GMS Notes No. 58 May 2013

A Walk in the Woods

 

Church_at_Northbourne_ParkLast week we made our annual pilgrimage to Willow Wood to see the bluebells. This time we made a round trip, starting from the church at Northbourne Park school. Northbourne Park was originally Betteshanger House, the home of the Boys family who farmed in the area for centuries. John Boys was the author of an agricultural review in 1813 which details what were then modern practices in Kent and makes a good read forthose interested in agricultural history.

 

cuckoo_pintcuckoo pintbluebells_and_wood_anemonesbluebells and wood anemonesWe were struck by the peace and quiet of that warm, sunny day, only disturbed by birdsong and the cacophony as we approached the Eastry bypass. The late start to spring meant that the bluebells were only just coming out, yet their gentle perfume was delightful. Celandine and wood anemones also strove to complete their flowering cycle before the branches above took on their full complement of leaves, casting their shadow on the woodland floor.

On our walk we also came across cuckoo pints (Arum maculatum), ground ivy, stitchwort, primroses and white deadnettle. In the hedgerows were blackthorn (sloe) and the wayfarer trees were in full bud.

Telegraph_farmTelegraph farmOur return from Willow Wood took us past Telegraph Farm, which is the site of the first station on the shutter telegraph line from Deal to the Admiralty in London. The buildings remain, but the shutter telegraph has long been gone. All around the farm were cherry trees in full blossom. Many of these seem to have grown from pips dropped by birds.

This walk is always a pleasure, but particularly this time of year in the sun.

 

 

Last Month’s Meeting

DSC00764aWe were all enthralled by the sharpness and detail of Steve Franks’ wonderful photographs of insect life in the local hedgerows. Not only were there excellent close-ups of familiar insects but also of insects I, for one, have never seen. The sheer number and variety of different species of such as the hover fly amazed us all.

There were gruesome tales of ichneumon flies laying their egg in living grubs. The hatching larva then proceeds to feed off the living grub.

A sad note was the decline in insect numbers in the past decade. For example the comma butterfly, once a familiar visitor to our gardens is now very rarely seen. 

 

 

 

May Meeting

East_kent_light_railwayAnother unsung Kentish historical gem is the East Kent Light Railway which carried coal and passengers between Tilmanstone and Shepherdswell until 1984. On Thursday, 16th May, in the Village hall at 7.30 pm, Alan Griffiths will tell us of the history of this local railway. If you have not yet had occasion to have a ride, perhaps Alan Griffiths’ talk will inspire you to visit. 

 

 

 

 

 

 Spring Conference of the Council for Kent Archaeology

As members of the Council for Kent Archaeology Audrey, Val and I went to the spring conference where the theme was Roman Britain. Audrey has produced an excellent but lengthy report of a very good set of lectures which I have added as a supplements. Membership of the CKA is very reasonable and includes free visits and lectures on various aspects of Kent archaeology. 

 

The Council for Kentish Archaeology - Spring Conference April 20th 2013

Roman London and Hadrian’s Wall : The Edge of Empire

Three members travelled to Sevenoaks to hear three speakers reflect on aspects of life in Roman Britain during the third century AD. A common thread throughout the afternoon was the recycling of Roman building materials, the luck involved in uncovering and preserving the discoveries, and the dedication of professional and amateur archaeologists involved in uncovering the remains.

Harvey Sheldon opened the conference by discussing the ‘Enclosing of Londinium This settlement was enclosed by landward and riverside walls and the north and west edges of the landward walls are well recorded. The existence of the riverside wall is more problematic due to its erosion by the river Thames. Excavations carried out in 1975 have now proved its existence.

Dating the Landward wall has also been difficult, although latest opinion favours AD200. It was a huge undertaking enclosing 130 hectares of land and requiring 85,000 tonnes of Kentish Ragstone. Only the legionaries of the Roman Army would have been capable of quarrying, transporting and building the 5

kilometres of wall. Harvey Sheldon estimated that 6,000 men would have taken 2 years to complete the work.

Remnants of the Wall record the development of Roman London, but also feature medieval additions. Internal turrets were included and the direction of the Wall altered along its route to incorporate gates and roads leading from the city; eg Ermine Street, and Watling Street. Newgate is the sole surviving gate providing evidence for this.

Bastions were added to the fully formed Wall. Dating of these has proved problematic with opinion divided between Roman or Medieval.

Dating of the Riverside Wall has been greatly helped by excavations revealing ancient timbers. The Wall itself has been eroded by the Thames, but dendrology has proved that this wall was built between AD25Three members travelled to Sevenoaks to hear three speakers reflect on aspects of life in Roman Britain during the third century AD. A common thread throughout the afternoon was the recycling of Roman building materials, the luck involved in uncovering and preserving the discoveries, and the dedication of professional and amateur archaeologists involved in uncovering the remains.

Harvey Sheldon opened the conference by discussing the ‘Enclosing of Londinium This settlement was enclosed by landward and riverside walls and the north and west edges of the landward walls are well recorded. The existence of the riverside wall is more problematic due to its erosion by the river Thames. Excavations carried out in 1975 have now proved its existence.

Dating the Landward wall has also been difficult, although latest opinion favours AD200. It was a huge undertaking enclosing 130 hectares of land and requiring 85,000 tonnes of Kentish Ragstone. Only the legionaries of the Roman Army would have been capable of quarrying, transporting and building the 5 kilometres of wall. Harvey Sheldon estimated that 6,000 men would have taken 2 years to complete the work.

Remnants of the Wall record the development of Roman London, but 0 -AD275.Gaps were left in this wall for quays or streams.

lt is clear therefore that Londinium was a settlement of great importance in the Empire; for administrative purposes and for supplying the Rhine Frontier.

John Shepherd went on to speak about ‘The London Mithraeum’. This Temple of Mithras was constructed in the City around about the same date as the building of the Wall. Having acknowledged his personal interest in the excavation of the temple -— the chief archaeologist Professor Grimes being his former boss, John Shepherd gave a graphic account of the construction of the temple and its ceremonies. Professor Grimes carried out many excavations in the City during the post-war period anticipating the redevelopment of 1950ies London. He oversaw excavation of the Walbrook site as further work was carried out in 1954. The major discoveries at the site were in Grimes’ own words "fluke". Sadly the project received inadequate funding. The Temple was relocated, wrongly realigned and finally banished to a cellar in 1962. Here it was reconstructed, but Professor Grimes called the proceedings "a travesty" and ceased to be involved.

The cult of Mithras was briefly explained by John Shepherd. Mithras differed from other established gods in that this god was a religion in which devotees could exercise self—control. ln the Roman world it was regarded as an heretical cult since the Emperor was the all powerful god.

In 2007 the Temple was listed as an example of the post-war protection of buildings. Ambitious plans are now in place by the site owners- the Bloomberg Group ·— to continue excavations and reopen the remains to the public. This is scheduled to take place in 2016

David Plummer brought the meeting to an end with a personal account of a walk that he and friends made along parts of Hadrian’s Wall. Hadrian was seeking to consolidate his empire and the building of the Wall effectively marked the northern limit in Britain. Built by Roman legionaries, it was originally built of turf and later stone. Sixteen forts were built along the Wall with a gate at every mile. The Roman fort of Housesteads is perhaps the most complete. Excavations began in 1938 and well preserved granaries and remains of a hospital have also been discovered. As with the Wall around Londinium, stones from Hadrian’s Wall have been recycled and can be found in buildings across the North-East. Lanercost Priory and Bankhead Farm are examples.

The speakers were unanimous in emphasising the importance of Britain in the Roman Empire as a source of food and as a bastion against enemies. Their knowledge of and enthusiasm for their subjects made for an interesting and most enjoyable afternoon.

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