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Rescue Excavations in West Kent

Rescue excavations in West Kent

  • Roman settlement at Twitton, Otford
  • Roman enclosure at Holwood, Keston
  • Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Horton Kirby

by Brian PHilp, Gerald Clewley, Richard Ansell and Maurice Chenery

This publication covers three key sites in West Kent excavated by KARU and the Bromley and West Kent Archaeological Group. It adds to the publications by the Kent Unit over a period of seven decades. These include the Kent Monograph Series (12 volumes), the Kent Special Subject Series (now 22 volumes) and the Kent Minor Sites Series (22 issues) – see back cover. Very many of its other reports appeared in the Kent Archaeological Review. The production cost of this publication has come from Unit funds.

Site 1. The Roman Settlement at Twitton, Otford. This Roman site extends the area of Roman settlement in Otford across the south end of the Darent Valley. The urgent excavation just ahead of an housing development in 1991 revealed ditches, pits, postholes and pottery, the latter ranging in date through the first and second centuries A.D. Its publication is thus important to the archaeology of Otford where several other excavations have not been properly published.
This work by the team extends its operations in the Otford area where it has carried out the three largest excavations there ever undertaken. The first was on the Anglo-Saxon Cemetery on Polhill as part of the Sevenoaks Bypass construction in 1964 and again in 1967. Then nearly 70 important 7th century graves were excavated and published in 1973 (KMS Vol. 2).  The next major excavation was at Otford Palace in 1974 ahead of house construction. Here, when the Unit had to step in and arrange and execute a spectacular planned operation (see the full story on page 34). This work revealed ranges of rooms, a large corner tower, a complex of garderobe shafts and numerous finds from this regal Palace. Beneath were also parts of earlier buildings and moats. This intense five-week programme, with nearly 100 archaeologists forming the Unit’s team, drew national attention and large numbers of the public were able to visit. The Unit’s appeal, through Viscount Monckton to the House of Lords and the Minister and then to Sevenoaks District Council, resulted in the site being purchased from the builder and not destroyed as originally planned. It was also fully published in 1984 (KMS Vol. 4).
Next was its excavation in 1984 of the east end of the Polhill Ango-Saxon Cemetery, just ahead of its destruction by the M25 Motorway when another 51 important graves were excavated. This was thus one of the largest Saxon cemeteries known in West Kent. Again it was fully published, in 2002 (KSSS No. 15). Whilst these three major excavations and their full publication are a major advance in knowledge for the immediate Otford area, none is even mentioned on the Otford Heritage Centre information panels.

Site 2. The Roman Enclosure at Holwood, Keston. Here rescue-work ahead and after a major housing development found a large ditched enclosure at the very top of Holwood Hill, where it commanded much of the Thames Valley and also the adjacent Iron Age hillfort. Pottery dated from the middle of the first century A.D. suggests it related to the Conquest of Roman Britain by the undefeated Roman army which certainly must have taken control of the hillfort. From here the army could signal its activities across a very wide area.

Site 3. The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Horton Kirby. Here in 2017 the Kent Unit’s team quickly excavated ten more burials ahead of house improvements at short notice. These formed an addition to another 100 burials found here in 1937 and also allowed a review of the whole cemetery after some 80 years. Soon published (Kent Arch. Review Nos 201-204) and now considered here.

Item Features

Object Number H-230823-02
Number of objects 1
Alternative marking ISBN 0 947 831 33 9
Place of Discovery Dover
Date of discovery 2020
Significance to the collection High. Refers to a Roman settlement at Otford
Width 210 mm
Height 298 mm
Length / Depth 3 mm
Completeness Complete
Maker Philp et al
Second Maker Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit
Place of Manufacture Dover
Year of Manufacture or Origin 2020 AD
Significance to the Collection High. Refers to a Roman settlement at Otford
Object Owner APCT