Category Archives: Books and publications

VM_365 Day 340 Holly Lane, West Northdown

VM 340Today’s image for Day 340 of the VM_365 project shows a series of images of another of our Hidden Hamlets in Thanet, located around Holly Lane at West Northdown, Cliftonville.

Holly Lane is located a short distance south of Omer Avenue which featured on Day 338 of the VM_365 project. Before the area aroiund Holly Lane became part of the residential suburbs of Cliftonville, it was occupied by two farms; Hospital Farm and West Northdown Farm, which later became Holly Farm. Between 1907 and the 1930’s the area around both farms began to be in-filled with residential housing as agricultural land was sold off. Hospital Farm was completely demolished. By the 1960’s most of the area around Holly Lane was completely in-filled.

Evidence of its former isolated and agricultural character still exists along Holly Lane and Old Green Road. The oldest building, Grapevine Cottage (top left), is located in Holly Gardens, set back off Holly Lane and is believed to date from 1620 or earlier. It was originally two labourers cottages constructed of brick with curved end gables.  In the 20th century the building was altered to become a single house.

Other evidence of the 18th and 19th century agricultural origins exist in the form of flint boundary walls and flint and brick cottages.

Printing a medley of Margate stories

Image of Margate Medley publication
Margate Medley ready to go!

We’ve been able to use our publishing skills to help out with a project organised by Margate Civic Society,

A while ago we bought a nifty laser printer that is able to produce small booklets automatically, letting us produce short run publications for ourselves and others. Its a little labour intensive, as we have to fold and staple each copy by hand and then press them for a few hours. A bit of an old school publishing practice.

This week the Trust has been rolling out a new publication from our presses on behalf of the Margate Civic Society, printing and binding copies of a small publication called Margate Medley, packed with snippets from Margate’s history. It has a short article by the Trust’s Director on the history of Margate Pier, based on the talk she gave at our 25th Anniversary conference last year. There are many other interesting pieces on historical sites and events that have contributed to Margate’s unique character.

The book is for sale at £2.50 from Margate Civic Society, or at the Time Ball celebration events. Proceeds from the sales will support the Civic Society and their Fund Raising for the Time Ball project and other local activities.

Understanding Anglo-Saxon ideas about life and death

Book review – Signals of Belief in Early England

An interesting collection of studies has been added to the Anglo-Saxon section of the Trust’s archaeological library.

Cover of the book Signals of Belief
Signals of Belief

Edited by professor Martin Carver, Alex Sanmark and Sarah Semple, Signalsof Belief explores the history and character of ‘pagan’ Anglo-Saxon belief before and after Christian ideas began to spread after Augustine’s mission to covert the English arrived in 597 AD, The subject is significant to the archaeology of Thanet because of the number of important Anglo-Saxon cemeteries located on our chalk downland landscape. The Island would have been an important cultural community, linking the ideas of the people of north Germany and Scandinavia with what remained of the Roman world in Britain and on the continent.

Of course, Augustine’s mission sent by Pope Gregory the Great to convert the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms was one of the most significant events in the story of ideas and beliefs in the Anglo-Saxon period and, the 8th century historian Bede tells us, the first connections between the two cultures took place somewhere in Thanet.
Although Bede gives us a general account of the progress of Christian ideas through the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms based on contemporary accounts, starting with the great King of Kent Aethelbert, we know little more than hints and glimpses of the beliefs held by the Anglo-Saxon people Augustine met.

What were their beliefs about life and death and what lay beyond the material world that held before the ideas of Christianity entered the culture so strongly? It is hard to discover because little pre-Christian written evidence survives that allows us to enter the minds of the people, and we can only examine the possible answers from the records left by observers from the outside.

In eight essays, Signals of Belief examines the hints given by contemporary Christian observers of the culture they met with in England and the clues that can be extracted from archaeological evidence and contemporary artistic representation. The essays look at the light that can be cast by poetry and other literary works and later documentation that discusses the beliefs of people of the German and Scandinavian lands where the Saxon English drew part of their ancestry. However most of this literary evidence all comes from a later period and has to be distilled by the writers into themes that they try to recognise in the early Saxon culture that are revealed by archaeological studies of the art and artefacts of the Anglo-Saxons.

There are attempts in some essays to take the hints and fit them with anthropological understandings of Shamanism and magical practise of some of the people of Scandinavia and Siberia. The book contains a useful discussion of how the ideas of Historians and archaeologists about the date and nature of Anglo-Saxons has developed over time, from the 16th to the 20th century, as they realised that the period after the Roman Empire and before the better known history of the later Medieval period had to be examined and researched using new ideas on the lifestyles and beliefs of the period.

Some of these attempts at projection, and conjectural reconstruction, are more convincing than others. A few pieces use a complicated style of language to say some fairly simple things; the Saxons used Horse imagery extensively; their halls may have had a religious as well as political role; they believed that all the things around them had some form of spiritual character. However some of the signals are louder than others, it is striking and important to Thanet’s archaeological and historical record that the ancient burial mounds of prehistory remained significant places to the Anglo-Saxons. However, a later writer warns that some of the anthropological ideas applied to the problem are spread so thinly as to have lost their significance.

In an afterword, the well-known historian of cultural beliefs Ronald Hutton warns that while the essays point the way to undertstanding the beliefs of the Anglo-Saxons, without new evidence we can never really know the internal world of their ideas. Using a telling analogy he compares the search to trying to find out the contents of a tin with no label. The discussions in the book are edging closer to a better description of the size and shape of the container, which could tell us something about the contents, but we do not have the tools to open the tin and really get to the inner contents. A lesson that applies to many historical periods that are known only through archaeological remains.

This book is not an easy read, the academic style of some of the pieces is quite dense, but it is an essential work for anyone who wants to explore in depth the inner life of the one of the population of one of the most important periods represented in Thanet’s archaeological record. Despite the dense texture the content is though provoking and stimulating and worth working through.

Image of the contents page of the book
Contents page of Signals of Belief

In the foreword Professor Martin Carver provides a coherent summary of the problems of understanding Anglo-Saxon mentalities from archaeological data and a good overview of the ideas that might lead to solutions, as well as adding insightful comments of his own. Ronald Hutton’s afterword brackets the essays with his warning on the potential limits of our knowledge and the potential of the research which is a sobering round off to the wide ranging content of the book.

Carver, M., Sanmark A., Semple S. (eds), 2010. Signals of Belief in Early England, Anglo-Saxon Paganism Revisited. Oxbow Books. Oxford.


Reading more about Anglo-Saxon Thanet

There’s a useful overview of Thanet’s Anglo-Saxon archaeology on our Virtual Museum website and wider overview in Ges Moody’s book The Isle of Thanet from Prehistory to the Norman Conquest. The landing of Augustine in Thanet and the effect on the contemporary Anglo-Saxon culture of Thanet is dealt with in depth in St Augustine’s First Footfall, also by Ges Moody and published by the Trust for Thanet Archaeology.

Rain brings underground world into view

Why have so many holes and voids opened up all over Thanet  in the recent rainy weather?

That’s the question people keep asking us and we’ve seen plenty of evidence recently that Thanet’s rich underground world has surprises to reveal.

But, should we find it so unusual. Thanet’s chalk geology was a source of lime for Brick making and spreading on fields, tunnels and mines were cut through the solid chalk  and air raid shelters, stores and drains were dug all over the Isle. The ground beneath us holds many subterranean secrets.

Many of these were forgotten when their entrances were lost or covered over. Some underground sites have stayed hidden for many decades until finally the wet weather washing away the crumbling chalk has brought these hidden sites to our attention.

The Underground Thanet book
Underground Thanet

Underground Thanet by Rod LeGear, a small book published by the Trust, gives a great round up of the hidden world of caves, tunnels and other voids in the chalk that lies beneath our feet.

A few copies of the first edition of this book are still available to order from our website. If you really want to know about Thanet’s Underground heritage its a great place to start finding out.

Underground Thanet is available for £8.00 +£2.00 post and can be ordered now with secure online PayPal payment, no PayPal account needed.

To order by post use our mail order form which you can get from here: Order form


Out with the new, in with old – Find out about the past in 2014

De Bello Canzio stand at A4U 2013
Exploring the past through reenactment

Our new year message is that exploring your past is a rich and rewarding thing to do, helping you to understand the the way you live today.

There are many ways to get involved in exploring the past, finding out about the places that you live in and discovering something about your own place in the world. Who were your ancestors, who lived before you in your town or even your house?

The range can be wide, exploring the past over thousands of years or even just the the last few years, or even the last few minutes. You could simply ask how we all arrived here together at this moment to begin thinking about how our history affects our current place in the world.

There are so many ways to explore the past, through television programmes and the internet or even taking part in research through archives or in an archaeological dig. You can experience another  way of life through costume and re-enactment or visit a museum and see the objects from the past that have been preserved because of what they tell us about a way of life which may have changed forever.

Taking part in an archaeological dig
Taking part in an archaeological dig

You don’t need to have any technical skills, the only thing you need to do is listen to your own interests. Begin to explore the questions that you ask yourself about your own life and find some way to answer them through reading or taking part in some sort of activity. Begin with who, where what and most important, when.

There is always someone or some resource out there to help you discover what you want to know. You can work alone or better still  join a group of people with the same interests. If you don’t like or understand one way of exploration, find another way, most importantly find your own way.

Make it your resolution for 2014  to find out something about the past and what it could tell you about your own life.

Sharing our favourite historical resources

Who will write our history book cover
Who will write our history?

So here’s a recommendation for a start to your new historical year from our Deputy Director: Its a  book called ‘Who will write our History: Rediscovering a hidden archive from the Warsaw Ghetto’ by Samuel D. Kassow. The book is about people who made the effort to enquire about their own lives and circumstances under terrible conditions. In researching and recording the experience and history of those around them a dedicated group of researchers created a lasting record of their lives that endured the almost total destruction of everything around them. A very moving book about humanity in adversity, a great read. You can find a link to the book on Amazon here.

Tell us about your favourites

What are the books and resources that have had the most effect on your interest in the past? We would love to see your comments.


Two Book Discount Christmas Offer on Trust Publications

Augustines First Footfall and Underground Thanet book coversIf you haven’t yet got a copy of our two publications, Underground Thanet and St. Augustine’s First Footfall we have a special Christmas offer.

You can order both publications together for a special price of £ 17.30 including postage and packing (the books are usually sold individually for £ 9.99 +postage and packing).

These books are ideal as Christmas presents for any friends and family that you want to introduce to the rich history and archaeology of the Isle of Thanet. The discount offer is available until the last first class post before Christmas in your area, although you may need to order early if you want to send the books as gifts.

You can find out more about the books and order your copies  from our Publication list here: publication list or download the PDF order form to order by post here: Christmas offer order form

St Augustine and Thanet – Writing local history for a national icon.

Once again Ges Moody took part in the annual Summer Squall event organised by Ramsgate arts and held over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Ges gave a talk at Ramsgate Library on Saturday morning about St Augustine’s landing in Thanet, based on research he carried out for his latest book. The talk was well attended and despite the distraction provided by a faulty ventilator alarm, proved to be quite enthralling.

Ges’s subject was not a simple regurgitation of the legend of St Augustine’s landing on Thanet; his reconstruction of the landscape, examination of the types of settlements and the costumes of the population of Thanet at that time enabled the audience to imagine a picture of Thanet from the distant Anglo Saxon past. He added further depth and colour by exploring the national and international political relationships of the time, proving to the listener that this was not a simple act of conversion of a pagan people but a more complicated interaction of nations, people and ideas.

The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session, and the opportunity for Ges to sign a few copies of the book!



St. Augustine’s First Footfall is available to order from our publications page:  and you can read a summary of the book here:

Artistic Thanet

We now have stock of this interesting book by Richard Lewis on Thanet’s artistic heritage.

By the way, the Paypal button works properly now!

Artistic Thanet Book

With 36 pages in six chapters with 29 black and white illustrations, Artistic Thanet tells how the extraordinary lives of British artists including the painters Rossetti, Sickert and Van Gogh, the writers Wilkie Collins and John Buchan, and Frank Richards, the creator of Billy Bunter, were linked to the Isle of Thanet and sometimes to each other.


Buy Artistic Thanet with PayPal now for £4.50 + £1.13 P+P, Secure online payment, no PayPal account needed for card payment.


Artistic Thanet can also ordered by post using the order form link here: Artistic Thanet Order form

Its here! Underground Thanet arrived today

Underground Thanet book arrives
Underground Thanet book arrives

Our stock of the new publication Underground Thanet by Rod LeGear arrived today and they look great. The printers have done a wonderful job and the pictures and plans of all Thanet’s underground sites look really sharp.

All our pre-orders have been posted out and they should be with you very soon if you’ve ordered one.

Underground Thanet is available for £8.00 +£2.00 post and can be ordered now with secure online PayPal payment, no PayPal account needed.

To order by post use our mail order form which you can get from here: Order form