Preston: A Most Peculiar Parish
2013 - 2015
Site Code PSN13 & PSN15
Starting point: The stimulus for this project came from a spontaneous offer of investigative access to the large garden of an ancient inn on Preston Street. In earlier reports, the importance of the east west routes in Faversham represented by East Street / West Street / Dark Hill have been much emphasised¹ and the later medieval establishment of Abbey St / Court St and the modern Market Place has been much discussed². Preston Street is another kettle of fish entirely. Nowadays, it is the closest Faversham has to a High Street, leading down Creek-wards and northwards from the railway station to the centre of town, yet reaching the centre not at the market place but just to the east of it.
Fig 1: Preston in 1816²º
Preston itself is (was) a peculiar parish. It had two main parts, entirely separated (Fig 1). Preston North is dealt with in the reports on Brent Hill³, Front Brents⁴ and elsewhere, and does seem to have been simply a separate manorial estate. Preston Within, on the other hand, has an ancient church, St Catherine's. This church is quite possibly older than the main Faversham parish church, St Mary of Charity in that a) its fabric includes Saxon stonework and b) unlike St Marys it is listed in the Domesday Book⁵. South of the A2 (Watling Street) is yet another parish section, South Preston Without which included manors such as Macknade, Copton and Westwood. The highly idiosyncratic boundaries of South Preston are shown in Fig 2. A very peculiar parish indeed.
a) South Preston Without
b) North Preston Without
Fig 2: Boundaries of the two 'Without' sections of Preston Parish (pink shaded)²¹
Investigating Preston is planned as a two to three year project. Activity will be focussed on answering a series of questions about the fragmented parish of Preston, concentrating on the southerly portions.
The chief aim is to establish the dating for activity in mid-south Preston Street, the Mall and the area around St Catherine's. We do know that a manor existed near St Catherine's which was demolished in 1931. Hardly anything seems at present to be known about this manor. As always in Faversham, the challenge is enormous with industrial extraction, looting and later building complicating sequences infuriatingly, but at present so little is known that a systematic investigation is essential.
The aim for this first year, then, is to establish chronological sequences for a series of points along Preston Street / the Mall. We will be looking in particular for evidence for early, middle and later medieval activity - this could be midden scatter (i.e. evidence for farmland usage) or domestic rubbish (i.e. evidence for actual occupation nearby). In 2014 we will move onto the rectangle enclosed by the Mall, the railway line, St Catherine's Drive and the A2. Contained within this is the site of Preston House. There is contradictory evidence on the degree to which this area has been scraped for brickearth, but we will see.
The South Preston Without section, south of the A2, includes a number of very interesting manorial sites, still fully occupied and functional, also industrial sites such as Preston Mill (now Mill House, a residential care home) and several chalk quarries with disused lime works. Within this area there is very good evidence for mid Iron Age settlement⁶ ⁷. Field walking may be an appropriate investigative strategy in this more open area, but would not be undertaken until 2015 at earliest.
Background and specifications
Preston Within was bounded by the Mall to the west, Love Lane to the east, A2 to the south and to the north adjoining Faversham Town along a line of uncertain origin, to the north of the modern railway line. South Preston Without was bounded by the A2 to the north, but the other boundaries, shown in Fig 2, are very irregular, presumably to accommodate the various manorial estates. North Preston Without was a block zone west of the Creek, the estate of Ham Farm, and does not form part of this current project.
b) Geology (Preston Within) and relief.
The parish of Preston lies on the downward slope of the North Downs, facing northwards. Its highest point is 65 metres at NGR 0030 5830, in the detached portion of South Preston Without, just west of Littles Farm. The lowest point is around St Catherine's church at c 10 metres. Parallel valleys run northwards, with a spring line running east to west across the area. This spring line is nowadays marked by water works which have caused the springs to dry up: an important part of this study will be to try and trace recently vanished water courses.
The geology (Fig 3) is Upper Chalk (pale green), overlain by Thanet Sands (blue) in the central area. Deposits of Head Brickearth (yellow) mask the valleys.
Fig 3: Geology of Preston Within⁸
c) Previous archaeological investigations
i) Desktop investigation and watching briefs were undertaken in 1998 (Archaeology SE)⁹ and 1999 (Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit)¹º on the site of the Preston Allotments to the north of the A2 (Watling Street) prior to housing development. These were followed by another watching brief nearby, this time by SWAT in 2001¹¹. There was some expectation that Roman burials would be found close to the road, as had been the case at Mill House (see below). No Roman finds were reported, however, although the SWAT report mentions a dene hole and a World War 2 bunker and these feature on the HER.
ii) In 2000, the Canterbury Archaeological Trust carried out an investigation into the basement area of the Fleur De Lis Centre at 10-11 Preston Street prior to an extension to the building¹². Three earlier floor levels were identified, with a beaten earth floor the earliest. A sherd of tin glazed pottery was found on this earliest floor.
iii) In 2004, an excavation was carried out by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust to investigate the site of an extension to Mill House¹³. Four to five Roman inhumation burials had been found at this spot in 1859 to 1860, at NGR TR 0178 6040¹⁴. In 2004, sections of a Roman road were identified, also an inhumation burial to the west side of the excavation. The burial, which was disturbed, was of an adult male aged 30-40 years.
iv) In 2005 the Canterbury Archaeological Trust carried out a watching brief on a development site called Orchard Cottages on the corner of Love Lane and Canterbury Road, NGR centroid TR 02488 60331¹⁵. They were looking particularly for signs of Roman Watling Street but found only 19th-20th century archaeology.
d) Kent County Council HER entries¹⁶ (Preston Street and the Mall only)
i) Archaeological finds and monuments
TR 06 SW 17 A Romano British flagon AD100, was found in 1935 on the site of the Argosy Cinema, 72 Preston Street. This site is nowadays occupied by M & M, NGR TR 01577 61202.
TR 06 SW 40 Romano British cinerary urns and oyster shells were found in an orchard on the east side of the mall when the houses were being built around 1850. Also in the garden of the Mendfield Almshouses a coin of Nero was found. The site of the Almshouses is unknown but thought to be east of the Mall, possibly the row of houses at NGR TR 01444 60810.
ii) Listed buildings
Forty buildings and walls of architectural and historical interest are listed for Preston Street and the Mall. According to the English Heritage records, 42% of these are early 19th century (1800-1850 first build). This is an important point as early 19th century houses would have been built before the scraping of this area for brickearth, from around 1850 onwards¹⁷. Another 33% were built between 1700 and 1800. These cluster in the central part of the Preston Street / Mall axis and include some fine houses such as Mall House and Delbridge House. 13% are dated to the 17th century and another 12% to the late medieval period. The latter are clustered towards the northern section of Preston Street, just north of Gatefield Lane, and include two buildings historically recorded as inns (the Flower de Luces or Fleur de Lis and the former Hole in the Wall, formerly called the Albion Wine Vaults, nowadays the Old Wine Vaults).
Jacobs's map of 1760-1774 (Fig 4) shows the development of Preston Street in the mid 18th century: note that Watling Street is running mainly through fields and orchards at this time and Faversham Town is firmly centred on the Creek and the Lower Road. There are a few houses shown in Ospringe and another small cluster around two former public houses (dated to the 17th century) and a forge in what Stevens¹⁸ identifies as the village of Preston, at NGR TR 01766 60499.
Fig 4: Jacobs's map of Faversham published in 1774
e) Other sources archaeological information
No other published accounts have been found or finds / monuments notified to the HER but items donated to the Fleur De Lis include a splendid 15th century stone fireplace from 76/76A Preston Street (opposite the Fleur and also a late medieval in foundation) and also post medieval pottery and some very early 17th century clay pipes from building works on the Fleur site. Given the archaeological potential of the Preston Street / Mall zone, then, this project is likely to add considerably to what is known, especially for the medieval period for which there is zero archaeological evidence beyond standing building fragments.
f) Summary: development of Preston
Hasted tells us that Preston next Faversham, 'written in antient [sic] records both Prestentune and Prestetone' has belonged to the Church since well before the Norman Conquest - the name itself is a form of 'Priest's Town'. It is listed in Domesday as belonging to Christchurch, Canterbury i.e. one of the Archbishops lands. Christchurch continued in ownership after the Reformation and indeed up until the time Hasted was writing (c 1790)¹⁹.
Throughout the medieval period, Preston Parish was really a mosaic of manorial estates, which were leased by various wealthy folk such as the Boyle family, with a tiny service cluster developing on Watling Street, around the Windmill and Cherry Tree inns, in the 17th century. The population of the parish by 1821 was only 351. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, suburban developments began to encroach, mostly of a middle class nature, but it is not until recent times that larger housing estates have grown up. Eastwards development is limited in 2013 by Love Lane and northward by Watling Street, beyond both of which is protected land.
Before the building of the railway, Preston Street continued southwards to join with Watling Street, nowadays the A2 or London / Canterbury Road. The railway ran right through the cluster of fine 18th century houses. Although the northern part of Preston Street has always been in the parish of Faversham, the southern section (including a slice north of the railway line) is (was) in the parish of Preston Within Faversham. So whereas Faversham had the port and market, Preston had Watling Street and, much later on, the railway line and station.
In 1935, administrative reforms abolished North Preston Without and Preston Within, merging them into the parish of Faversham. At the same time, South Preston Without (the manorial section) was divided between Faversham, Sheldwich and Ospringe. So Preston as a parish no longer exists, a sad end to an ancient priestly domain.
Strategies for 2013
a) The field work must, of course, be preceded by considerable desk top work involving multiple resources and this document shows the first stages of this. At this point, tentative identification has been made of sites which could yield important answers, such as the site of the former Preston House, and permissions sought for light touch investigations.
At present, the overall plan is to deal in 2013 with the central and southern sections of Preston Street and the Mall, to ascertain the medieval and earlier history of these sections. In 2014, focus will shift to the St Catherine's and Preston House area, along with the little 'village' of Preston up on Watling Street. The third year will probably involve research into and investigation of the manorial estates of South Preston Without, depending on the outcomes of 2013-4 and permissions being granted.
i) Easter season: Saturday 6th April - Sunday 21st April: Further desktop work; revision training in post medieval and late medieval artefact identification, especially for ceramics; walking the street area to confirm or gauge the degrees of brick earth extraction and chalk quarrying; initial geo-resistivity surveying and possibly flowerbed foraging in gardens where permissions have been granted.
ii) Early summer season: Saturday 25th May - Sunday 2nd June: Main surveying and foraging period in Preston Street / The Mall. One or two small scale keyholes in the central area. Analysis and reflection on results.
iii) Main summer season: Saturday 13th July - Sunday 28th July: Main excavation period, followed by post excavation work in August.
b) Community Festival Event 2013
Over the weekend of the 20th-21st July, FSARG will be working with the Fleur De Lis Museum and a professional unit in offering a major heritage event in Faversham. Our contribution will be to be doing a 'Pub Dig' in the garden of the Old Wine Vaults, one of Preston Streets oldest surviving buildings. Finds processing will be on site and all activity will be accessible to the public. We will be visited by characters from the past of the Old Wine Vaults. This event is linked to the CBA national Festival of Archaeology.
c) Publication and dissemination
Reports will be published online using the FSARG website and also the Kent County Council Historic Environment Record. Decisions about summary print publication will be taken after the investigations are complete and have been evaluated.
This project is not likely to require equipment, specialist knowledge or facilities beyond those already possessed by FSARG, so no further capital expenditure will be needed. Consumables and other incidental expenses will be covered (as usual) by private donation. Online publication is free, given that our website is privately funded: funding for any other form of publication will be considered when decisions about this are taken in the autumn.
Dr Patricia Reid
Honorary Archaeologist for the Faversham Society, Director FSARG
15th March 2013
¹ See, for example, reports on Davington DVN10 on FSARG website www.community-archaeology.org.uk
² See from Hasted E 1798 History and Topographical survey of the County of Kent Vol 6 pp318-371 to KCC / English Heritage 2003 Kent Historic Towns Survey: Faversham p 19-26
³ Reid P 2012 Report of an archaeological investigation around Brent Hill, Faversham on FSARG website op.cit.
⁴ Reid P, forthcoming
⁵ Williams A & G Martin (eds) 1992 edition Domesday Book p12
⁶ Kent HER TR 06 SW 44 LIA pottery assemblage
⁷ Allen, T 2008 An Archaeological Assessment following excavations along the route of the Ashford to Canterbury Rd water main KAP unpub.
⁸ Extract from British Geological Survey 1:50000 Series Solid and Drift England and Wales Sheet 273 Faversham
⁹ James, R 1998 An Archaeological desk based assessment of the Preston Allotments site, Faversham, Kent Archaeology SE unpub.
¹º Philp B 2000 Development on land at Canterbury Road (Preston Allotments) KARU unpub.
¹¹ SWAT, 2001 An Archaeological Watching Brief for the former Preston Allotments, unpub.
¹² Gollop, A 2000 An Archaeological evaluation at the proposed extension to the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre, 10-11 Preston Street, Faversham CAT: Canterbury unpub.
¹³ Parker S etc al 2005 An archaeological watching brief at Mill House Residential Home, Salters Lane, Preston CAT unpub.
¹⁴ Bedo G 1872-73 in The Reliquary Vol XIII
¹⁵ Willson J et al An archaeological Watching Brief on land at Orchard Cottage, Love Lane, Preston CAT unpub.
¹⁶ Kent County Council Historic Environment Record (HER), held at Invicta House, Week St, Maidstone, also online from 2009.
¹⁷ Twist S 1995 Stock Bricks of Swale Sittingbourne Papers No 2 Sittingbourne Society: Sittingbourne, Kent
¹⁸ Stevens P 1999 A record of Preston and Preston Street Faversham Paper No 62 Faversham Society: Faversham
¹⁹ Hasted 1798 op.cit.
²º Taken from Ordnance Survey First Series 1: 63360 Sheet 3
²¹ Both maps taken from website A Vision of Britain through Time Set up by the University of Portsmouth in 2009 www.visionofbritain.org.uk
Preston: A Most Peculiar Parish
This is the third year of investigations into this unusual and historic parish. The background is covered fully in the initial document Preston: a most peculiar parish 2013 which, along with reports on findings so far, is published on the FSARG website www.community-archaeology.org.uk. This document sets out the aims, objectives and strategies for this third year, 2015. These aims both enhance and extend the understandings gained so far for this under-researched parish.
Aims for 2015
a) Catch up and completing projects
A lot of fieldwork was done in 2014 but some research areas are not yet fully understood. Completing the investigations must be the first priority for 2015. The list below shows the outstanding tasks. Completing them depends, of course, on gaining appropriate permissions although in most cases it has already been given provisionally.
i) Preston Hall
Towards the end of the 2014 summer season, a geo-resistivity survey was carried out in the garden of No 7 Preston Grove. Map evidence had implied that this part of the Preston Hall estate had not had any buildings or other features, and the survey was expected to confirm this. This was, however, very much not the case. Current theories are that (a) the large area of possible building material in the western part of the garden is debris from the demolition of Preston House in 1930, but it is not impossible that this is (b) the site of the former Tudor house, demolished around 1787 or maybe even (c) an earlier building about which we know nothing. The only way to check out these theories is to excavate at carefully chosen locations.
ii) 'Old Farm'
A lot of work was carried out at this site in 2014. Further excavation around the enigmatic brick-on-stone enclosure is not planned but an invitation exists to have another look at this wall from the Preston Grove side in the garden of No 4 when the adjacent shrubs and trees are leafless. Last autumn was so wet this visit offer was not taken up then, but now becomes urgent before spring arrives with a vengeance.
Another possible task, for which permission has not yet been sought, is to put down a very small keyhole, maybe only 0.5m square, onto the geo-resistivity anomaly in the garden of No 14. This does seem to be something to do with the 'Old Farm' and may help with dating this establishment.
Finally, the 'Old Farm' does deserve some serious attention in the archives at Canterbury and Maidstone. Ownership of the farm is very uncertain. It seems to have been part of the Preston Hall Estate until it was spilt away in 1788 at the rebuild time, but the ancient stonework implies an ancestry that goes back beyond the known establishment of Preston Hall: it must be remembered that Preston Hall was NOT a manor but a 'gentlemen's seat', to quote Hasted. Because Preston next Faversham was in the ownership of Christchurch Canterbury from AD822, records might have survived from early times and this needs checking.
iii) General - levelling
A good deal of surveying using a dumpy was done last year but needs to be pulled together and any gaps addressed. Preston Within is an area of eccentric variation in height of the land due to brick earth extraction, an activity that does of course greatly affect the survival of archaeology (other than the early-mid Palaeolithic and deep cuttings e.g graves or ditches).
iv) St Catherine's and the Vicarage
This is the area that needs most work.
In 2014, geo-resistivity surveys of the churchyard and vicarage grounds were fully completed (Appendix 1). These outcomes have not yet been fully analysed but at first glance there do not seem to be any anomalies indicating undergrounds structures except for a box to the west of the Schoolroom. We were not planning to ask for permission to dig in these areas anyway, although we would like to do some rodding to try and ascertain the meaning of the Schoolroom anomaly (probably a wall foundation of fairly recent origin).
The gravestone recording, of epitaphs, dates and locations is not yet quite complete so needs attention and then the construction of a database that can be consulted by researchers.
The recording and dating of the exterior of Church and Vicarage has not been started and is a major priority. The exterior of the Vicarage, a most impressive multi-age building, is particularly under recorded and we would like to remedy this.
Finally, we were unable last year to take part in the Tulip Tree fete in June due to date clashes but in 2015 we really must prioritise this, and have an 'archaeology activity corner' and display for local people to see.
v) The Brick and Tile works.
The brick and tile works on what is now the Jewsons site with much the same curtilage, was first spotted by us on the 1865 OS map and then on the 1840 tithe map. We see it as an early brick works, maybe 1780-1840, rather than one of the later and better known Kentish stock brick producers. The 18th-early 19th century houses in this area are all of red brick, as are many garden walls of these periods, so we have been assuming that this was a site where such bricks were manufactured: this assumption does, however, need checking.
We have been offered access to one of the gardens of the pair of Georgian houses on Preston Grove. These houses predate the development of stock bricks in the Faversham area and are themselves built using the red bricks mentioned above. Their gardens also lie at the lower, 'scraped' level that characterises the former brickyard area. A small scale and shallow excavation here should give us some answers to the brick and maybe the tile questions for these previously unrecorded brickworks.
b) A new area of investigation
The focus for new investigations will be the Preston stretch of Watling Street. The road is known to Faversham people as the Roman by pass, a joke with a lot of important developmental history behind it. Faversham's original - and still relevant - centre is down by the Creek, centred on the 'Lower road' that runs east -west along the creek heads between Faversham and Rochester Bridge.
Watling Street is probably the best known of all 'Roman Roads', although the name itself is of more recent origin. During the Roman occupation it was the main road linking the Channel crossing points, Dover and Richborough, with London, the lowest bridging point of the Thames. Countless articles and books, both academic and popular, talk about Watling Street as if it were the same as the route William the Conqueror took on his way to London via Romney, and Dover, also the medieval pilgrimage route, as featured in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and later still, the Old Dover Road.
In 2001 in an important paper, however, Tim Tatton Brown points out the weakness of these assumptions and the lack of evidence to show where Watling Street actually ran and how its course changed over the years. Tim claims that there is 'good evidence to suggest that in the earlier Anglo Saxon period much of the Watling Street route in Kent was probably not used at all'¹. This is a notion that we had ourselves come to propose for Faversham (see above) but which is most drastic in relation to the Dartford- Strood stretch which up until the 1920s was marked only by parish boundaries and footpaths, with the main London to Dover road running via Gravesend. (See the online² paper on Deconstructing and reconstructing Watling Street for much more detail on this).
FSARG's contribution to this surprisingly under researched topic will be to investigate Watling Street along the stretch from the Ospringe parish boundary intersection on the west (NGR TR 00912 60712) to the Preston boundary (NGR 03052 60140) to the east. Questions to be addressed are:
1. What relationship does the present A2 have to the original Roman Watling Street?
2. Is there any evidence for an earlier Iron Age road preceding Watling Street itself?
3. Is there any evidence for Roman settlement near the burials found at Mill House (former Copton Mill)?
4. Do the manors (Macknades, Perry Court, Westwood, and Copton) have any relationship to the early medieval version of Watling Street (if indeed there was such a road and not just a green lane)?
5. What developmental phases can be established for the so-called Preston Village?
These will need to be addressed through a combination of non intrusive fieldwork e.g. geo resistivity surveying, field walking; excavation; surveying; talking to locals; archive research involving studying documents, maps aerial phot. This will be greatly helped by the fact that to the south of the A2 there is very little housing development apart from the Preston Village cluster and Macknades. The map in Appendix 2 shows the study area.
Provisional plan of work for 2015
Easter season: Saturday 28th March- Sunday 12th April
a) Indoor work:
• Purging and archiving last years finds
• Sorting out and mapping the surveying from last year, identifying gaps
• Completing the recording of worked flints from Preston.
b) Outdoor work, weather and permissions permitting;
• A walk south of the A2 and along Watling Street, looking particularly at (i) the manors and their geographical locations. (ii) the cuttings and embankments along this stretch of Watling Street (mark on map if possible) (iii) evidence for 'scraping' and quarrying other than the obvious chalk quarry in Salters Lane
• Visit and investigate the wall in the garden of No 4 Preston Grove
• Filling in the gaps in the surveying
• Completing the epitaph recording for St Catherines
• Beginning (completing?) the building material survey for St Catherines (as done for Luddenham, though I think this one is simpler)
Plus 'Davington Hole' survey, shouldn't take long.
Early Summer season: Saturday 23rd May to Sunday 31st May
(I will try to book the Schoolroom as a base)
a) Completion work, assuming permissions
• No 7 Preston Grove (Preston Hall)
• Brick works in garden of one of the Georgian Cottages
• Building Materials ( could be left until later)
b) New topics
• Resistivity surveying in the football ground and any other areas along the immediate south side of the A2 for which we have got permission. Although we will use a sampling approach e.g. 20 metres in from boundary with A2 in a 10 metre strip spaced at 20 metre intervals - we made need two machines to cover this. KAS loan?
• Selective photography of the manorial sites
Summer season: Saturday 25th July to Sunday 9th August
(Base sought in the Watling Street area - ask the Football ground people?)
• Follow up on resistivity survey results
• Excavation at selected sites in 'Preston Village'
• Surveying of valley configuration and manorial locations
The tentative plan to do a display and events related to the 50th anniversary of the excavations of Faversham Abbey must, I think, be cancelled: we have a great deal to do this year. I will do a column or two on it for the local paper and maybe something for the KAS Autumn Newsletter.
Pat Reid, Director FSARG
¹ TATTON BROWN T 2001 The Evolution of Watling Street in Kent Arch. Cant. Vol 121 pp121
Geo resistivity survey of the St Catherines graveyard and the lawned parts of the Vicarage gardens. North to top. Light shading for high resistivity (dry).
The Study area for 2015
The course of the A2 through Preston Next Faversham Parish.
Preston Parish Boundary is shown in red, manors circled in red.
Taken from Old Ordnance Survey maps Kent Sheet 34.10 Faversham SE and 34.09 Faversham SW and Ospringe. Reduced from the original 1:2500 series.
Spotting Roman Roads
Roman roads can be very elaborate but the simple type shown below is more common in Britannia. Further details can be found in the Shire publication Roman Roads by Richard Bagshawe (1979). The classic text is Ivan Margery's 1967 Roman Roads in Britain.
Straightforward Googling for 'Roman road images' will produce an abundance of useful photographs, maps and diagrams, but use with care- this is a topic much coloured by antiquarianism and the folkloric tendency.
An explanation of of crop markings. A Roman road would produce the same effect as the wall shown.
A cross-section through an average Roman road showing the agger or embankment, metalling, side and outer ditches.
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