Our Story

Starting point

 

Since the passing of new planning guidelines in 1991, most archaeology in the UK has been carried out by developer-funded professionals. Much excellent work has been done, but this kind of development-led archaeology, by definition, can only be reactive. In historic market towns such as Faversham where there has been no large-scale development, little archaeological investigation has taken place and almost none at all in what is thought to be the oldest area. Many questions remain unanswered, as the Kent document makes very clear.

 

In 2004 archaeologist Dr Pat Reid embarked on a project to form a local archaeology group to undertake light-touch archaeological research using local volunteers who had an interest in archaeology and history yet who had little or no experience in archaeological excavations, recording and processing. What they did possess however was a passion for knowledge of their local history.

 

The first thing to establish was a research aim. There were a number of criteria that needed to be fulfilled. These were:

 

1. That the group’s activities did not trespass on the province of professional/commercial archaeological units.

2. That the investigation should touch an aspect of Faversham’s history that had previously been neglected.

3. That the investigation did not, to begin with, require levels of skill unlikely to be possessed by novice volunteers.

 

The Kingsfield burial finds suggested strongly that there was a settlement of some importance in the area in the Saxon period, and this was supported by references in various documents. On the basis of this, the research decided on was:

 

 

 

Plan of action

 

A proposal was drawn up for the Faversham Society Council (The Faversham Society -established 1962- is the local amenity and history society serving Faversham and its surrounding parishes). This included research aims, procedures and a Health and Safety policy. In Spring 2005, an appeal was made through the local newspapers for volunteers, gardens in the ‘Saxon Archaeological zone’ and for equipment. Provisions had been made to set up base at a local pub within the area of interest where temporary storage and a water supply were available.

 

Contact was made with the owners of the gardens being volunteered. Each was visited and details taken. Permission was obtained to dig a 1m x 1m ‘test pit’ to a maximum depth of 1.2m (for health and safety reasons). The landowner was also informed that they have the ownership rights to all finds made. Strata, features and artefacts would be carefully recorded, and plotted on a large-scale map of the area. The findings were to be well publicised and archived in the Fleur de Lis library, with and exhibition in the Fleur Gallery later in the year.

 

 

 

Practical points considered:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next Steps

 

As a result of the advertising, some 28 gardens in the research area had been volunteered and 25 individuals wishing to participate came forward. Equipment had been loaned or donated to the group, and a range of consumables purchased. A meeting was called where the volunteers had the opportunity to meet up for the first time. The group consisted of people from a wide range of backgrounds, disciplines and interests, ranging in age from 16 to 70. Most had no formal archaeological training but everybody had one thing in common – a passion and enthusiasm to discover their local history. A practical training day was set up and all the volunteers took part. The training covered:

 

 

 

 

 

After the excavations had taken place and the results compiled, a report was to be written as a permanent record of the findings. A copy was to be given to the landowner and another to be published.

 

The importance of publication could not be underestimated since the whole purpose of the activities was to disseminate the newly discovered information to the local people. Various publication methods were considered. One of the group members were interested in computers and had some (limited) experience in websites. It was decided that the best publication tool was to be the Internet. This would allow for a wide audience for viewing the reports at a minimal financial outlay. A website domain (name) was registered ‘community-archaeology.org.uk’ where all the findings were made freely accessible to all. The group defined community archaeology as being “Archaeology by the people, for the people”. and has now been adopted into mainstream archaeology.

 

 

© 2005 - 2016 The Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group