Bexley archaeology group unearth hidden treasures

PUBLISHED: 16:15 12 August 2010

Bexley Archaelogical Group

Bexley Archaelogical Group


A team of archaeology enthusiasts got down and dirty as they spent one week at a site dating back to 1086, unearthing a host of hidden treasures.

Ray Ellen draws an animal bone

Members of Bexley Archaeological Group were joined by trainees at a site which was formerly North Cray village, which now forms part of the A233 in Bexley, for a week long excavational dig.

During the dig, which ended last Friday, students were taught how to identify objects, draw them to scale, excavate land and conduct field walks.

Various objects were unearthed including the remains of the floor of a building, marmalade jars dating back to 1862, animal bones and claws and fragments of jugs and whisky bottles.

Among the students on the programme were a university archaeology student, a retired policeman and a teacher.

Former police officer, Ray Ellen, 59, of Bexley, who is used to carrying out evidential searches for the police, said: “It’s not dissimilar but you get down and dirty doing this as you don’t have to wear gloves.”

Mr Ellen unearthed a piece of a jug dating from 1760.

He said: “I was thrilled when I found it. You’d be surprised by what you pick-up.”

The group have been returning to the site for eight years. In the 18th century, it became a private estate for the wealthy.

Clare Gillet, 33, of Barnehurst, has been a member of the group for eight years. She said: “Bexley is full of archaeology from pre-historic to medieval.

“The archaeology is beneath our feet. We’re near the Thames and people came down here from Europe.”

Over the eight year period in which the site has been excavated, hundreds of objects have been retrieved including a broach from 1250AD made of copper alloy which was found four years ago only 16 centimetres from the surface.

Another object which generated a lot of excitement among the group last August was a ring insert with skull and cross bone design dating back from the from 17th century.

The tiny pill-sized object which is kept in a lined transparent box is a momento-mori which is a creation designed to remind people of their own mortality. It dates back from the 17th century.

One of the youngest trainees in the group was James Newman, 17, from Sevenoaks. He said: “It’s a lot of fun digging and when you come across something it’s great.

“I found an animal’s claw, it was like discovering your long lost child.”

Miss Gillet added: “We had a little scrape and didn’t realise it was the base of a building. We kept going and found a floor. We want to see how far it could go.

“It’s been really eventful this week and the course appeals to anyone with an interest in local history.

“It’s quite addictive. You just want to find more. You can sit for hours digging.

“When you find something, it’s so exciting. It’s like finding a £20 note.”

The group has been running for 31 years and once the students have completed the week-long course, they can return to the site from October to March.

The group also offers various workshops throughout the year, the next of which will be a course in how to make a Neolithic arrow with the author Will Lord of Beyond 2000 BC. His book provides explanations and diagrams on the art of shaping flint.

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