Two Bronze Age gold bracelets almost 3,000 years old have been discovered during excavations along the route of the East Kent Access Road. When they were found one bracelet was placed inside the other.
The bracelets were found in an area of the Ebbsfleet peninsula from which four other Late Bronze Age hoards are already known... continues...
I have spent the last few months battering away at the local Heritage departments in an attempt to improve the knowledge and awareness of the locals and to do something about the pretty sad state of the monuments around the Medway... continues...
Archaeologists are planning to build a copy of an ancient boat found in Dover and sail it from Britain to France. The original was found by chance in 1992 in a water filled shaft during roadworks in the town. It was one of the best preserved examples of a coastal vessel from the Bronze age ever found... continues...
In response to Rhiannon's Battle Street conundrum, I drove past there today and made a short detour. Just before the end of the lane, on the right, is a modernish housing development...called Sarsen Close, would you believe...in the drive of one house were 3 stones, and more in the gardens of the other houses in the close. One must have been 12' x 6' x 1' thick, laying flat and used as a planter of all things, a real shame because it was a stunning piece of stone...I didn't go into the field or down the path. not knowing really what to look for.
Also 1/4 mile away I found another stone, an absolute beauty, either heavily carved or bless with the most natural art ever.
Now I have some photos, but if I start posting pictures of sarsens everywhere it will mean chaos!
When first built, the Medway's long barrows had high rectangular chambers. These, their entrances finally blocked by a focal portal stone, and with a facade, were at the eastern end of considerable, in surviving instances more than 60m in length, long barrows. Flanked by quarry ditches or scoops, they were retained by sarsen stone kerbs, the surviving boulders being mostly of modest size.
On the eastern side of the Medway there is the Lower Kit's Coty House, where, when scrutinized from the east, it can be seen that the chamber's side stones have fallen to the north. Were they, as were those of Chestnuts, merely pulled back into a vertical position, there would be a chamber almost 7m long and 3.5m wide, with an astonishing internal height, at least at the entrance, of almost 2.8m. At Chestnuts this procedure showed that its stones demarcated a chamber 4m long, 2m wide and 3m high. The Coffin Stone's chamber could have been at least 3.5m high.
Such chamber heights are exceptional, and thus the Medway's megalithic long barrows were undiputedly a unique group of the largest and most grandiose of their kind.
Something else to throw into the Medway mix. I'd not heard of these pits before, perhaps they're not prehistoric at all, but their proximity to Kit's Coty and the rest is interesting, and they are to do with flint..
At several places in this part of Kent, especially on and near the high ridge which runs to the westward, there have been observed deep pits, evidently of a very remote antiquity. They consist of a large circular shaft, descending like a well, and opening at the bottom into one or more chambers..
On Friday, the 23rd of August, 1844, having obtained permission to excavate in the estate belonging to Preston Hall, which extends over the top of this hill, I took some labourers with me.. to examine the ground behind Kits Coty House.. I proceeded further on the top of the hill into what I knew to be the Preston Hall property, and on the ground just within the limits of Aylesford common I found single stones, closely resembling those of which the cromlechs below are built, but lying flat on the ground.
My first impression was that they were the capstones of cromlechs, or sepulchral chambers, buried under theground, and, having singled out one of them, I set the men to dig under the side of it. When they got under the edge they found thye were digging among a mass of flints, which had evidently been placed there by design; I then caused the men to continue the excavation to a greater distance round, and, to my surprise, I found that this immense stone was laid over the mouth of a large circular pit which had first been filled up to the top with flints. To proceed any further without a greater number of men than I had with me would have been useless.
But, just as I was leaving it, some of the cottagers on the top of the hill - squatters - informed me that these pits were frequently found on that hill, and that they generally had one or two of the large stones at the mouth. When, a few years before, a new road was made over the brow of the hill, and flints were sought for that purpose, the labourers discovered these pits and partly emptied some of them, which they found much more profitable than seeking the flints on the surface of the chalk. One was shown to me which had been emptied to a depth of about ten feet, and had been discontinued on account of the labour of throwing the flints up.
p565 in The Gentleman's Magazine for 1852, in an article on 'The Valley of Maidstone - Kits Coty House and the Cromlechs around' by Thomas Wright.
Right out of the Medway valley area we have hints of another megalithic structure, near the village of Cobham, some five miles west of Rochester. Here in an orchard off Battle Street remains today one sarsen, but we know that a group of great stones once existed here because Payne gives extracts from the diary of the farmer who carted them away in 1770-3, while others were removed in 1842 to make a rockery at Cobham Hall. Lucas reported in 1854 on the probability of a megalith once existing here, and states that a native told him that Battle Street led to 'The Warrior's Grave'.
...The supposed Cobham megalith was also associated with a battle. Lucas visited this district in 1854, twelve years after the last of the stones had been removed, and eighty years after its destruction, but he reports that it was known locally as 'The Warrior's Grave', and this name was coupled with that of the lane which led towards the monument, which was called Battle Street. This name still endures and is certainly of some antiquity, for we have a record of it as such in 1471. There is no historical record of a battle being fought thereabouts.
George Payne, Collectanea Cantiana 1893, p153.
W C Lucas, Journ. Arch. Asscn., 1854, vol ix, p427.
This comes from p38 and p42 of 'Notes on the Folklore and Legends Associated with the Kentish Megaliths, by John H. Evans, in Folklore, Vol. 57, No. 1. (Mar., 1946).
Cobham is at TQ6768, and 'Battle Street' is marked on the 1:25,000 OS map. Does the stone exist or not? The author's obviously confused! Perhaps someone local knows.
In the hedge on the left hand of the lane, and two hundred and seventy feet from the yard, lies the remarkable stone called by Dr. Stukeley, from its resemblance, the coffin stone, as only one side appears next the lane, the other parts being concealed by the mould, which in length of time has accumulated under the hedge, so that bushes and two elm-trees spread their roots on the surface of the stone.
It is in length fourteen feet two inches, in depth two feet, and in breadth about six feet, as near as I could guess by thrusting a stick under the hedge and roots with some difficulty. In the field adjoining, are several very large stones a little beneath the surface of the earth, some of which lie so fleet*, that it is with difficulty the men can plough it; and in some parts of it they appear level with the surface, as the tenant shewed me. Stones of great magnitude likewise lie dispersed about the moat and yard, which give the place a romantick appearance; and one before the barn measured nine feet and a half in length, and seven feet in breadth.
Another, much broader and of greater size, is at the upper end of the yard, near the spring-head. All these stones are irregular as when first taken from the earth, but , through the great length of time and injuries of weather, are become smooth; and of the same kind, and similar to to those which compose the celebrated British monument called Kits-Cotty-House, situated at a small distance from this place [...]
From John Thorpe's 'Custumale Roffense' (1788). *fleet = shallow
A short distance north of the Addington and Chestnuts long barrows – east of Trottiscliffe. As this is a National Trust site a small (free) parking area is provided. Another site in this area where an O/S map comes in handy – at least you only need the one map!
From the parking area, myself, Dafydd and Sophie walked down along the obvious wooded path and out into the open fields. It is a lovely walk in this weather and we strolled along with not a care in the world. Unlike the local land owners who clearly have concerns judging by the proliferation of ‘private’ ‘no trespassing’ ‘private road’ type signs we have seen in the area – welcome to Southern England. An Englishman’s ‘home’ may be his ‘castle’ – although the drawbridge always seems to be raised!
Anyway, the path is well sign posted and after about 10 minutes we reached the N.T. info board at the bottom of the rise on which Coldrum stands. At this point we could hear the beating of a drum and it was obvious that someone was already at the site. We hurried up and upon reaching the summit were met by several people who were watching a lady sat within the wooden fenced off area playing an African drum. The lower branches of the large tree at the top of the rise were covered in clooties. I also spotted the remains of a fire which someone had made next to the stones but other than the grass appears to have made no damage.
Once she had finished most of the people wandered off although we ducked under the fence to have a closer look of the stones. The stones are enormous and many wouldn’t look out of place at Avebury. The two square ‘walls’ are particularly impressive, some of the best standing stones I have seen. Although I note they have been concreted in to help keep them up.
Whilst the children played around the stones I got chatting to the lady with the drum. She explained all about the drum and how she liked to visit Coldrum to take in the atmosphere and try to ‘connect’ with the ancestors. She said she also liked to visit Stonehenge and Avebury at the solstices but preferred Coldrum for the equinoxes. We spent quite a while chatting about all things ‘old stones’ before I left her to get back to her drumming. I did say that the music certainly added to the atmosphere of the place and there is a fair chance music would have been played at that very spot when the barrow was in use. As I looked down the valley across the farm land it was comforting to think that these were the same fields that the ancients would have farmed.
With these thoughts and with the sound of the drum it was quite easy to form a ‘connection’ with the past. It is surprising how music can help bring the stones to life. Stones can often seem quite sterile places.
Before I knew it we had already been gone an hour and I am sure Karen would have been less than happy sat in the car waiting for us. ‘I won’t be long’ being my usual last words before disappearing into some field or other. I suppose she is used to my definition of ‘long’ by now! However, we did have a long drive back to Cardiff ahead of us and we both had work the next day so it was time to retrace our steps.
Coldrum is a place I have really wanted to visit ever since seeing the site in Neil Oliver’s wonderful Ancient Britain series – I am so glad I finally got to visit. This was the last site of our long weekend in Kent and my favourite place we visited. Coldrum is a ‘must see’ site - particularly given its current status as the oldest long barrow in Britain. As Neil Oliver said – ‘It all starts here………..’ ?
Along a minor road between Addington and Wrotham Heath – immediately south of the M20. An O/S map would be handy although the barrows are signposted from Addington. Parking can be had at the entrance to Rose Alba.
The entrance to Rose Alba was closed and locked. The sign on the gate gave a telephone number you could ring to make an appointment for a tour of the barrows - £1.00 for adults / under 16 free! I rang the number but there was no answer so I walked back along the lane to have a look at the Addington long barrow.
From the lane you are really quite close to the stones but a barbed wire fence prevents you from getting too close. The stones were a little overgrown with long grass all around. However, the stones are large and can be easily seen. In fact, I am sure I was standing on the edge of one of the fallen stones which comes out to the edge of the road. By standing on the stone you are a couple of inches higher to look into the field. Dafydd and Sophie were none too impressed with the stones – I can understand why. No doubt had we been able to have a ‘tour’ things would have been different.
From the road you cannot see the Chestnuts long barrow which I assume is the other side of the house? Pity there was no one home, I would have loved to have seen the Chestnuts………..
Park at the ‘vineyard type’ place opposite the Countless Stones and (carefully) walk up the busy road towards the junction. Then (equally carefully) cross the junction and head for the obvious path up into the trees. There is a small wooden sign pointing the way once you reach the trees.
I left the children in the car (with their mother!) as I decided it was a bit too dodgy to walk them up the lane and across the junction. I was amazed how bust this minor road was – perhaps it’s a Bank Holiday thing? However, once in the trees it was a lovely walk up the hill towards the Dolmen. The sun was shining through the trees and the weather was nice and warm. A lovely late spring day. Fortunately it hasn’t rained for a while so there was no need to don my boots although it wet weather it would no doubt be a bit of a squelch. The walk was a bit steeper than expected and my legs soon started to grumble – I am definitely getting old!
Once you reach the top of the hill Kits Coty appears ‘as if by magic’ as Mr Benn would say (ask your parents!). And a magical sight it is. I didn’t realise how large and tall the stones were, I was quite taken aback at their impressive stature. The only thing spoiling the sight of course is the large black railings surrounding the stones. I assume this ‘protection’ is required? I would have thought that the Dolmen was sufficiently far enough away from urbanisation to deter your average riff-raff from taking the trouble to come so far to get up to no good? Perhaps not? Either way, how do ‘officials’ access the stones? I couldn’t see a gate. I assume they use ladders? Someone had clearly scaled the fence (not an easy task I would have thought) as they had left a corn dolly inside the chamber.
There are fine views across the countryside. The siting of the dolmen was clearly set to impress (as these things often are). Approximately 5,000 years later the stones still impress. I doubt there is much we build today which will still be impressive in 5,000 years time?
Kits Coty is a famous site which I had wanted to visit for a long time. Despite being a long way from home it was certainly worth the drive. This is a ‘must see’ site if you happen to be anywhere in the area. In fact, this is a ‘must see’ site even if you are not in the area.
As an added bonus for me this is another English Heritage site ticked off the list – only 130 to go!