Background to Springhead

Phil Andrews, Spinghead Project Officer.Phil Andrews, Spinghead Project Officer.‘a once in a lifetime opportunity’
In 1998 work began on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, a 109km (68-mile) high-speed railway line between St Pancras and the Channel Tunnel. Part of the route of the link took it through Springhead in north Kent.
Under planning regulations all sites where construction takes place are assessed to see if any archaeological remains lie buried underground. This ensures that the impact of construction is understood.
At Springhead there was never any doubt that archaeological excavation would be needed, because the route of the railway line there took it through a centre of great religious importance in Roman Britain.
And it was not only in Roman times that Springhead was important. People have always been drawn to the area because of its natural advantages: as well as the springs, the site is a sheltered valley with good agricultural land and people could sail into the Thames from the River Ebbsfleet nearby.
For example: parts of the skull of an early form of human, dating back to the earliest part of the Stone Age, c400,000BC, had been found nearby at Swanscombe, and handaxes and flints from the Late Upper Palaeolithic (12,000BC-10,000BC) and the Mesolithic (8,500BC-4,000BC) were unearthed during Wessex’s excavations at Springhead.
But it was in Iron Age and Roman times, from around 100BC-AD300, that Springhead produces its most important archaeological remains, as the rest of these pages demonstrate.
Rail Link Engineering, the consortium responsible for the design and project management of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which was funded by Union Railways (North) Limited, took up the challenge of ensuring that all the important archaeological remains were excavated from the site, and employed Wessex Archaeology to carry out the work, in liaison with its own archaeologists.
For Wessex Archaeology, Springhead began as a five-month project to excavate in September 2000, but work continued until spring 2003 as Wessex was awarded more contracts in what turned out to be an immensely rich archaeological area.
Phil Andrews, the project officer in day-to-day charge of the site, who has 25 years’ experience in archaeology, has no doubt about its importance.
“The excavation was one of the richest in the country in terms of archaeology,” he said. “It was a huge site, multi-period and stratified, and so well preserved. It is a very famous spot and we were lucky to have had the chance to excavate there on the scale we did – it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I don’t expect I’ll get a chance to work on a site like that again.”
Phil Andrews, Spinghead Project Officer.