Medieval saltern 950m north east of Monkshill Farm, one of a group of six on Seasalter Level
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1012971
Date first listed: 29-Jul-1957
Date of most recent amendment: 07-Jun-1995
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Feb-2019 at 18:43:24.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Canterbury (District Authority)
District: Swale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TR 07389 63651
Reasons for Designation
Salt has been produced from sea water or, in inland areas, from brine springs
since before Roman times, and the technology used in the medieval period
displays a marked continuity with earlier production methods. Brine, from
which the water was evaporated to produce the salt, was collected in one of
two ways, either by its filtration from coastal sand, soil or pebbles
impregnated with salt water during high tides and periodic inundation, or by
its collection in pools or pits filled at high tide or by inland springs,
sometimes by way of a system of channels, dams and sluices.
Medieval salterns include a range of features connected with the collection
and evaporation processes, of which the most visually distinctive are the oval
or kidney-shaped middens of waste material which may cover areas of 2ha or
more. Other features usually survive in buried form beneath and around the
middens, illustrating the fact that salterns were often in use for periods of
at least a century, during which time they were occupied seasonally, their
component structures being rebuilt at the beginning of each summer or as
required. Evaporation was often aided by an evaporation kiln fuelled by peat
or wood products, of which several different types are known, and the remains
of temporary wooden buildings, wooden or wicker troughs and clay-lined pits
have also been found during excavation.
Salt was an expensive commodity during the medieval period, particularly in
demand for food preservation and curing. Salterns are known from documentary
sources and place name evidence to have been widely distributed around the
English coast and the inland brine springs of Cheshire from at least the end
of the 11th century. The industry had declined by the beginning of the 16th
century and competition with the superior and cheaper rock salt, mined from
the beginning of the 17th century, led to its demise during the early post-
The medieval saltern 950m north east of Monkshill Farm survives well as a visually impressive monument, and the excavation of associated salterns has indicated that it will contain well-preserved archaeological remains and environmental evidence. Its close association with five equally well-preserved salterns, the subjects of separate schedulings, provides evidence for the importance of the salt industry in this area of north Kent during the medieval period.
The monument includes the smallest saltern of a group of six situated on the
north Kent coast. This group forms part of an original group of 11, five of
which have subsequently been destroyed. The salterns lie on the interface
between the low-lying coastal marshland on the southern side of the Swale
estuary, periodically inundated by the sea in medieval times, and the gently
undulating, wood-fuel bearing, London clay hills further inland.
The saltern has a west-east aligned, kidney-shaped midden, an artificial heap
of marsh clay waste discarded after brine extraction, measuring 54m by up to
47m. The midden survives to a height of up to c.5m. During the 1950's five
adjacent, associated salterns were destroyed by bulldozing, and archaeological
investigations carried out at the time indicated that the middens will
partially overlie, and be surrounded by, industrial structures surviving in
buried form. These may include wicker or clay-lined pits, evaporation kilns,
lead boiling pans and the foundations of temporary wooden buildings. Pottery
sherds and other artefacts, including a leather boot, discovered during the
excavation suggest that the monument was in use from at least the end of the
11th century until 1325, when Seasalter Level and the surrounding marshes were
embanked by the construction of sea walls designed to keep out the encroaching
sea and make them more suitable for pasture. Historical records at Canterbury
cathedral indicate that salt produced on Seasalter Level was being paid as
rent to the cathedral almonry between 1198-1227.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 27003
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
'Archaeologia Cantiana' in A Group of Mounds on Seasalter Level...and the Med imbanking..., , Vol. 70, (1956), 44-67
Source 2 Cantab Cath Accnts 1198-1227, RCHME, TR 06 SE 6,
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing