VM_365 Day 250 Dr David Perkins

Dave Perkins, St Mildred's Bay 1988.
Dave Perkins surveying at St Mildred’s Bay, 1988.

Today’s image for Day 250 of VM_365 is a picture of David Perkins, the first Director of the Trust for Thanet Archaeology.

Dave was born an brought up in Ramsgate and his passion for the history of Thanet was inspired by his father’s love of historical subjects and his grandmother’s tales of local life and folklore. He first trained as an artist specialising in book and technical illustration and followed various careers as a commercial artist and running a business designing and manufacturing leather goods before being introduced to archaeology as a career later in life at the age of 38.

His introduction to archaeology came during a visit to the excavation of a Neolithic and Bronze Age site at Lord of the Manor, Ramsgate in 1976, he volunteered to help on the same day and his illustration skills were soon in demand. He progressed quickly from volunteer to full time supervisor working on archaeological projects with the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Unit and the Manpower Services Commission Youth Training Scheme including the excavation between 1978-9 of the Medieval Church of All Saints, Shuart with Frank Jenkins and the discovery and recording of the shipwreck of the HMS Stirling Castle off the Goodwin Sands in 1979. An early career highlight for Dave was the excavation of over 300 graves at the Ozengell Anglo Saxon cemetery, Lord of the Manor, Ramsgate between 1977 -1980.

In 1982 the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Unit began compiling its own sites and Monuments record for use in research and local government planning some years in advance of the creation of a county wide record. David Perkins was instrumental in collating the Thanet Sites and Monuments Record and was assisted by volunteers from the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Unit and the Manpower Services Commission. The five years that the record took to research between 1982 and 1987 revealed to David that Thanet’s archaeology was of national importance.

In 1988 The Trust for Thanet Archaeology was formed as a professional archaeological unit for Thanet with Dave serving as its first Director until his retirement in 2003.  The first excavation carried out by the Trust was the recording of a Bronze Age settlement on the foreshore at St Mildred’s Bay in 1988; today’s VM_365 image shows Dave surveying the site using a theodolite.

Formal qualifications through part time study were added to his growing professional reputation including a BSc in archaeological science from the Polytechnic of East London (East London University) followed by an MSc gained through studying Roman and Anglo-Saxon glass. He was awarded a Doctorate by the University of London in 2001 for his thesis on the prehistory of the Isle of Thanet – The Gateway Isle.

Over the years many people heard David speak about his archaeological discoveries on Thanet, or took part in digs with him. Despite battling against the poor health and increasingly reduced mobility caused by a medical condition that had affected him since childhood, he remained an enthusiast for Thanet’s archaeology after his retirement. Dave Perkins last publication on the Bronze Age round barrows of Thanet appeared in the county journal in July 2010 just before his death at the age of 72.

His determination to understand the archaeology of the Isle of Thanet, his enthusiasm and diligent research remain as an inspiration to us as the current custodians of the archaeology of the Isle.