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NEWS PAGE

Welcome to the news page.  This will be updated on a regular basis with the progress of The Alkham Valley Project.  We will soon be starting further Geophysical Surveys in the hope of identifying further sites of interest for investigation.

We will also let you know how our fund raising is progressing on this page.

Any general news relating to finds etc will also be available here.

October 2012 - NEW PAGE- Educational Experience For Collages & Schools

 

NEWS - UPDATES - NEWS - UPDATES - NEWS - UPDATES - NEWS

 

THE UNIQUE WOLVERTON ANGLO-SAXON WEAPONS DISPLAY CASE

The case has now moved to Dover Museum and is available for public viewing during opening times. The case will also be used as an education tool for over 12,000 of our districts school children to learn about the life and times of the Pagan Anglo-Saxons.

FIELDWORK UPDATE FROM 2013

During the year both the Alkham and Guston historical research groups have undertaken several geophysical projects.

CHILTON FARMHOUSE

Our thanks to Dr Ed & Dr Fiona Macaskill for allowing the first of two geophysical assessments on their horse paddocks at Chilton Farmhouse. The survey recorded much disturbance throughout the paddock making an informed interpretation of the results problematical however; permission to locate small test trenches in 2014 will allow us to examine and assess the potential archaeology.

SOUTH ALKHAM

A return visit to the paddock owned by Graham & Janet Adamson allowed the group to re-investigate a feature previously located that continued outside the original area scanned. The find consists of a rectangle in shape beam-slot trench that is probably associated with a substantial barn or hall type building long since lost to the valleys historical records. Once again our appreciation for their kind support & access.

ALKHAM VILLAGE CRICKET GROUND

With due thanks to the Alkham Parish Councils permission, the AVHRG electronically surveyed the field formally known as Vicarage Meadow nowadays known as the Alkham cricket pitch and play park area. The fieldwork objective was to identify the northern bank and possible signs of a landing stage at the edge of the ancient Nailbourne, once a very wide and deep river thousands of years ago. In modern times the extent of the Nailbourne is enclosed within two banks just over a metre apart that traverses the southern edge of the cricket pitch. Just how wide the Nailbourne was can only be glimpse during very wet winters when the river overflows the dyke system rising in the fields either side of the village.

 

Our investigations failed to identify direct evidence for landing infrastructure although, a scattered series of pits or postholes were recorded. These features extend from the slight raised bank on the outer periphery of the cricket pitch upslope towards the road and may be associated with a basic landing area. Evidence was also recorded for an area of potential deep sediments adjacent slip lane that may demark an edge to a former riveret draining from the coombe the village of Alkham now surrounds. The place-name meaning of Slip lane (other than the obvious a `slip`, has so far proved difficult to prove however; Old English Slipa meaning `muddy`, may well derive the name `the lane at or alongside the muddy place`?

 

The filled-in site of the old village pond was also identified lying in the southwest corner of the cricket field opposite the village hall. Unfortunately due to the limited surveyed area over the former meadow now surrounded by housing on most sides, and the adjacent carparking area on the former southern bankside, it has not been possible to acquire a large enough dataset to purport more than the aforementioned findings. Future small-scale test trenches on the high ground above the cricket pitch may prove very interesting providing an opportunity for local residents to physically take part. If possible, this will be so way off.

FUTURE NAILBOURNE RESEARCH PLANNING

Academics have long-since understood the historical importance for physical research within the dry valleys bottoms around the North Downs. These chalkland valleys that interrupt the North Downs and formed during the Ice Age known as the Pleistocene period beginning about 500,000 years ago. Most of these valleys once carried rivers of varying size and depths up until the past few hundred years (See Who Lived Here page) for further historical information and potential use of the Nalbourne by our ancestors.

 

To date, hardly any useful below ground research has been undertaken within the valley floors this largely due to the extensive and costly areas that would require excavations. Trenching would need to be cut from one bank to the other side at two locations and these probably over 30 metres in length. The group has plans to research the Alkham valley bottom that would serve as a bench mark for neighbouring valleys and provide we hope some amazing information.

 

Should this project come to fruition, we would require outside specialist advice and assistance from geomorphologist and archaeo-environmentalists. Historically, such undertakings could produce a Nailbourne (dry valley) timeline for the valleys formation and potential historic size including its possible ancient navigable use through time.  Despite the obvious hurdles, the long-term plan would be to attempt to raise the finances and attract specialist academic interest in this project. A realistic financial budget would need to be raised to cover environmental sampling and reports.

PIMLICO WAY VINEYARD NURSERY

We warmly welcome the new landowner Martin Scherer of the land surrounding and including the site of the former Pimlico village above south Alkham. Martin has exciting plans to turn the present grassedland into a vineyard nursery. The area of Pimlico lies in an area of significant archaeological potential spanning thousands of years. Martin is keen to support the AVHRG in its work in the valley by engaging the group at this early stage in his vineyards development plans.

We wish Martin every success in his new venture and look forward to working with Martin on future fieldwork opportunities.

THE SEARCH FOR THE DOVER TO FOLKESTONE ROMAN ROAD

(Route 131)

During the late summer period after this years harvest, our fieldwork has been very kindly supported by George & Wendy Stokes of Little Hougham Court Farm and Nigel Snape of Great Cauldham Farm. So far three sites have been geophysically surveyed at key sites near Abbots Land Farm, Little Hougham Court Farm and Church Hougham. Assistance during this fieldwork was also kindly given by Robert Warnock (Capel Church Farm).

 

A total combined area of over 500m2 has now been scanned but little if any trace of such a road is yet to be forthcoming. If the road existed, we would have expected to have picked-up at least the ghost-prints of the road surface or flanking drainage or marked-out former construction ditch alignments. The group still need to survey at two further key sites before any conclusive conclusion can be made. This project due to be completed by the end of November, has overrun and may not be concluded until early 2014.

NEW FINDS BY LOCAL RESIDENTS

During the summer 2013, Susan Mickleborough came across and interesting large flint whilst walking her dog near Wolverton Hill. Susan contacted the group and the find was identified as a Tranchet Axe dating between 4500 BC (Neolithic period) to 8000 BC (Mesolithic period). The axe is currently being drawn and reports written for publication later in 2014. Our thanks to Susan for allowing us to record this important implement.

 

Back in the late 1980s, Susan Lees picked-up an object looking rather like a door knocker from a field above the valley whilst walking her dog. As most residents in the valley will know, Susan has amassed a large collection over the years of finds material from all around the valley however, on this occasion the object was not recognised until viewed by the author. The find originally covered in dark green and black patina, has since been cleaned revealing a silver 4th century Crossbow brooch worn as an important insignia by high ranking officers in the Roman army but also by officials of the state. The brooch has been kindly donated for use in free on loan display cases for school in the district. The Tranchet Axe and the brooch will be drawn and published in the Kent Archaeologia Cantiana during 2014.

If you find something you feel may be ancient, give us a call

STORAGE SPACE

 

The AVHRG is appealing for a small dry area in or around the Alkham valley to store its small amount of fieldwork equipment consisting of buckets, tarpaulins, finds trays, plastic rolled fencing etc. Our equipment is only used a few times each year. Please contact me if you are able to help. 01304 219550. v.burrows@gtwiz.co.uk

Update by Vince Burrows

 

 

WOLVERTON CASE UPDATE

NOVEMBER 2012

 Vince Burrows

After two seasons of excavations near Wolverton in the valley, and a further two years fund raising led by the Alkham Valley Historical Research Group, over £14,000 was raised. The fund was primarily set-up for research, conservation of the artefacts and construction of the double-tiered burial display case designed by the author as an educational experience for school students.

Thanks to the marvellous support and generosity of the residents in the Alkham Valley and other funding organisations, the important double-tiered weapons burial was replicated in mock chalk in cross-section surrounded by a museum standard display case. The case contains on two levels the real skeletons as they were discovered and contain the weapons and other artefacts the burials were discovered with. The artefacts in the case have been replicated to scale size (with exception to the shield that would have been too large for the case), the conserved real finds recovered from the burials are to be incorporated into a separate display case later in 2013.

The case was officially unveiled at a ceremony at the Astor College for the Arts in April 2011 by the Deputy Major of Dover David Hannent. This unique display enables students to examine and discuss Anglo-Saxon mortuary rites and other aspects of our pagan past. The ĎWolverton Warriorí in the upper tier, was not only buried with weapons, but also with two human femurs (leg-bones) from a previous adult grave his burial was cut into. The ends of the two bones rested on four-chalk pedestals placed either side of the warrior to form supports for planking to cover and seal the grave. The skull and mandible (jaw bone) of another individual were then placed on top of the planks before backfilling of the burial. The construction method using human remains on pedestals is the only known example recorded in Britain.

The case is flanked on both sides by two six-foot storyboards giving an overview of the Wolverton excavations and how the pagan Anglo-Saxons lived. The boards also list all the names of the residents and other organisations that supported the funding of the entire project.

The display has been a huge success with Dover District schools and the Astor College, where teachers have used the Anglo-Saxon remains to help teach not only History, but also Arts, English Language, Science and Metalwork. The teaching staff reported that pupils of all ages are happy to undertake workshop projects all day without growing restless.

After nineteen months at the Astor College, the display has now moved to a temporary position at the Discover Centre adjacent Dover Museum, were the general public can see the case. Once the museums Anglo-Saxon floor has been refurbished, the warrior case will be added to the Anglo-Saxon section permanently at the museum.

The museums education rooms are visited by over 12,000 school pupils each year, here the displays educational purpose will be fully realized and enjoyed by students from across the district.

 

The financial support given by Alkhamís residents has helped create not only a unique display case, but also a superb experience for all ages to enjoy for years to come. Preview picture of the case can be found on this site Gallery Pages.

 Our gratitude to all that supported the fund raising

AVHRG

JUNE 2012 - Wolverton Warrior In The Press

The Wolverton Warrior story and the eventual unveiling of the display case in Dover was covered by the archaeological press. Click here to read the articles courtesy of The Kent Archaeological Society and Current Archaeology Magazine.

YOUR PAST IN YOUR HANDS

Alkham Valley Project 2012

During this year, the AVHRG will concentrate on fieldwork, documentary research and hope to gain permissions from local landowners to mainly undertake non-invasive geophysical surveys over areas earmarked as potential locations for historic occupation. The majority of the planned fieldwork within  the valley, will be dictated by the general agricultural use of the land, this being mostly pasture at most locations to be investigated therefore; geophysical surveys will often be employed to enable identification of each site. For those readers that may wish to join the AVHRG team, we have provided an overview of how geophysics is applied in archaeology, which is explained later on in this update.

FIELDWORK

Fieldwalking for pottery sherds and flint implements can serve as a very useful and productive method of gathering evidence for former historical transient or permanent occupational sites. Careful observation whilst gardening can also produce interesting and sometime significant finds. Metal detecting surveys are a powerful tool for recovering metallic evidence over large areas of the countryside although; the correct recording of all artfactual material recovered by any means from the soil is crucial.

Historical artefacts are not a renewable resource and once removed from there context, vital information surrounding the artefacts deposition or loss, could result in missing parts of the local jigsaw puzzle being lost to us now & future generations. Finds can be confidentially recorded directly with the Finds Liaison Officer for Kent, local museum services, archaeological institutions or with local groups such as ourselves.

The fieldwork currently being planned for the Alkham Valley (2012) will provide opportunities for local volunteers and students. Our aim is to involve as many local residents in the investigation of Alkham Valleys extensive lost past either by fieldwork or examining historical records. This enabling the group to investigate and record potential unknown archaeological remains and record lost archive material. There will also be future opportunities for schools interested in organising fieldtrips and historical workshops for pupils to get directly involved. 

JOIN US IN THE SEARCH FOR ALKHAM VALLEYS LOST HISTORICAL PAST AND BURIED HISTORY

We would like to here from any residents that would like to join the groupís activities over the coming years. Please supply your email address and telephone number in your correspondence. All volunteers will receive details and information about all the site investigations, where they will take place and when. Please note: All correspondence with members will be via email.

If you have any information you feel may be useful to our groups researches, from past or current finds, observations whilst out walking or information pasted down through family and friends, old photographs or old local maps that could be copied for study, we would be grateful to here from you.

Vince Burrows

Tel: 01304 219550

Email: V.Burrows@gtwiz.co.uk

Or write to: Susan Lees, Forstal Cottage, Alkham, nr Dover, Kent. CT15 7DE.

 

 GEOPHYSICS IN ARCHAEOLOGY

In these modern times, most sites are now identifiable by geophysical means avoiding the necessity to invasively excavate. Excavation of large sites can be very costly and extremely time consuming whilst geophysical surveys cover extensive areas for a fraction of the cost and time.

For our site readers that may not understand the way in which remote sensing (geophysics) works, this simplistic overview of the two main instruments used in archaeological prospection may help clear the fog. There are many types of instruments used depending on what elements are sort beneath the ground, the size of area to be surveyed, the suspected depth to the target and the natural geological conditions. The two most commonly used instruments in archaeology are as follows:

 Magnetometry

Gradiometers & magnetometers are commonly used instruments able to rapidly cover large open areas in the countryside. Held by the operator just above the ground, the apparatus is not in direct contact with the ground for the duration of each sweep across the area surveyed. These instruments require a well-trained operator to set up however, once the equipment is ready to go, the apparatus is relatively straightforward to use in the field.

The discipline basically involves measuring the magnetic values of the soil & recording the disruption caused to it by human activity from digging, burning and many other disturbances that change the natural soil properties (magnetic field). By measuring these variations, (changes to the natural field) the apparatus when downloaded into a laptop or PC produces an interpretable image of what lies beneath the area surveyed. Accurate measurements taken from the image are be used to target the features or anomalies that may need further investigation.

 Resistivity

Resistance scanning is one of the most effective instruments that can be operated on most sites whether urban or within the countryside. The equipment is considerably slower than the former instruments but faster than many other applications such as Ground Penetrating Radar. Resistivity requires a grid to ensure accurate data collection taken precisely at the right measurements within the area under survey. To this end, the apparatus operated over a marked grid that normally measures between 20 or 302m. Unlike the aforementioned magnetic apparatus, the resistance instrument is connected directly to the land surface via remote fixed probes inserted into the ground at least 15 metres outside to the surveyed area.

A current is passed through the ground each time the twin mobile probes used by the operator contact with the soil at every predetermined point on the grid. The resistance the current meets underground is measured and logged by the computer in Ohms. The interstitial water or moisture carries the current through the ground in proportion to the potential difference, or voltage emitted into the soil. In short, buried hard objects such as walls will increase the resistance whereas, damp or wet pits, gullies or ditches will decrease the resistance due to the moisture content retained in the feature or anomaly.

Extensive knowledge of the local geology is often key to acquiring the very best data acquisition maximising the apparatus capability. Depending on the geology, the distance required between the fixed probes can vary considerably on different sites; poor probe balancing will decrease the quality of the data collected, ground penetration of the instrument and the resulting image. Once the image has been created the final process involves the accurate interpretation of the features, anomalies and geological effects recorded over the surveyed area. Whilst most of the fieldwork can be undertaken by volunteers it is very important that and experienced geophysicist interprets the data because underground fibre optic cables, electrical cables, drainage pipes and other costly or dangerous installation may be present. Directors of excavation where geophysics has been employed need to be fully aware of the location, type, size and potential depth of any underground installations.

 

   JUNE 2010 - ALKHAM PROJECT UPDATE

Our original plans to start geophysical surveys around the valley have been interrupted by the extremely bad weather over preceding month, despite these delays the project will commence shortly. Anyone interested in taking part in this project are welcomed to contact Vince Burrows (see contacts page). Please note: All volunteers must be registered with our project team.

In recent months, the group has received kind offers from local valley landowners to survey their land as part of this project. If you are a landowner and feel that your property may be able to add information for the betterment of our joint historical knowledge of Alkham Valleys History, please do let us know.

If you have chanced across interesting flint, pottery, metallic or any other suspected historical material, please bag it, and label with where it was found and your details. Vince would be happy to identify these kinds of finds for you. In fact, any assistance with local ancient maps, land deeds etc may be of help to our general researches.

Geophysical surveys have now been carried out on land at Green Hill Farm owned by Nigel & Wendy Burrows and on land owned by Gordon & Janet Adamsonís at South Alkham. Results from this work will be posted (coming soon).

WOLVERTON ARTEFACT ASSEMBLAGE

 Update June 2010

Thanks to the continuing generosity from the local valley residents (listed on our supporters page), the Alkham Valley Society, Kent Archaeological Society and Mark Loveday. Many of the finds recovered from the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Wolverton are now being conserved. The finds will be cleaned, X rayed and stabilized at the Conservation Science Investigation Laboratory (CIS) Sittingbourne. The lab is managed by Dana Goodburn-Brown (as seen on South-East News recently), and employs over 30 volunteers.

Four of the skeletons excavated from the site are shortly to undergo survey work at Kent and Canterburyís Anthropology Department run by Dr Chris Deter. These examinations may reveal information about the subjectís health in life and in some cases, injuries that may have directly led to their death. For instance, the Wolverton Warrior suffered an unhealed aperture to his skull. Did this individual depart this life during or after a battle? The second burial located below the warrior exhibited an unhealed broken leg, was this an accident?

Further information regarding the untimely death of the Chilton Maiden (who died around the age of 4.5 years), may also be forthcoming? Other tests planned are to include C14 (dating of indviduals), Isotope tests (to determine the region the people grow up), by examining the mineral traces left in the teeth and bones together with, other anaylsis yet to be organised.

Further funding is still required if we are to complete the goals set out on the pages of this site. The final aim will be to display the finds and other material permanently at Dover Museum and or create a mobile display for use in local schools etc.

If you would like to make a donation towards the AVHRG Fund, please send donations to Susan Lees, Forstal Cottage, Alkham, Dover, Kent, CT15 7DE. Please address cheques or postal orders to the AVHRG. All subscribers will be listed on our Website Supporters Pages (optional preference, please let us know). There are no paid individuals or staff; all proceeds go directly to the project.

On behalf of the Alkham Valley Historical Research Group

 

Thank You.

FEBRUARY 2010 - PROBLEMS WITH PAYPAL

We are currently trying to sort out a problem with our Paypal account.  Please don't be put off donating. Contact us for further details.

FEBRUARY 2010 - WOLVERTON & ALKHAM VALLEY PROJECTS UPDATE

Just recently, I have sent information to the local press in order to highlight both the funding and Alkham programmes. I will also shortly email dates for the commencement of the Alkham Project which will start looking at numerous sites in the valley. These selected location will include possible cemeteries associated with the Bronze Age and Anglo-Saxon periods. To this, we hope to be able to sample areas geophysically on the slopes and river plains throughout the valley.
 
The good old method of fieldwalking and identification of sites through material finds will not be possible in most cases at Alkham, this is due to the extensive areas laid to pasture however; our joint researches may enable us to locate possible locations of occupation.
 
Alkham Valley in its current mostly un-urbanised situation, may provide us with sites that will enhance our general knowledge of rural settlement in the valley and there associated cemeteries. It may be possible using the situation of cemeteries to located  sites of occupation quite often focused where the living can look up to the dead and the dead look upon the living! The project is planned for two years but may extend to three?
 
I hope to be in a position shortly to approach landowners for permission to survey electronically (mainly) on their land. If you have any friends that own land in or atop the valley, I would appreciate any assistance you may afford in acquiring such permissions over the coming weeks and months. Dates to start the work on Neil Burrows land (Alkham Court) will be posted very soon.
 
Local support from the community for the project is my main goal and to this, If you know anyone that is interested in volunteering for fieldwork, please let me know.

JULY 2009 - HAND AXE FOUND NEAR ALKHAM

A hand axe found near the village of Alkham has been given a possible date of between 250,000 and 500,000 BC.  It is now being sent to a Palaeolithic expert for confirmation.