Archaeology by popular demand
  • 05 10 2015

Archaeology by popular demand

Source: Steve Loader

Presentations outlining the archaeology of the new Peters Village development attracted unprecedented interest.

Demand for the original ‘The Archaeology of Peters Village’ evening was so high, in fact, that another date was arranged by popular demand, enabling some 200, mostly local people, to attend over both evenings staged by site developer Trenport, though demand still exceeded supply.

Chris Clarke of CgMs Consulting, commissioned by Trenport to manage the archaeological investigations ahead of construction work starting, said: “On a development the size of Peters Village we would normally expect no more than 50 people at a presentation about the site’s archaeology.

“So it is great to hear that upwards of 250 people attended or were interested in attending to learn some history of their local area.”

Those lucky enough to get seats at Burham Old School Community Centre on Sept 14 and Oct 5, heard a fascinating story of how the Peters Village site’s prime location on the River Medway – a key transport link for early civilization - made it important from Neolithic through to Roman times.

Chris Hall, Director of Trenport, welcomed everyone and Chris Clarke outlined how archaeological preparation for Peters Village had started 10 years earlier:

“So, contrary to popular belief, it is not some last minute rush, with archaeologists called in as the developers move their machines onsite.”

He added that, within the six months prior to construction, archaeologists worked on ten different areas of excavation, extending from Court Road, Burham, to near the riverside location of the former Peters Lime & Cement Works – the brown field site for the new Peters Village community.

Isca Howell, Senior Archaeologist at MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) then took up the narrative, describing how his team found many artefacts such as coins, pottery and even graves, but the real excitement was evidence of human works, such as a Neolithic ‘causeway enclosure’ – a sure sign of major habitation around 4,000 years BC – near the new line of Court Road:

“It’s not clear whether these structures were ceremonial or defensive,” he said. “But there are 70 across the country, and they may have had a life span of just a few generations.

“What we can say is that these were remarkable monuments created long before the Egyptian Pyramids.”

Bronze Age remains were found near Court Road and Church Street, suggesting extensive habitation/settlement too (see picture here of Bronze Age Ring Ditch) but curiously little evidence was found of Iron Age habitation, apart from a Greek-style coin, dating from around 100BC - an example of the earliest coinage found in Britain.

With the arrival of the Romans in 43AD, came evidence of field systems taking advantage of the rich alluvial flood plain beside the Medway and, in addition to the known Roman villa near Burham, the Peter Village excavations found evidence of another development near Bell Lane, notably a ditch, postholes left by a possible defensive palisade, and a trackway or crude road.

But research suggested that the Roman presence was in the form of estates and sub-estates rather than villages and towns.

Mr Howell said that, by contrast, there was little evidence of the Saxons and the timeline then jumps really to mediaeval times and the founding of the estate that was to become Wouldham Manor in the Tudor era - one of the best mediaeval artefacts found was a horse pendant.

The local landscape then underwent dramatic change in the late 1800s as the cement industry geared up and led to the construction of Peters Works.

After the presentation, members of the audience lingered to view artefacts and chat to the archaeologists over refreshments.