Category Archives: St Nicholas

VM_365 Day 329 History revealed in the South Chapel of St Nicholas Parish Church

VM 329The image for Day 329 pf the VM_365 project is a view from the east end of the south chapel of the Parish Church of St Nicholas at St Nicholas at Wade. The church itself featured in Day 321 of the VM_365 project.

It is often easy to overlook the standing historic monuments when think about the archaeological sites in the environment around us and our Parish churches have many archaeological stories to tell.

The south chapel at St. Nicholas was added to the building when the church was enlarged with the construction of the new east end in the late 12th or early 13th century. New windows were inserted into the building by the late 13th or early 14th century.

In today’s picture one of the inserted windows in the east end of the south chapel can clearly be seen,  the frame set within the old 12th/13th century window frame which has been filled with irregular blocks of stone.

While the complex history of the medieval church can be read from the major changes made to the structure, it is important to remember that the Parish churches continue to evolve architecturally. New architectural elements have been added in more recent times and have made their mark on the building.

In the 18th century the south chapel was used as a parish school and a fire was installed to warm the building for the children and teachers.  A brick chimney stack inserted to draw the smoke from the fire can be seen in the picture, poking out from the roofline on the right hand side of the chapel.

The structural evolution of the parish churches of Thanet can tell us a great deal about the social history of the population.The reconstruction and expansion of the churches demonstrates changes in the size of the local population. In some cases such as at Monkton and All Saints, Shuart showing a substantial decline in population.

The varied uses the churches were put to, in addition to the routine of services and worship show how central a parish church was to a local community in the past. The architectural story of the Parish church buildings has much to offer anyone interested in the archaeology of Thanet.

VM_365 Day 321 The parish church of St Nicholas, St Nicholas-at-Wade

VM 321Today’s image for Day 321 of the VM_365 project shows another of our standing archaeological remain, this time the church of St Nicholas, St Nicholas-at-Wade, near Birchington.  The earliest church at St Nicholas was built in the late 11th century and parts of it survive in the lower portions of the west wall of the nave. The original church was constructed of large flints and sandstone from the Thanet Beds.

By the mid 12th century a south aisle was added to the nave and the arcade still survives. A north aisle may have been built at the same time but was replaced in the early to mid 14th century.

The church was a Chapel to Reculver until the end of the 13th century along with Sarre and Shuart. In the late 12th or early 13th century, a new east end was built with a new long chancel and two smaller chapels on either side. New windows were inserted into the chapels and the chancel in the late 13th to early 14th century; traces of the original east lancet windows are still visible in the walls of the east chapels where they are cut through by later windows.

The church was enlarged in the mid 14th century after it became a parish church in its own right in 1310 and as a result of an increase in the local population. Major rebuilding of the nave was carried out with a completely new north aisle and arcade constructed in Ragstone and Caenstone. A new tower was also built at the same time and a new south porch added sometime after. In the late 15th century, a new clerestory to the nave was built and the top of the tower, the aisles and porch were crenellated with knapped flint parapets.

In the mid to late 18th century, the south chapel was used as the parish school and its brick chimney stack is still visible. The chancel was repaired, the east wall rebuilt and the nave restored in 1875 and 1876.

While at face value parish churches may seem to be a steady and unchanging part of the fabric of Thanet’s village landscapes, they represent buildings that were constructed from the late Anglo Saxon period and continues to evolve as architecture until the present day. The story of these buildings is preserved in their visible structure if we take the time to read them properly.






VM_365 Day 318 Jug from Medieval Farmer’s Table

VM 318The image for Day 318 of the VM365 project shows sherd fragments from a medieval tableware jug found in 1979 in an excavation at Netherhale Farm, Birchington.

The late David Perkins conducted a trial excavation  to test the cropmarks of a double ditched enclosure on land between Birchington and St.Nicholas-at-Wade. The excavation revealed a Mid-Late Bronze Age farmstead enclosure (c.1350-1150 BC) underlying a medieval farmstead  enclosed with a ditch. This site could possibly be the medieval forerunner of the modern Netherhale Farm which stands  just to the north of the site.

The cropmarks lie on a very slight knoll and presumably was chosen in both periods of settlement for its well-drained position. Apart from some deeply cut ditches and pits, the ditches and the settlement they enclose have been heavily plough-reduced.

The Medieval phase of occupation produced the fragments from the tableware jug shown above which are from a fairly tall ovoid-bodied jug.  The rim is shown in the upper part of the image, with a horizontally incised neck below and the upper shoulder and body has been painted in white slip with vertical and diagonal stripes under a clear orange (iron) glaze over.

The jug was made at the Tyler Hill potteries near Canterbury and the form, type of decoration and the firing qualities date its manufacture to between c.1250-1325 AD,  a period known in art-historical terms as the ‘High Medieval’ .

Although this vessel is perhaps not as constructively creative as the Scarborough Ware ‘knight’ Jug or the south-west French polychrome-painted jug which were contemporary with this example,  its striking colours and design would have made a handsome addition to the farmstead’s dinner table.

VM_365 Day 278 Medieval knife

VM 278The image for Day 278 of the VM_365 project is of a medieval iron knife found in a layer of medieval occupation debris including 13th to 14th century pottery sherds found in investigations carried out during road improvements between St Nicholas at Wade and Monkton in Thanet between 1990 and 1991.

The knife has a whittle tang which means that a wooden handle would have been knocked over the tang, rather than having a two piece handle rivetted onto a wide tang, an innovation that became more popular from the mid medieval period onwards.

This was an all purpose knife that could be used for eating, working and for defence and was a development from the Anglo Saxon scramasax, probably carried in a leather sheath at the waist.



VM_365 Day 272 Coins as historic documents

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The image for Day 271 0f the VM_365 project is of the two faces of a Stater, a coin struck from gold in the early first century A.D. , in the Late Iron Age.  As the coin is made by placing a gold blank in a mould and striking it with a carved punch, the coin has a dish shape with one convex face and one concave.  The example shown in the image was found with a metal detector in a field in St. Nicholas at Wade in Thanet.

Although it may seem that the value in finding coins like this comes from the metal they were made from, there is greater value in the knowledge that can be derived from the symbols that were used to decorate them and convey authority and value, as well as their distribution in the country.  When coins are used to represent any sort of value in a society, they are often made from rare materials so they can not be easily copied,  they are also decorated with images and words that also have cultural resonances in the society that accepts them. From these symbols we can make a culture that has left us no written evidence speak in its own voice in a small way. If we apply our current knowledge and understanding of coins and the economics of systems of exchange to the examples of ancient coins we discover, we can generate new ideas about how this type of material functioned in an ancient society.

On the reverse of this coin, which has a concave surface, there is a stylised rearing horse along with the letters CUN, representing CUNOBELINE the name of a King of the Catuvellauni tribe who took power in the first century to the late 40’s A.D.  On the convex face of the obverse are the letters CAMU, showing the coin was minted at Camulodunum, now modern Colchester, one of the strongholds of the Catuvellauni and a  centre of Cunobeline’s physical power. The precious metal, the name of the authority who issued the coin and the location of the mint assert the authenticity of the coin. That is not to say that as in the modern period coins could not be forged, but the technology set a barrier to reproduction and the authority of the power that issued it no doubt conveyed the punishment that might be applied to anyone caught producing them.

The distribution of the power and authority of the Kings who issued coins like this one can be estimated from their distribution pattern, which in this case is confined to the south east region. Perhaps people could take these out of the general area of circulation, but like most monetary systems they were potentially of more value circulating within the network of traders who recognised and accepted them while they were in this form as struck coins.

Because of the painstaking work to locate each coin discovered in archaeological excavations and by metal detectorists, we can assume that in the 1st century A.D. Thanet was within the territory of exchange with Cunobeline’s people, linking the many Iron Age archaeological sites in the area to the small scraps of written and symbolic evidence from coins which has been used to model Late Iron Age society. Many more Iron Age coins have been found on the Isle and the picture of overlapping powers and evidence for the exchange of currency in the Iron Age is so complex that a gallery in the Virtual Museum is dedicated to Iron coins in Thanet.

With thanks to David Holman for providing photographs of this coin.

VM_365 Day 190 Roman baby feeding bottle spout

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The image for VM_365 Day 190 shows two views of a small ceramic object, found in an excavation at St. Nicholas in Thanet, which has an interesting and perhaps unexpected origin.
The image on the right  shows that the object is hollow, so likely to be some form of spout. At the bottom right of the flat end are four little ceramic pins, that were used to key the spout on to the body of a vessel .
The object can be identified from other examples as a spout from a baby feeding bottle, dating to the Mid Roman period, probably the later second century AD.  Baby feeding bottles of many different shapes and forms are known from many periods in history. The spout would have been be attached to a small round-bodied pot, which was comfortable hold in the palm and fingers, probably with a flat base to allow it to put down to stand without spilling the contents.
This object is perhaps one of the most interesting examples of the way that humans have created objects to supplement or even replace natural processes. In this case the object may have been used in circumstances where perhaps natural feeding was not possible, extending the potential of a baby to survive and grow.
The pottery fabric  suggests that the vessel may have been made by Romanised indigenous people, rather than by Roman Gauls or even Romans from Italy.  Perhaps the pre-Roman people had their own ways to feed babies, but in this case they seem to have adopted Romanised version of the baby feeder.

VM_365 Day 133 Decorative Stone from lost Medieval Parish Church of All Saints, Shuart

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VM 365 Day 133’s image shows two fragments of decorative stone from the lost medieval parish church of All Saint’s, Shuart, which was excavated between 1978 and 1979 by the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Unit.

The image shows the fragments of delicately carved Caen stone dating from the 12th century. The carvings represent fragments of a piece of carved foliage, used to decorate the interior of the church. The pieces were found along with other contemporary fragments of decorative stone in deposits associated with the much later demolition of the church building.