Wessex Archaeology excavated a site at Fulston Manor, Sittingbourne before David Wilson Homes Ltd developed the land for housing.
The site lay within the boundaries of the ancient Forest of Blean which was cleared when the manor of Fulston was created in the 13th century.
Most of the archaeological remains proved to be of medieval date, the pottery falling between the mid-11th and the 14th century.
The following web pages summarize the results but you can find detailed information in Wessex Archaeology Report 24 : Kentish Sites and Sites of Kent: a miscellany of four archaeological excavations by P. Andrews, K. Egging Dunwoody, C. Ellis, A. Hutchesson, C. Phillpotts, A. Powell & Joërn Schuster.
There was little to show what the site was like before the medieval period. A scattering of burnt and worked flint suggested that prehistoric people once used the area and there were a few pieces of Roman brick and tile, probably from a building nearby (the Roman Watling Street ran through Sittingbourne).
The majority of the archaeology from the site dates to the medieval period (1066-1499), and the most interesting discovery was the site of a medieval bakery.
The bakery measures about 5m x 7.5m with an L-shaped extension to the north-east. Traces of a clay floor in the middle of the bakery were covered with charcoal, animal bone and mid-11th – early 13th century pottery. The remains of an oven and a hearth were found at the southern end of the building, both in a good state of preservation.
The presence of a bakery suggests that the grain to produce the bread would have been grown nearby. The type of grain used would have been the same bread wheat as we use today. It is also possible that they used rye to make their bread, as this would have grown well in the local soil.
However, our only evidence of medieval farming in the area, at present, is documentary evidence for a droveway which was used to drive animals from farm to market.
The bakery would have been right on the edge of the enclosure and away from any other buildings to help reduce the risk of fire.
KEY: 1 Entrance, 2 Chalk wall, 3 Hearth, 4 Oven, 5 Occupation layer, 6 Enclosure ditch
The occupation layer (5) shown on the picture is the build-up of archaeological material left behind by the people who used the bakery. It consisted of charcoal, broken pottery, animal bone and one iron nail.
The oven in the south-west corner (4) was used principally for baking bread, but also possibly for smoking or drying. It probably had a domed roof with a smoke vent above the mouth. A fire would be made inside the oven and when the heat had been absorbed by the structure, the ashes would be swept out and the bread put in to bake. Medieval bread would have been very similar to the wholemeal bread we eat today. It may have been shaped into rolls, round flat loaves or large rectangular loaves.
The hearth in the south-east corner (3) is smaller than the oven and had a different function. It looks as if it was an enclosed hearth, without a roof. It may have been used in the production of ale.
Both the oven and hearth were built from local clay and flint. Fragments of clay from around and within the oven (4) tell us that the oven’s domed roof had probably been re-built at least three times.
The pottery from the site, like the layers in the larger oven, implies three main phases of use.
11th – early 13th century
Many jar fragments were found. The shape and style of the jar rims suggest they were made between the late 12th and early 13th century. They are typical of jars found widely across north-west Kent.
Early 13th – mid 14th century
Fine ware jugs and a wider range of basic kitchen wares such as jars and bowls were found. These are characteristic of the Tyler Hill pottery industry from Canterbury, only 15 miles to the east. The development of the Tyler Hill industry is well documented, and there are good parallels for the jar and jug forms seen at Fulston Manor amongst other vessels from this 13th/14th century industry.
Later 14th – mid 16th century
Only a few sherds of pottery were found from this period. Like the two earlier phases they came from vessels produced locally, probably part of the later Tyler Hill industry.
The New Road
Further excavations at Fulston Manor in Kent, in advance of a new road, have revealed yet more about this fascinating area. Now the history of the site has been traced back even further. The earliest find is a pot dated to the Middle Bronze Age, some 3,000 years ago.
Archaeological remains from the Iron Age show that people were using this landscape 2,500 years ago. We know this from the presence of pottery and field boundaries. Most interesting of all, slag produced during iron smelting suggests that iron was being worked somewhere very close by at this time. We know that people continued to live here in the Romano-British period (AD 43-410) as we have found their field boundaries.
To find out more read the full reports below.