Work resumed at Dover’s medieval Maison Dieu hospital complex at the end of July when the second of three community archaeology excavations was undertaken as part of Dover District Council’s History Diggers project. Led by Keith Parfitt, the site chosen for the new excavation lay at some distance from the main medieval structures, across an area known to have once been occupied by various medieval and early post-medieval outbuildings to the complex.
The excavation was conducted on small, open grassed area, positioned between the Biggin Hall and the former children’s library, overlooking the town bowling green. The river Dour presently flows some 27m to the north-east. The trench was L-shaped in plan, carefully positioned to avoid most of the late Victorian buildings believed to have formerly existed in this area. On site, adozen local volunteers laboured long and hard, without any complaint, in extreme summer heat and were eventually rewarded by the discovery of a range of interesting structures and finds.
The excavation showed that the entire area had been truncated in relatively modern times, but a remarkable array of medieval and post-medieval building remains was nevertheless revealed in the relatively small trench. Substantial portions of medieval walling were discovered, buried at some depth. Although too little was seen to fully understand these, there can be no doubt that they formed part of a much larger building that once stood in this area.
Early maps and plans show that there was formerly a long range of medieval buildings that spanned the river in this vicinity, and on present evidence, it seems likely that the excavated remains relate to part of this range. The discovery of a number of complete and near-complete roofing slates imported from the West Country may suggest that the building had originally been roofed with such material. Detailed examination of the field records and finds is now underway, while the digging team take a well-earned break before Trench 3 is excavated on a new site in September.