Cliffe Fort, Hoo Peninsula, Kent: Survey and Analysis of the 19th-Century Coastal Artillery Fort

In 2010 the former English Heritage Archaeological Survey and Investigation team undertook a detailed survey of Cliffe Fort, a coastal artillery fort built in the 1860s. The fort is located on the Hoo Peninsula, Medway, in the parish of Cliffe and Cliffe Woods, on the south side of the Thames. It is 3 km west of Cliffe village in the area of the former cement works. The fort is a Scheduled Monument and is on the Heritage at Risk register, where, due to flooding, vandalism and partial collapse, the condition of the structure is described as ‘very bad’. The fort has had little previous investigation and was identified as needing detailed research by the Hoo Peninsula Historic Landscape Project, a multidisciplinary landscape project which aimed to increase our knowledge and understanding of the peninsula in order to contribute to strategic decision-making. The survey results will inform the future management of the site and provide an enhanced designation base. Cliffe Fort was part of a large and expensive defence infrastructure programme undertaken in the 1860s and incorporated the latest in fortification theory and technology. It was one of the last casemated forts with iron shields to be completed. Investigation revealed that despite some almost immediate alterations to the basement magazines, a lack of alteration in the 20th century has preserved a number of areas in the fort that reflect its late 19th century use. Later adaptations for rooftop guns reflect the changing nature of conflict through the 20th century. Research has also revealed that the fort contains one of the best preserved of the rare Brennan torpedo installations, including the remains of a unique rising observation tower.

http://research.historicengland.org.uk/Report.aspx i=14967&ru=%2FResults.aspx%3Fp%3D1%26n%3D10%26rn%3D15%26ry%3D2011%26ns%3D1

Archaeological evidence throws light on efforts to resist ‘the living dead’

A new scientific study of medieval human bones, excavated from a deserted English village, suggests the corpses they came from were burnt and mutilated. Researchers from the University of Southampton and Historic England believe this was carried out by villagers who believed that it would stop the corpses rising from their graves and menacing the living.

Open Meeting

What a great follow up to our "Big Dig" last year

As well as our other ongoing society endeavors we spent time cleaning, marking and collating all the finds from last August, and whilst we are learning everyday, when the chairman of The Kent Archaeology Society (KAS) offers to look at your pottery finds and then takes them to a pottery specialist for identification you grab the generous offer with both hands. At yesterdays open meeting we were honoured to have KAS's chairman lay the finds out and give us a overview of what was identified. I think it's fair to say that all present were thrilled to bits with the results!

Of course if you didn't attend the meeting you'll have to wait now until September to see the results for yourself when we host our History day in the church as part of the Heritage events taking place around the country. Exciting times............

Four trustees and a Magnetometer

A fantastic days instruction on setting out a grid and performing a mag survey!

Many thanks to Andrew Mayfield @ArchaeologyKent for coming out to conduct two days training (the second being tomorrow) for the societies trustees. This will open up a whole new avenue of investigation that the society intends to perform across the whole peninsular, exciting times!!

Buttway Field, St Helen's Church Dig, Cliffe, Kent, Day 15

It's been a really relaxed day onsite today, on the village green. Its been all about excavating the final sections with lots of  "interpretation" and recording. I apologize at the start for the shortness/late time of the blog. With the dig drawing to a close, its time to reflect on some of the finds and today in review I realized, there quite a lot of other finds we haven't reported, like for example the amount of domestic evidence we have found in abundance. The finds include Oyster shell with various other shell fish, various animal bone and teeth, Roman and Medieval tile, bone buttons and beads, a whole array of building materials. Especially noteable are different types of faced and worked flint with a large amounts of fire crack flint/pot boilers, indicating a heavy amount of flint working and use around the site.

Below are some pictures of the trench as it was today. The plan tomorrow is to continue excavations in the lower end, due to the fact its is still producing finds in some areas and there are a few questions remaining in this section.  

Its been another great day onsite with the whole group really putting in a big shift. Phil, Sam and Bill are pictured above taking a well deserve rest. Again Charley one of our young archaeologist was on site before me kit in hand who along with Tom put us adults to shame today.... I just want to say thank you to the whole team for everything they have done in the past 2 weeks, we have a great looking trench and we have gained lots of info about the past and above all lots of experience for the future..  

Although the dig officially finishes tomorrow, we will be keeping the trench open for 1 more week, before back filling to continue the lower sections when time allows around work commitments.   

We are on site tomorrow 10am/5pm, your welcome to come and have a chat and see how things are progressing!!

Buttway Field, St Helen's Church Dig, Cliffe, Kent, Day 13/14

Apologies for the lack of blog yesterday, it has been so frantic on site trying to excavate and record such a large trench with only a few days remaining.... Falling asleep when I got home didn't help :p... Its been really positive within the group today as they realize what a great job they have done in just a few weeks. The trench looks amazing if you appreciate a good trench! I want to thank Gerald from Kent Archaeological society on behalf of the group, for popping in yesterday to help with some great advice, we really appreciate the support of K.A.S.

Onsite today we also received some amazing help from WESSEX archaeology who have already provided the group with training sessions. This time they sent Lisa and Mark (senior field archaeologist) with the gps kit to help us plot and grid the entire Buttway field, we can now place trenches within 5mm for all our future digs.  They stayed onsite to provided advice and support for most of the day and honestly, I have never met 2 more down to earth and experienced professionals. I know I speak for the whole team, old and young when I say thank you to the WESSEX team for helping us make this project a success.  Its great to see this kind of relationship in community archaeology.

The dig itself has produced so much information about our village green, also helping prove the research in terms of the Medieval town of Cliffe. We have now finally begun to see a true picture of what the Resistivity Survey was showing us in terms of archaeology . The high resistivity area shown on the survey is the natural bedrock. It was difficult to interpret because we have overlying building demolition (cuts/fills) in the trench. E.G Chalk/lime mortar, squared chalk blocks. rag stone, face flint.. A very good example of this is in the north section pictured below. 

Although we have established the high resistivity square area is natural, but it doesn't negate the fact the area itself wasn't terraced as a building platform.. This is the only question that remains to be answered here in this area. Over half the trench is now recorded and cleaned, we now have 3 active sections within the trench to finish including an interest ditch in the natural.

The north end by the wall is almost down to the natural bedrock but is still producing finds even in the deepest layers. We were slightly disappointed we didn't find a clear wall lines, but we still know there's a building here... I am sure with magnetometer survey, things will be clearer on how to progress in terms of future digs. The fact we have building features (see below from previous test pits) and natural features interacting, showing on our resitivity survey and now proven in the trench doesn't help!!...

We can see this is a long term project (at least 6 years) and this dig has been fantastic start in terms of finds, I estimate about 30 kilos of finds to clean and process. The finds really have been the star of the show in the past 2 weeks. We have now been digging in Cliffe Parish for 3 years and in all the previous digs, I have never seen the amount and types we were recovering per square meter on the Buttway.

During the dig we have uncovered over 2000 years of local history with Samian ware, shelly ware and basically a local reference collection throughout the medieval period. This I know from what I have seen and has already been I.D, but we have bags and bags still uncleaned, it will take months to process... I will summarize in more detail tomorrow with some more detail on finds and some of the questions we have answered during the dig.

On a more historical research note on Cliffe itself, if you have read this blog and realize we are finding mostly medieval pottery... Its references like this that also help tell the story of the area during this period, added to the fact Cliffe was so important to the Metropolitan church. Now we are finding evidence... 

January 3rd 1326.

Commission to William de Grey and John de Shelvyng to guard all
places along the coast of the Thames between Recolvre, Greyston and Whitstable and search in all places where ships put in, both those entering the realm and those leaving the realm, and to arrest all who are carrying letters prejudicial to the crown, and send such letters with all speed to the king: as he is informed that many persons, to evade the scrutiny of the persons appointed in the several ports for the capture of such letters, are frequently landed there in ships and boats. 
The like to the following in the following places:—

The ports and places in the ports of Gravesend and Clyve (Cliffe) and other places between those towns.

August 15th 1326.

Appointment of Maurice de Brune, Robert de Echynghani, John de Cobham and Roger de Bavent to survey the ships of over 50 tons in the towns and ports of Romenhale, Pevensie, Winchelsea, Rye, Hastings, Hithe, Dovre, Sandwiz, Faversham, Gillingham, Maydenstan, Strode, Clyve (Cliffe), Swannescampe, Grenewiz, Seford and Shorham, and to see that they join Nicholas Kiriel, admiral of the Western fleet at Portsmouth, and that all the lords and masters of the ships of less tonnage are kept in the said towns; and they are to arrest such as have not joined, both ships and men.

Source: King Edward II Patent rolls

The following days will be about finishing the sections within the trench and recording. Brian wins find of the day for some really nice shelly ware (12th century). I want to thank the local community for coming to visit the site, asking questions and showing support. We are on site tomorrow 9.30am/5pm.  

Buttway Field, St Helen's Church Dig, Cliffe, Kent, Day 12

Twelve days of archaeological excavation on the village green, with a trench that measures 13mx3m. The logic being, the more of the features apparent on the resisivity survey we uncover in a larger area, technically should answer many questions we had about the site. Archaeological law 101 on the other hand dictates the the larger the area equals more questions.... Today has been really, really productive is terms of excavation and how we are are working together as a group. On day 12, I am truly scratching my head and thinking this trench is crazy with all the complex archaeology we are now seeing...

For example you see below a picture of the north end of the trench (nearest the church wall), overlaying with our resistivity survey. There should be really nice straight easy to deal with wall lines or at least that is how it appears....

Instead we are now looking at this today in the north section.... You have to love archaeology!! 

I can honestly say today I would give my right arm for a clearer edge/feature, all I can really say is all the flint features across the trench are faced and set into lime/chalk mortar although in the deeper section, we still have a lot of trowel work remaining and the archaeology appears to be more insitu. The North of the trench does look promising in terms of edges though,  when compared to the Demolition layer (so far) in the south end. Finds wise the trench continues not to disappoint, most notable today from the deeper context (above), we had a nice fragment of Samian ware (Bill wins prize find today) but then a few buckets later from the same context Medieval Green ware arrrrrrgggggg!!    

Chris and Brian have again been working the south end of the trench, with Bill, Corri and Andy working the North.  The older Kids Reece, Charlie and Daisy are doing really well on the middle section. Tula, lucy and Maisy along with everyone else helping with the sifting the spoil and sweeping the trench. The finds cleaning station has been extra busy to it all hands on deck... With just 4 days left, I guess its time to thinking about section or two.  Although its clearly a very complex site to deal with, we are having fun, the children especially and things are starting to take shape overall. Everyone has done a great job!!!

We are on site tomorrow from 10am/5pm if your in the area why not come and have a look at what we are doing?