“Unlocking the Bayle” – Keyhole Archaeology in the Ancient Heart of Folkestone

On Saturday and Sunday 12th and 13th March, four tests pits were dug in the area of the Bayle – three in private gardens and one near the Bayle pond. Around 26 volunteers, supervised by two archeologists – Andrew Richardson and Richard Cross – were involved in some way, either in digging, washing and sorting finds, talking to members of the public or evaluating the project. For several volunteers it was the first time they had been involved in any practical archaeology though they had been interested in it for years, some inspired by the Time Team and other television programmes.

Terry Biot was one of these and had discovered the opportunity for practical involvement after picking up a leaflet at the recent Folkestone People’s History Centre stall at Tescos. He was there with his wife, daughter and son Thomas who, intending to study early history at University, said “I have always been interested in history and archaeology from when I was very small. In fact I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t, so I am really pleased to get some practical experience for the first time.”

Natalie Kinder, like many new to digging, was delighted with everything she found but especially the two human teeth in the remains of a jaw bone. Her mother, Sharon Kinder, said, “I have always been fascinated by archaeology on television but I have never had any hands on experience. When Natalie showed me the teeth I thought Wow!”. Other volunteers for whom digging was a new experience included Jan Drucker and Martyn Plummer. 

The house owners, Mrs. Marilyn Eady, Stephen Blundell and Catherine Drion, who had kindly allowed test pits to be dug in their gardens, were all keen to find out what lay beneath them. Stephen Blundell had noticed what seemed like the line of a wall when the grass in his lawn dried out in the summer. In the end this turned out to be a path or the remains of a dry stone wall, made from a demolished building and probably of nineteenth century construction. Other finds were mostly 19th century but some earlier, including 17th century pottery and clay pipes. The pit in Catherine Drion’s garden revealed the human teeth. The third garden produced a clay pipe with Masonic markings, and some medieval, possibly Anglo-Saxon pottery together with a probable post hole. Two of these pits will be worked on again next weekend as will that at the Bayle pond, which also produced some human bone and at the very end of the day a feature which may possibly turn out to be part of a building.

Complementing this work, Ian Coulson and Marion Green put on a “Hands on History” event, part of the BBC project. Seventeen children with parents or carers met at the History Resources Centre in the library. After doing a timeline, the children looked at some archaeological evidence, particularly the skeleton of an Anglo-Saxon woman and three skulls from Canterbury Archaeological Trust, two of which had battle wounds from a  sword and an axe. The group walked to the test pit at the Bayle pond to see what was happening there, Andrew Richardson describing the process involved. They then moved on to have a look at the Church and churchyard. The children each took away a piece of medieval or Roman pottery provided by Canterbury Archaeological Trust. “It was”, Ian said “a very successful day.” 

The test pitting will continue on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th March and, with more homeowners offering the use of their gardens for archeological investigations, at other dates in the future. If you wish to take part please get in touch with Hannah Lewis on 01303 850614

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