwork and pottery. A number of undated post-holes may be evidence of Bronze Age structures, although further analysis needs to be done to confirm this.
Iron Age (800 BC–AD 43): Occupation appears to have continued at East Wear Bay throughout the early and middle Iron Age. Our recent excavations have established that from the 2nd century BC the site flourished as a major coastal trading and production settlement. From c 50BC onwards the evidence suggests that the site was one of the major points of contact between Britain and the Roman world. Manufacture of rotary quern stones, made from the local Greensand stone took place on an industrial scale during the 1st centuries BC and AD. Finished querns from this site have been found across Kent, the Lower Thames area and East Anglia.
This site is believed to be the only Iron Age quern factory to have been excavated in North-Western Europe.
Roman (AD 43–410): In approximately AD 100 a large Roman Villa was constructed on the site. The presence of roof tiles stamped by the 'Classis Britannica' (the Roman fleet in British waters), suggests that the building was linked to this unit. This first villa was demolished in the late first century, possibly because the foundations were too shallow for the shifting ground, and a bigger structure was built with deeper foundations. The villa was abandoned in the late third century, and was reoccupied in the fourth century, although it may have been in a semi-derelict state. The villa is finally abandoned by the early fifth century.
Anglo-Saxon (AD 410–1066): A cemetery dating to the sixth and seventh centuries AD overlooks the site from Dover Hill, although no evidence of occupation during the early Anglo-Saxon period has been found at East Wear Bay. By the mid-seventh century a monastic site had been established by St Eanswythe on Folkestone's west cliff, forming the focus for the later town. However, our excavations have recovered pottery and a coin of Alfred the Great dating to the ninth century AD, implying some people had re-occupied the site at this time.
Extensive excavations led by Sussex archaeologist S.E. Winbolt in 1923–4 succeeded in exposing the foundations of a large Roman villa complex. The uncovered Roman Villa became a popular tourist attraction and many postcards and photographs survive from this period showing visitors enjoying the site. A toilet was built, along with a tea room – the concrete foundations and a tea cup from this were discovered in our 2015 season!
Up until the Second World War the site enjoyed considerable popularity with tourists. In 1940 the Villa was occupied by the army who dug slit trenches and weapon pits across the site, causing some damage to the archaeology which was picked up in the A Town Unearthed excavation.
The villa remained uncovered but sorely neglected until the mid-1950s when the council decided that it was too expensive to upkeep. Holiday makers were taking advantage of cheaper travel costs and heading to sunnier climates away from the British Isles so there was no longer an income to maintain the monument. As a result the Villa was reburied in 1957 and almost entirely forgotten about.
One of the first ever aerial photographs of an archaeological site was taken of the villa at East Wear Bay.
The uncovered Roman villa being visited in the late 1920s by holiday makers to Folkestone. It was one of the biggest archaeological tourist attractions in the country.
The villa in 1948. After the war, the Council closed the site due to its poor condition and the decline in tourists.
In this year the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit excavated part of the Villa. A key reason for doing this was to investigate the level of erosion since 1924.
The excavation found that a considerable amount of the site had been lost, and that Winbolt's excavation had only removed the upper deposits within and immediately adjacent to the Villa, leaving considerable intact stratigraphy. This included earlier Iron Age features which had been missed during the 1924 excavation.
The Bath House identified by Winbolt at the end of Block B of the Villa. Unfortunately by 1989 most of the structure had been lost, and today the edge of the cliff is too close to safely excavate it.
A Town Unearthed
In 2010 and 2011 the Villa was re-opened as part of A Town Unearthed: Folkestone Before AD 1500, a community archaeology project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. As well as re-excavating the northern part of the Villa, this work revealed that unexpectedly complex and well preserved Iron Age structures and deposits underlie the Villa.
The area opened up included the previously unexcavated courtyard directly in front of Block A and rooms 50-53. The excavation confirmed the presence of earlier Iron Age features underneath the Villa and courtyard. These included ditches and intact chalk floor surfaces.
The courtyard contained an enormous amount of roof tile, some bearing the stamp of the Classis Britannica, the naval fleet based in the Channel. Thought to have slipped off the roof when the Villa lay derelict, the tile covered the courtyard space under which coins, jewellery, and other finds were recovered.
The project attracted a lot of local and national attention. It featured on Alice Robert's 'Digging for Britain' TV series and won the Current Archaeology Magazine award 'Rescue Dig of the Year'. Our thanks go out to all of the partners and volunteers who took part in the project.
The Field School
The East Wear Bay Archaeological Field School ran between 2015 and 2017 investigating land to the north of the Villa. The focus of this excavation was to establish the extent of the earlier Iron Age features found in the 1989 and 2011 excavations.
Recognising a need for quality archaeological training, the project was designed as a field school welcoming anyone who wanted to learn archaeological skills with training from Canterbury Archaeological Trust.
Our thanks go to Dover Archaeological Group and Folkestone Research and Archaeological Group who provided training and support throughout the field school.
The site itself far exceeded expectations in terms of the archaeology. Multiple phases of occupation were discovered dating from the Roman period back to the late Bronze Age.
The most important find was of an extensive quern stone production area dating, at its height, to the late Iron Age. The querns were made from the local greensand stone bought up from the cliffs and beaches around Folkestone.
Building up the picture of Iron Age East Cliff we found evidence for international, national, and local trade alongside roundhouses and other domestic finds.
A community excavation was carried out in the West Wing Battery of Fort Burgoyne, Dover, to determine how many features survive underneath the overgrown vegetation. Overlooking the town and the castle, the fort was built in the 1860s to defend against the perceived threat from France. For further information on the fort and future plans for the site the Land Trust website has details here.
South Foreland Lighthouse
We worked with National Trust staff and volunteers on a Conservation Management Plan at the South Foreland Lighthouse as part of the Up on the Downs Landscape Partnership Scheme.
Up On The Downs
‘Up on the Downs' Landscape Partnership scheme, led by Dover District Council and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, was a five year project that worked with partners and communities to celebrate and conserve the wonderful landscape and heritage in the Dover and Folkestone area. Environmental conservation and heritage management were key focuses throughout the project.
Let Them Speak for Themselves
‘Let them Speak for Themselves’ focused on the twentieth-century military and civil defence structures on the Downs around Dover and Folkestone. A large number of these are documented, but many are incorrectly recorded. Sixty-five volunteers worked on accurately locating as a many as possible, identifying any that had not been previously recorded and assessed the current condition of these important remains. Eighteen sites were selected for remedial conservation work, mainly involving the clearing of litter and vegetation.
CSI Sittingbourne was set up in 2010 in redundant shop space provided by Tesco at the Forum Shopping Mall in the heart of Sittingbourne. The project aimed to give members of the community a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn the basic skills of archaeological conservation from a team of experts to uncover the secrets of the past through careful conservation of thousands of ancient artefacts unearthed during excavations of an Anglo-Saxon burial site excavated at The Meads near Sittingbourne.
The wonderful work of CSI Sittingbourne was recognized when it received an international conservation award – an accolade shared jointly with the Acropolis Museum in Athens – made by the International Institute of Conservation. More about the award and the presentation can be seen here.
St Peter’s Church, Sandwich
We worked with the Churches Conservation Trust and Dover Archaeological Group on a small community excavation in the garden in the ruined south aisle of St Peter’s Church. Post-medieval finds and graves were found beneath the garden along with an Edwardian boiler housed in a Georgian crypt!
For further information on the church you can visit their website here.
This project was achieved with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Parks for People’, the Big Lottery and with money donated by the developers of the new housing alongside the parks. The first Canterbury excavation happened over the 2014 August bank holiday weekend, followed in 2015 by a week-long excavation and a community excavation in July. A third community excavation took place through the week 20-26 June 2016. This further investigated the course of Roman Watling Street at its river crossing just outside the London Gate. A note on what was found is published in the Friends Newsletter No 102 and can be seen on information boards in the park.
A Town Unearthed
'A Town Unearthed: Folkestone before 1500' was a 3-year long community project exploring the history and archaeology of the town.
The project focused on making Folkestone’s past accessible to residents and visitors alike and brought together many different individuals and groups. Initiated by Lesley Hardy of Canterbury Christ Church University and Andrew Richardson of the Trust, the project ran between 2010 and 2013. It was largely funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund and was supported by the Roger de Haan Charitable Trust, Folkestone Town Council, Kent Archaeological Society, Shepway District Council and Kent County Council. Over the 3 years 600 people were involved in active participation in fieldwork, research, oral history and a wide range of educational and outreach activities.
Excavation of the East Cliff Roman villa was the focus of the Trust’s involvement. Local schools were actively involved, with classroom and site visits organised by Marion Green the Trust’s education officer, working with ATU volunteers.
In November 2013 Folkestone to 1500: A Town Unearthed, based on the work of local people, professionals and academics, was published. It was launched at the Folkestone Book Festival.
St Mary’s Church, Chartham
A community project ran over the winter of 2010/11 at St Mary’s in Chartham, as part of a scheme of repairs to the rainwater drainage system. Archaeologists from the Trust were assisted by members of the parochial church council and St Mary’s congregation as well as helpers from the wider parish and other volunteers.
During the work prehistoric, Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon material was recovered from cemetery soils and burial backfills in the form, respectively, of fragments of burnt flint, sporadic fragments of Roman tile and two infant femurs recovered from the old pipe trench backfill. Significantly these little bones were found in an area crossed by the projected alignment of an earlier church identified during excavation in 2001, so may have originally derived from an ‘eavesdrip’ child burial, several of which were recorded in the earlier excavation.
The backfilling of a probable burial next to the southern wall of the chancel with what was clearly medieval foundation material was interesting in that this material presumably derived from either the current or a previous incarnation of the church building. In an adjacent burial a large void was encountered, possibly created when several coffins that had been interred either together or in quick succession, disintegrated en mass.
The Abbot’s Mill Project
The Abbot’s Mill project is centred on the site of a former water mill on the River Stour in Canterbury. The project aims to re-instate a water wheel into the old mill race which will generate electricity for an education centre about sustainable living, renewable energy and the importance of the River Stour in the history of Canterbury’s development.
The first watermill here belonged to the monks of St Augustine’s Abbey – hence the name. The last mill on the site was built in 1792 as a city granary during the Napoleonic Wars. It was a landmark construction, six storeys high, and was designed by John Smeaton who also designed the Eddystone lighthouse. From 1896 the mill was known as Denne’s Mill and it was sometimes called the White Mill. In October 1933 the mill was destroyed by fire. The timber-frame burnt for seven days and nights, half a million gallons of water were poured on the flames and the streets were lined with spectators.
Visit abbotsmillproject.co.uk for information about getting involved with the project.