Young People and the Roman Villa

Over the past two weeks 383 primary Folkestone school children and secondary school students, together with 59 teaching staff have visited the excavation site of the Roman Villa on East Cliff in Folkestone as part of the project A Town Unearthed: Folkestone before 1500. Organised by Marion Green, education officer of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust and helped by volunteers Yvonne Hutchcraft, Pat Cocks, Roma Mortimer, David Paton, Daniel Harris and Iain Nielson, groups of children and students have been shown round the site, told of its history and seen and handled some of the many finds. 

It was clear that they enjoyed the visits and finding out about the villa, of which one student said “I didn’t know it was all here” another was surprised to learn “that a Roman house is under the grass.” and another commented “we are walking on history”. One enthusiast said “I’m coming back in the holidays”. Others learnt that “archaeology isn’t just about finding big things”, “that the Romans had under floor heating” and “the Romans used a rib bone to scrape the oil off them in a bath”. One teacher felt that the “children were highly motivated, interested in what they were seeing and enjoyed listening to the history of the villa.” 

Marion Green said “”I am very pleased with the way the school visits have gone at East Cliff.  We have a good team of local volunteers supporting the education work, who were quick to learn and not afraid to get stuck in with classes of children.  Teachers were appreciative, many of them clearly benefitting from the experience along with the children who had lots of questions!” 

Helping on site over the last two weeks have been ten work experience students from Folkestone, Canterbury, Ashford, Ramsgate and Dartford as well as some students from the University of Kent and Edinburgh University.  Hattie Grylls, an Archaeology student at Edinburgh university, said “This my first practical experience of digging. It has certainly lived up to my expectations. I found it quite thrilling discovering and uncovering things but I am also looking forward to sorting and washing some on the finds”. It was also a new experience for David Swann, a student at Norton Knatchbull School, Ashford who hopes to study ancient history at University and perhaps have a career in archaeology.

Also as part of a Town Unearthed and as a contribution to the Folkestone Triennial Fringe, a mosaic, using re-cycled glass chippings and a few fragments of Roman pottery and tile, has been mounted on the side of a brick building near the Roman Villa. Organised by Yvonne Hutchcraft with the help of Annie Begley, the initial layout was taken from a section of Roman flooring uncovered in a previous excavation, while the final design was the result of a competition run through local Primary Schools. Children were asked to create designs depicting roman and/or modern day to day living. The winners were Thea Jones from Morehall,  Kayla Ostridge from St Mary’s, Ethan Blackie, Liam Wetherell, Aleena Liby, Tahlia Fagan, Rebecca Inglelbrecht and Elena Philpott from Stella Maris, Thomas Cloke, Phoebe Dellison and Cameron Stranage from Sandgate, Jarid Farnworth and Eleanor Priestly from Elham and Chloe Wilson from Castle Hill. 

Further events are being organised to involve children. On Saturday 30th July and Saturday 6th August from 2.00 – 3.30pm, as part of the BBC ‘Hands on History’ project, practical and interactive archaeology workshops aimed at children aged 7-12 years and their families or carers will take place at the Roman Villa on East Cliff. Ian Coulson invites children to “Come along and learn more about archaeology and get close up to the artifacts at the East Cliff excavation. There is no need to book. Just come along and join in but please come prepared, whatever the weather, we will be outside!”

The involvement of children and school students in a wide range of activities, including classroom visits, is a key component of A Town Unearthed: Folkestone before 1500, which is a three year project of community archaeology in Folkestone, organised by Canterbury Christ Church University, the Folkestone People’s History Centre and Canterbury Archaeological Trust. It is funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund and The Roger De Haan Charitable Trust with additional contributions by Folkestone Town Council, Kent Archaeological Society, Kent County Council, Shepway District Council (East Folkestone Change together) and the Tory Family Foundation

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