A new 180 page report from Canterbury Archaeological Trust describing discoveries made during the construction of the Whitfield-Eastry bypass in the 1990s includes details of an ancient settlement site found at Church Whitfield. Excavations at the Church Whitfield cross-roads, where the fly-over bridge carrying Archers Court Road now stands, revealed important evidence for prehistoric and later Anglo-Saxon habitation.
Five hundred worked flints, a few pieces of pottery and a pit dated by radiocarbon suggest activity here during the Neolithic and early Bronze Age, between c.2500 and 1500 BC. The first clear evidence for settlement, though, was represented by a boundary ditch and several chalk-cut storage pits, associated with a large collection of early Iron Age pottery datable to c. 550-350 BC. Other finds recovered show that the Iron Age farmers here were growing barley, wheat, oats and peas. They kept cows, sheep, horses and some pigs. Fine pottery discovered at the site suggests that the folk here were quite prosperous.
Around 350 BC these farmers moved away to a new settlement (site unknown but probably not far) but in about 150 BC a new family group arrived back at the old cross-roads site. Quite possibly descendants of the previous inhabitants, these new settlers established a farmstead protected by a rectangular ditched enclosure. This would have contained round timber houses, of which virtually nothing survived. Like their predecessors, they kept cows, sheep, horses and pigs.
One particularly interesting discovery was a human skull that had been deliberately placed on the bottom of the ditch at the eastern corner of the enclosure. This would seem to represent a deliberate deposition for some ritual purpose and serves to remind us that the people of such far off times held very different beliefs to those of today.
A large collection of pottery shows that the late Iron Age settlement was occupied until about 50 BC when the site was again abandoned. Strangely, there was no evidence for any Roman settlement here, even though the Richborough Dover Roman road passes close-by. After the Romans had left Britain, however, new settlers came to the area. During the later sixth century AD an Anglo-Saxon hamlet was established at the cross-roads. This settlement contained at least four sunken-floored buildings and two large timber hall-houses. Settlements of this date are extremely rare in east Kent and the discoveries at Whitfield are thus of first-rate importance. It would seem that the settlement was quite short lived, being abandoned by the end of the seventh-century AD. Perhaps the later Anglo-Saxons moved closer to Whitfields little parish church, which was first erected around AD 800.
Copies of the full report are available from Dover Museum, price £15.