Channel Tunnel Rail Link Section 1

Stuart Foreman, 2004 (updated 2009)

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Chapel Mill, Lenham, Kent - Post Excavation Assessment Reports


As part of an extensive programme of archaeological investigation carried out in advance of the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), the Oxford Archaeological Unit were commissioned by Union Railways (South) Limited to undertake a strip, map and sample excavation at Chapel Mill, near Maidstone in Kent. A watching brief on earthmoving operations in the surrounding area (Chilston Park, Chapel Mill and Lenham Heath) was also carried out and the results considered as part of this assessment of potential. A significant part of the area surrounding the Chapel Mill fieldwork event was preserved in situ.

An isolated pit containing probably late Bronze Age pottery and charcoal had been found at Chapel Mill during an earlier CTRL evaluation. Further sherds of pottery of the same date but no further contemporary features were found during the excavation.

Most of the features at Chapel Mill date from the late Iron Age. Two groups of small, similarly aligned, quite closely spaced ditches (which may belong to a more extensive field system) date from this phase, although in some cases the pottery may be residual and the ditches, especially those that follow the modern field boundaries, could be much later in date. Near to one of these groups of ditches a pair of shallow disturbed cremation pits were found. One of these cremations contained pottery and a small assemblage of possibly intrusive metalwork; the other contained fragments of coarse fired clay which may derive from the cremation pyre or be much later, intrusive material. A tree-throw hole cut by one of the ditches also contained unburnt human long bones. A further ditch, 100m to the south-east of the others but lying on a similar alignment, contained a single sherd of later Roman pottery in its upper fill and may be slightly later in date than the other ditches.

Since only a limited part of what may have been a wider field system was revealed in the excavation, the site provides more evidence for the chronology of land division in the late Iron Age than it does for its character. However, the close correspondence in the alignment and location between some of the Iron Age and later Roman ditches, if they are really of this date, and the modern field boundaries raises the possibility of continuity in the division of the landscape. Analysis of the post-medieval field system may, therefore, provide insights into the landscape organisation of earlier periods.

The association of the field system with burials provides some insight into the ritual organisation of the landscape, although it is unfortunate that the location of any associated settlement is unknown. The burials do, however, provide interesting evidence for continuity and change in burial practices in this period. Finds of human bones such as those in the tree-throw hole are more usual in earlier Iron Age contexts. There is also variation between the burials which may be related to differences in status. Although the cremations are disturbed, the charcoal from the pits may also reveal something of the process of cremation.

Although the late Bronze Age evidence indicates little more than activity on the site in that phase, the residual pottery of that date suggests that the pit found in the evaluation was not originally an isolated feature but formed part of a larger albeit perhaps ephemeral site. This has limited significance in terms of late Bronze Age site morphology and function.

A scatter of later Mesolithic flint was the most significant discovery made in the watching brief. It is not in situ, but is significant as evidence for activity in the general area of the scatter in that period. This assemblage should be considered in relation to the large assemblage of late Mesolithic flint recovered at the flint knapping site at Sandway Road, which is located 1 km to the west.

The fieldwork events incorporated in this report are:

  • Chapel Mill (ARC CML99) - Excavation
  • Watching Brief Package 420 (Chilston Park, Chapel Mill and Lenham Heath) (ARC WB420/73+700-78+150) - Watching Brief

Other material from the programme linked to this report.

Phase 2

Specialist Research Reports

Below is a list of specialist research reports which refer to this site.

Later Prehistoric Pottery Ceramics
Post Excavation Assessment Reports

The Post Excavation assessment reports and data for this site can be found on the downloads page.

Phase 1

Evaluation and Interim Excavation Data

Below is a list of other evaluation and interim excavation data from sites and field work events associated with this report.

Chapel Mill (ARC CML97) Evaluation
Chapel Mill (ARC CML99) Excavation
West of Chapel Mill (ARC WCM98) Evaluation
Lenham Heath (ARC LHT95) Geophysical Survey
Lenham Heath (ARC LHT97) Evaluation
Chilston Park (ARC CHPK97) Evaluation