Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Let Them Speak For Themselves - A Survey of 20th Century Military Structures

(All images were taken by me, if you are using them a bit of credit would be greatly appreciated)

With the end of the A Town Unearthed project our thoughts have turned to our latest community venture which is completely different from what has gone on before! The project is called Let Them Speak For Themselves and is an element of the Up On The Downs project set to run until 2017. Up On The Downs is a partnership project hosted by Dover District Council. Although it has a focus on environmental conservation there are heritage elements built into it, mostly to do with recording and conserving monuments which have been neglected over the years.

The Let Them Speak For Themselves element focuses on the 20th century military structures in the area. Of which there are a lot! Most of these are incorrectly located on maps (or not located at all), they haven't been visited in years and are deteriorating or have been demolished altogether. We intend to gather a group of volunteers, train them up and send them out there looking for these monuments so we can not only accurately map them, but also survey their condition. Litter, vegetation, and graffiti are causing problems to the longevity of these places and we would like to know how bad it's getting. We'd also like to know if these structures are being used by bats or other wildlife. There are plans to do some remedial work on clearing up and repairing the monuments so future generations can enjoy them too.

Our plan is to train up the volunteers through a training day on Little Farthingloe Farm in Dover which boasts a large number of the structures we're after (and conveniently belongs to our Outreach and Archive Manager, Andrew Richardson). So last weekend we went on a walk around the farm to plan our day and to have a look at what's going on.

This is our first monument. It's a Dover Quad style pillbox which was never finished. The Dover Quad style is unique to Dover with 22 surviving examples, 2 of which were never finished and both of them are on Andrew's farm. Complete examples are shown further below. You can see what I mean about vegetation problems!

Here is the second of the unfinished Quad's. A little less overgrown but that tree growing in the doorway will need attention before it tears the brickwork apart!

On to the next and it's a Type 24. Interestingly none of the pillboxes we saw on our walk had an anti-ricochet wall on the inside. Adaptations in the field were not uncommon, but I know if I had to defend one I'd be more comfortable knowing that the bullets weren't going to be whizzing around on the inside!


Here you can see the ivy growing up the outside of the building.

On our travels we stopped by this First World War gun emplacement. There was a debout on this hill somewhere but it has since been demolished and records on it's exact location are a bit scant.

The next Dover Quad style in immaculate condition.

I know the light on this photo is terrible but you may just be able to make out the white 'A' painted on the left hand side of the doorway. The overhang on the roof would have provided fantastic cover from aerial surveillance, and you might notice that many of these photos have vegetation growing on the top. Perfect! Unfortunately the overhang and wide embrasures acted as a death trap for anyone inside being attacked from the sides as bullets could be ricocheted into the pillbox off the concrete. As already mentioned this style was not long lived!

Here's another Type 24. They are very similar to Type 22's from the front but Type 24's have a flatter back allowing for 2 flanking windows covering the doorway (as you can see from the picture of the previous one above). I've added some images from the inside looking out up the valley towards Folkestone and across the chalk downland.

The view over Dover as we descended off the hill. You can just see the Castle in the background. To the left of the castle are the Swingate Towers built as part of the radar network in the Second World War. Without them the Battle of Britain might have been lost. The hill to the right is Western Heights, the largest 19th century fort in the world with some fantastic Napoleonic features. It was heavily adapted in both World Wars and is well worth a look if you are ever passing.

Our next Dover Quad was somewhat buried beneath the blackthorn!

The big concrete slab is the roof and you can see from the other photo that this is a popular spot for a party! Some of this litter has been here for months and we hope to come and clear all this up in the future.

Another Dover Quad. Andrew says he found someone living in this one a while back. It happens, which is why we want to see if damage is being caused by this sort of interaction.

This time we are on the other side of the valley heading up to the anti-aircraft battery on the western edge of the Western Heights.

And we make it to the battery! This is the ammunition store.

Heavily graffiti-ed inside and out. I did take some images of the inside for my records but the language is not really suitable for public consumption. There are 4 circular gun emplacements up there and you can still see the sockets where the guns were bolted to the floor.

Every 2 guns would have 1 ammunition storage facility. These are quite run down with litter and more obscene graffiti, but if you look closely enough you can see traces of the original graffiti drawn all those years ago!

In the centre there is a command centre which still has the original paintwork on the inside and metal blast doors. Again the condition is appalling and doesn't smell to sweet either!

So there you have the plan for our new project. If you want to sign up for a training day and come on the walk yourself then e-mail me annie.partridge@canterburytrust.co.uk the days are on Saturday April 20th and Thursday April 25th. Places are limited so get in quick!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The End of A Town Unearthed

With the final exhibition deconstructed earlier this week we are preparing to say goodbye to the A Town Unearthed Project. As already mentioned it has been running for three years and has been a resounding success! I feel privileged to have been a part of the team and only hope I can take what I have learnt from this project into other community projects in the future.

Anyway, as promised here are some of the fantastic pieces of work the pupils have produced as a part of our excavations at their school. Just to remind you we did some test pits in their school grounds as part of the A Town Unearthed Project. We worked predominantly with the Year 3's as they were looking at Romans in class but in our excavations we only found Victorian material. (This is why there is a little confusion in their description of the finds!). I'll start with some photos of the dig and of the children looking at their finds afterwards.


These are drawings of the finds we had excavated. The Year 3 class spent some time washing them all up and measuring them before writing a description of the find and what they thought it was. The first drawing is of a piece of china dinner plate and the second is of an oyster shell.

These two are a couple of the many Roman pots designed by the Year 3's. You may notice that these have 'CLBR' written on them, from the Roman naval fleet Classis Britannica. A number of stamped tiles had been found on the Villa excavation in the summers before so I'm glad they learned something!   

 Here are some more finds drawings and some drawings of Romans, which they had done during the summer holidays in preparation for the topic coming up in class. I have written the text out below the pictures in case you struggle with the hand writing.

"At St Mary's school we had a dig that the kids did. I think I found a piece of a house brick. From the inside it is 5cm and its height is about 5cm as well. I don't remember when we did it but I had fun and I bet if you were there you would of had fun."

"This was dug up by our class at the St Marys School playground. I think this might be a very old rock. The reason I think it is a rock is because it is rock solid.

"Roman soldiers have symmetrical shields and a helmet with a brush on the top"

"A Roman getting ready for battle"
The below are the reverse sides of an 'Archaeologist Job Application' the school had devised to get the children thinking about what they would like to learn about the Roman period. (I haven't included the fronts because they were asked to attach a photo and some details about themselves and I don't want to get in trouble with the school!) 


The questions on all of them are roughly the same and centre around daily life (what did the eat, where did they sleep, what did they wear, did they have pets, how old were they when they got married, what games did they play), or the military (how many got killed, were women allowed in the army, why did they come over) or gladiators (how big were the gladiators, how much did they eat).

So I'll leave you with a few quotes from the pupils. I asked for them as part of my exhibition and their teacher typed as they spoke:

"I really enjoyed it because I got to find interesting things. The archaeologists were great to work with because they were king and interesting!"

"It was fun getting changed into our dig clothes, it was quite exciting! A couple of days later we got to clean the artefacts which was good because we got to write about what we thought they were!"

 "The dig. Some kids one day went on a archaeology dig with a lady called Annie, it was called a Roman archaeology dig. We found lots of Victorian stuff and we found a lot of glass, it was bad weather, raining hard. We were ok though because we had spare clothes. A few weeks later we looked at what we had found and we washed them and sorted them and we labeled them so we knew what parts of it were. We went once a week so everyone could have a dig there was a big hole and a little hole. I loved the dig I went a few times I would like to be an archaeologist person because it sounds fun to do, Annie was nice and so were the other people I hope we do it again because it was fun even though it was raining. I was cold but I was ok the thing that we washed the stuff with is a toothbrush, I found some bricks and glass. We done the dig to help us with our Roman project it was lots of fun thanks to Annie and her friends from the dig company thank you Annie and friends I loved the dig so much I went home and told everyone about it. "

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Opening of the Final Exhibition

The A Town Unearthed project is nearing it's end and from the 8th-24th February 'Footprints from the Past' the final exhibition is being held at the Folkestone Library. I thought it would be great if the pupils at St Mary's could have the opportunity to show their work and, in their own words, explain to the rest of the world what they had found so I was allocated some space and off I went! I had a hand from Jack Coulston, who has been helping with all the A Town Unearthed exhibitions, and we spent a frantic couple of days putting it all together.

The Year 3's had worked hard in class and had produced some brilliant pieces of work so selecting which to display was very difficult. I didn't have time before the exhibition to scan the work in to share with you all, but I shall do so next week when it all comes down so keep posted!

The big opening was last Friday and I invited 4 pupils from Year 3 to come and represent their school. I was lucky enough to have a full compliment of siblings too, all of which go to the school and most of them had come out digging, so we were all set to tell everyone about it. We started with getting everyone in and ready, then we were fortunate enough to be given a talk by an Anglo-Saxon and a Roman.

...and then we were ready for the big opening, including a ribbon cutting by a local dignitary.

...and then we had a look around the gallery.

....and finally a play in the 'Dinosaur Dig' at the end.

The children did really well, especially as it was late on a Friday evening. We had glowing comments from the other attendees so thank you to them for being so well behaved and eloquent!


Thursday, January 31, 2013

January in Snowy London

January has been very exciting, especially with all the snow! I have been spending time up in London, firstly back stage at the British Museum and secondly at Westminster, and also preparing my section in the final A Town Unearthed Exhibition which is due to open very shortly.

I spent three days back stage at the British Museum in the middle of January. I had been introduced to Julia Farley, curator of European Iron Age collections, back in December when we took the helmet up to London for the Annual Treasure Report and as I was so excited to be in the British Museum she invited me to pop up and volunteer for a few days. I was very pleased to be able to see behind the scenes and to help out, even if it was only in a small way. I was able to get my hands on the Snettisham Jewellers Hoard as Julia has been working hard at updating the database for all the collections on display, as well as the ones that are buried deep in the museum. I had a tour of the metal conservation area, including a close up view of the Chiseldon Caulderons which was really special, and some other artefact's from all over the museum. All in all I had a marvellous time and would go back in a heartbeat!

I wasn't able to take any pictures inside but here's one of the BM columns in the snow.

The next week I was up in Westminster. CSI: Sittingbourne was invited to host an exhibition and Andrew Richardson and I went up to represent CAT at the open evening. The exhibition space was very impressive and CSI managed to fit in a small replica of their lab in Sittingbourne so people could have a go at conserving some artefact's. I was in charge of guarding the precious Anglo-Saxon brooches and telling people about their history, as well as promoting the CBA's Community Placement scheme! The exhibition and CSI's work received much praise from the people I spoke to and we've hopefully highlighted public interest in archaeology. Between us I think we managed to get a few MP's to agree that heritage and archaeology are important with at least one saying it was a shame we have been neglected over the recession and that there should be more funding available to support archaeology as a whole. Maybe not world-changing just yet, but we have to start somewhere!

This rubbish photo is of the exhibition as it was set-up in Westminster. I had to take it with my phone as I had left my camera at home over Christmas, but I hope you get the general idea of the magnificent space CSI had.

And there concludes my London stint! Next time I will be taking about the A Town Unearthed exhibition. And I've retrieved my camera so the quality of photos should be marginally better!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Update on the past while...

I've been out of touch for a while, everything got a bit mad with the helmet and then it was Christmas etc.....

...so what have I been up to then?

Well, I gave a talk at a 'Local Groups Day' organised by the Kent Archaeological Society and Kent County Council on my placement so far, and of course about the helmet. The day was arranged so the local archaeological and historical groups and societies could meet up and discuss not only what they had been up to in Kent, but what resources and training they felt they needed to take their members a step further into archaeology. It was very useful to me to see what all the groups had in common in terms of what they felt they needed and hopefully we can all work together to help overcome some of the hurdles mentioned during the day.

The helmet was laser scanned by University of Kent (all explained much better in this blog post if you like that sort of thing). Here it is being scanned:

Photo courtesy of CAT

Photo courtesy of CAT

 ..and here is the final image. The results were much better than I was expecting (though in all honesty I didn't really know what to expect!), the scan shows up incredible detail which we can't see as well with the naked eye. In places you can see where the helmet has been struck with a hammer during it's creation; it would have been made out of one sheet of metal and then hammered out into a mold. I've been helping to write small articles for various people and organisations, my contribution to the CBA website is here.

The Dover Boat was moved from Boulogne-Sur-Mer to Ename in Belgium.

A group of us from CAT went over to lend a hand putting our bits and pieces into the display cases which included two large bronze hoards (mostly made up of axes, spearheads, blades, and loads of copper cake), some pottery from the period, and one gold hoard made up of 13 gold torcs. The gold hoard is most impressive with many of the pieces being intact.

Talking of the Council for British Archaeology, they have uploaded our profiles onto the web so you can see who we are, where we are, and a little bit of what we're up too. Mine is here but for a list of the other placements click here. Applications for the next round are opening soon (if not already) so here is a link to the page with the details on. You do not need to be a qualified archaeologist to apply so if you are interested have a look at the details!

And so on to the next while. January is set to be interesting with some lovely treats for me (my Christmas and New Year brought some bad news from home and I could do with the cheering up!). Anyhoo, here are exciting things I've planned for the coming weeks:
- Volunteering at the British Museum! The lovely lady who we handed the helmet to at the BM has invited me to spend a few days playing in the back rooms. I'm not sure what I'll be doing - probably data entry - but we'll see!
- Helping CSI:Sittingbourne with their exhibition up at Westminster! I've been volunteered to go up to Westminster to assist the team in their exhibition. I've no idea what it entails but it's very exciting!
-  Arranging a small part of the final A Town Unearthed exhibition with the pupils of St Mary's. I thought it would be nice to showcase all their hard work and give them a chance to tell everyone what they got up too. I'm hoping that I can have a few of the Year 3's come and help me construct the displays and come to the big launch so they can show off what they learnt from us.

Still going to be very busy in my last months of my placement, te time will just fly by!