Monthly Archives: May 2015

VM 365 Day 334 The landscape of Minnis Bay

VM 334

Today’s image for Day 334 of the VM_365 project shows a view of Minnis Bay, taken from the east, facing west toward Reculver. This view begins another short VM_365 series showing you our Thanet; the historic isle that we as archaeologists see around us.

Before the Bronze Age this landscape would have been significantly different. Sea levels were significantly lower than they are in the present day and much of the coastal area visible here would have been dry land.  A freshwater creek extended along the approximate route of Minnis Road, just out of the picture to the right. The flat greyish green area of the beach visible in the foreground are the remnant of chalk cliffs that once formed the edge of the valley the creek flowed through, which has been eroded to a flat platform by the sea pushing into the creek mouth in the later prehistoric period.

Many prehistoric finds including Palaeolithic and Neolithic worked flint have been found off this foreshore, the tools used by the people who once lived on the land that has been lost to the sea.  The remains of a Bronze Age settlement was discovered on the wave cut platform around the mouth of the creek in 1938. A Bronze Age hoard discovered in one of the pits has previously featured on Day 202 of the VM_365 project.

Beyond the wooden groynes that can be seen in the middle ground of the image is the former northern mouth of the Wantsum Channel, which became more significant as the sea advanced from the Bronze Age onward and separated what would become known as  the  Isle of Thanet from the mainland of Kent.

The sea continued to eat away at the land that was occupied by communities in later periods.  The bases of Late Iron Age and Roman pits and other features, possibly wells, have also been identified as truncated pits on the wavecut platform on the foreshore. Artefacts retrieved from these pits included a Roman millstone,  a two handled wine jar, and a colour coated dish.

Eroding pits and archaeological features of Late Iron Age and Roman date have been identified in the eroding cliff edges at Minnis Bay. On the horizon on the far right of the image is the site of a Roman fortress built on land at Reculver,  overlooking the mouth of the Wantsum Channel and the west coast of the Isle of Thanet.  The Fort and the settlement associated with it is beginning to be claimed by the sea. Coastal erosion has exposed the bases of Roman wells which are sometimes visible at low tide on the wave cut shelf at Reculver.

Reculver was also the site of one of the earliest and most important  Anglo Saxon monasteries. The former monastery and the church that now stands at Reculver were built on the site of the Roman Fort and elements of all these structures have been revealed in a long series of archaeological excavations.

The vantage point of the cliff top at Minnis Bay provides a view of thousands years of Thanet’s history which the archaeologist’s eye can distinguish from the natural landscape.

VM 365 Day 333 Hidden Hamlet of Upton, Broadstairs

VM 333

Today’s image for Day 333 of the VM_365 project shows a series of views of surviving agricultural buildings in the now hidden hamlet of Upton which is located on the eastern side of Broadstairs.

The main focus of the former hamlet is located around the junction of Fair Street and Vale Road. This picturesque corner of Broadstairs contains a number of buildings and features reflecting its rural past that are easily visible from the road.

The oldest surviving building is Little Upton, shown in the top left of the image. This Dutch gabled house was constructed in the late 17th century in two sections with different roof levels and is located on the northern side of Vale Road.

On the opposite side of Vale Road you can see the remnants of Upton Farm which incorporates an Oast House, (bottom left)  probably originally constructed in the 18th century as a timber framed single storey barn. The pyramidal slate cap on the left side is a mid 19th century construction. If you look at the brick gable end that faces on to the footpath you can see where the roof has been raised probably in the 19th century.

Other buildings hinting at the area’s rural past can be seen along Vale Road (top right) where long, narrow flint built buildings are located side on to the street aligned along the edge of  the former farmyard. Near the junction of Fair Street is a long brick and flint wall forming the boundary to a cottage. This wall has many phases in its construction and once formed part of an agricultural building or barn that has since been demolished.

There are lots of other elements visible in the street scape around Upton that hint at its rural past which can be easily identified if we take the trouble to really look.




VM 365 Day 332 Lower Gore End Farm, Minnis Bay

VM 332Today’s image for Day 332 of the VM_365 project shows the farmhouse of Lower Gore End Farm, Minnis Bay, Birchington which was established around 1540 or earlier.

Old Bay Cottage along with Elder Cottage formed the farmhouse of Lower Gore End Farm, all that remains of this farmstead which would originally have been isolated,  away from the focus of the village at Birchington to the east.

The farmhouse was originally detached and was located with its gable end facing on to the farmyard. Historic maps indicate that working farm buildings were located on two sides of the farmyard which faced side on to the route from the village of Birchington to Minnis Bay, now known as Minnis Road.

Old Bay Cottage, on the right of the image, is the oldest part of the farmhouse and was built in the 15th century as a two storey timber framed cottage with a tiled hipped roof and close studded timbers. The porch, which is just visible, was a later addition. The thatched roof visible on the left side of the image belongs to the 18th century extension known as Elder Cottage.

Lower Gore End Farm was quite isolated in the early to mid 19th century and surrounded by agricultural land, with Minnis Creek nearby still flooding nearly as far as the farmstead at the spring tides. It was probably still possible to have a clear view of the parish church of All Saint’s, Birchington from the farm although by the 1870’s new roads were beginning to be laid out at Minnis Bay, west of the relatively new railway line and brickfields were beginning to encroach on the agricultural land. By the late 19th century the farm was nearly surrounded by brickworks and by the 1950’s was surrounded on the north, east and west sides by suburban development focussed on Minnis Bay.

Nowadays the farmhouse is all that survives of the farmstead, completely surrounded by suburban development but still remains as an indicator of the once isolated rural character of Minnis Bay.

VM_365 Day 331 Earliest Iron Age finger marks

VM 331

Today’s image for Day 331 of the VM_365 project shows two views of a sherd of pottery dating to the 10th century BC that was recently excavated at Monkton, Thanet.

The image on the left shows the relatively smooth outer surface of the sherd which came from a flint tempered, burnished vessel from the earliest Iron Age.  The image on the right is of the interior of the sherd and shows three vertical ridges left behind when the Iron Age potter used their three middle fingers to pull the clay into shape while creating the vessel.

These marks allows you to place your fingers in exactly the same place as the potter from the 9th century, someone about whom we know almost nothing, apart from the impression of their fingers left behind in the clay they were working.

A Roman example of finger prints left behind during the construction of a colour coated beaker featured on Day 256 of the VM_365 project.


VM_365 Day 330 Earliest standing remains of the hamlet of Hereson, Ramsgate

VM 330Today’s image for Day 330 of the VM_365 project shows a pair of cottages that are located in the old Thanet hamlet of Hereson, near Ramsgate.

In the medieval period the main settlement at Ramsgate was the village focussed around the parish church of St Laurence the Martyr. The town of Ramsgate developed from a fishing village in the parish of St Lawrence to a coastal port in its own right from the 16th and 17th centuries onwards. The earliest buildings associated with the develoment of the town of Ramsgate are generally foccussed along the High Street, Ramsgate and High Street, St Lawrence which follows the route from the harbour to the parish church. A grade II listed cottage with Flemish gables, one of the earliest buildings in Ramsgate, featured on Day 6 of the VM_365 project.

The medieval village of St Lawrence was surrounded by other clusters of settements within the parish, including the hamlets of Hollicondane, Hereson, Chilton, Pegwell, Haine, which were generally located close to major farms.

The pair of cottages in today’s image are located on Honeysuckle Road. These buildings are the oldest remnants of the hamlet of Hereson, which was located less than 0.5km east of the town boundary of Ramsgate.  The cottages, with kneelered gables, were originally constructed in locally sourced flint and brick in the 1600’s. The structures were altered in the 19th century.

The urbanisation of Ramsgate in the 18th and 19th and early 20th centuries expanded the developed areas of the town out from the main route to the parish church with a mixture of grand houses and mansion dwellings for the upper and middle classes as well as buildings with industries and public services essential to a growing port trade and seaside destination.   Breweries, public houses, maltings, flour mills, water towers and other public amenities and transport links began to extend outside the early focus of the port. Ramsgate began to encroach on the agricultural land that surrounded it absorbing the smaller hamlets into the urban sprawl.

However, with careful attention to archaeology of the buildings in the town, the hidden hamlets of Thanet can still be traced and many interesting and important buildings survive in the modern town.


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 328 South Porch, church of St Laurence, Ramsgate

VM 328

Today’s image for Day 328 of the VM_365 project shows the south porch of the parish church of St Laurence the Martyr, Ramsgate which previously featured on Day 326 of the VM_365 project.

The south porch was constructed in the 15th century around the same time as the upper stage of the tower. The 15th century porch which incorporates a lamp bracket, conceals the original Norman rectangular doorway which is visible inside along with the water stoup.

In front of the south porch you can see two of a number of railed tomb monuments which have been erected in the churchyard. The one to the left of the porch dates to the mid 19th century and the one to the right is of early 19th century date providing another illustration of the complex archaeology of church buildings and their associated yards which were so central to the Christian communities of the early medieval to modern period.


VM_365 Day 327 The Treasury, St John’s Church, Margate

VM 327

Today’s image for Day 327 of the VM_365 project shows the Treasury which was constructed on the north east corner of the parish church of St John the Baptist, Margate which featured on Day 324 of the VM_365 project.

This single storey addition to the church was constructed around 1500 AD from coursed Ragstone and incorporating a crenellated parapet and traceried windows.  The Ragstone is a distinctly different building material to the rest of the church and was shipped in from the Maidstone area; the rest of the church is constructed mainly of flint which was easily obtainable locally.

Although originally built to be the church treasury, for the storage of the church’s valuables, this structure was later adapted to store shot and gunpowder for the town fort and was also used by the Churchwardens to administer poor relief for the parish. In the early 18th century it became the church vestry.

References/Further Reading

Berg, M. and Jones, H.  2009. Norman Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. The History Press.

Colyer, R. 2012. The Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Margate. A short guide.

Historic England 2015. The National Heritage List for Britain: The Parish Church of St John the Baptist. List entry no.1351103.

Scurrell, D. 1982. The Book of Margate. Barracuda Books.




VM_365 Day 326 The parish church of St Laurence, Ramsgate

VM 326

Today’s image for Day 326 of the VM_365 project shows the parish church of St Laurence, Ramsgate viewed from the western end.

A church at St Laurence was founded in 1062 and the church  is mentioned in Thorne’s Chronicle of St Augustine’s Abbey when it was given to the Abbey in 1124. The church like St John’s, Margate and St Peter’s, Broadstairs was one of the chapels to the Mother church at Minster which featured on Day 322 of the VM_365 project until it became a parish church in its own right in 1275.

The church followed the same pattern as the churches of St John and St Peter, being enlarged in the late 12th century and the naves, arcades and the tower; which is constructed of Kent ragstone and flint with Caen stone dressings, are of this phase.

The upper part of the tower with its crenellations  is clearly different from the lower stages and dates to around the 15th century along with the construction of the south porch.

The churchyard contains a number of tombstones dating to the early 18th century, mainly located within two or three metres of the northern side of the church, that are decorated with crossed bones and winged cherub’s heads.

References/Further Reading

Berg, M. and Jones, H.  2009. Norman Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. The History Press.

Historic England 2015. The National Heritage List for Britain: The Church of St Laurence. List entry no. 1336662.


VM_365 Day 325 The parish church of St Peter the Apostle, St Peters, Broadstairs

VM 325

Today’s image for Day 325 of the VM_365 project shows the parish church of St Peter the Apostle which is located in the vilage of St Peter’s, Broadstairs. Like the parish church of St John the Baptist, Margate which featured on Day 324 of the VM_365 project, this was originally a chapel to the mother church at Minster before becoming a parish church in its own right in the 13th century.

This church was constructed in the 12th century and was originally much smaller consisting of a chancel, nave and a south aisle with at least two bays. The original Norman arcade of mid 12th century date still survives. The church was extended with the addition of a north and south aisle in the late 12th century. The existing north chancel arcade may be of early 13th century date.

In the 14th century the Norman aisles were widened and the north west tower with its crenellations and gargoyles was added in the early 15th century.

Interestingly the church tower was used as a signalling station in Napoleonic times due to its then highly visible location and it still has the right to fly the White Ensign.

Like our other parish churches on Thanet, this church was heavily restored in the mid 19th century.

References/Further Reading

Berg, M. and Jones, H.  2009. Norman Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. The History Press.

Historic England 2015. The National Heritage List for Britain: The Parish Church of St Peter the Apostle. List entry no. 1273791.

St Peter in Thanet. 2015. A Brief History of the Church.