Romano-British roadside settlement and World War II pillbox immediately east of Westhawk Farm
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Ashford (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- TR 00138 39928
Reasons for Designation
Roman Britain had a hierarchy of nucleated settlements which to some extent had urban or incipient urban functions. At the top end of the hierarchy stand substantial Roman towns and cities. Below these are ranked a category of urban site commonly referred to as small towns. Still further down the hierarchy are lesser sites exhibiting some urban characteristics that are referred to as roadside settlements. The monument at Westhawk Farm belongs to this latter group of which some 150 examples have been identified in lowland England. Such monuments are likely to contain structures relating to local manufactures, commercial activity, and the houses of their occupants, who might also have carried out some farming. Some settlements may have grown up around a military or civilian official building, such as a mansio (staging point). Settlements may also have temples and can be expected to have associated cemeteries. Roadside settlements are unknown before the arrival of the Romans in this country and thus provide an indication of the extent to which native British society became Romanised. Despite the loss of part of the settlement to modern development, the core of the Romano-British roadside settlement at Westhawk Farm survives well. Geophysical survey, corraborated by partial excavation, has demonstrated that the monument contains important archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to its development and use over a period of some 200 years. The investigations also indicate that the iron industry was significant to the economy of the settlement and, in view of the proximity to the Roman Wealden iron producing area, the site adds to our understanding of the regional iron industry and its links with the wider economy of Roman Britain. Furthermore, the surviving remains make a significant contribution to our understanding of Roman settlement patterns across the region and, at national level, will help to shed light on the economic, social and religious diversity of Roman small towns. During World War II, wide areas of the county were protected by static defence lines, or stop-lines, consisting of a combination of weapon positions and anti-tank obstacles, designed to obstruct and contain a German advance inland from a coastal or airborne landing point. Ashford was a significant nodal point in the communications network of south eastern England and became one of several strongpoints, or anti-tank islands, created to protect strategic locations from enemy attack. Pillboxes, which were an integral part of these defence systems, are small, squat concrete or brick-built structures designed to house anti-tank guns and light machine guns, and their construction was extended to protect other vulnerable areas such as coastal batteries, radar stations and factories. Despite some variation, most pillboxes were built according to a range of standard designs, of which Type 24, the irregular hexagonal form, is the most common. They are particularly representative of World War II defensive structures; at least 18,000 are thought to have been built nationally during 1940, of which more than 2000 examples survive. The Type 24 pillbox at Westhawk Farm survives well, and serves as a reminder of the strategic importance of this part of Kent in the communication network of south eastern England, during one of the the greatest conflicts of the 20th century.
The monument includes the buried remains of a Romano-British roadside
settlement and a World War II pillbox at Westhawk Farm. It is situated on low
ground adjacent to a small tributary stream of the Great Stour, on the
southern outskirts of Ashford.
The presence of the settlement was established during the late 1990s, through
archaeological investigations carried out in connection with the modern
residential development at Westhawk Farm. Extensive geophysical survey and
partial excavation revealed that the settlement was occupied from the mid-
first to the mid-third century AD, and was located at the juction of two
important Roman roads. One of these roads crossed the site from south east to
north west and linked the Roman port and military establishment at Lympne with
the Roman town at Rochester. The other road, aligned south west to north
east, led from the iron producing region of the Weald to Canterbury, the
tribal capital of the Cantii, and formed the axial road through the
settlement. The two roads are marked by parallel roadside ditches, and these
survive as buried features.
The monument, which includes the Roman crossroads and core of the roadside
settlement, occupies an area of some 10ha on the south western side of the
modern Ashford Road. The settlement, which was bound on its north western side
by a large ditch, originally extended along the axial road for at least
another 300m beyond the area of protection to the south west. This area was
excavated in advance of modern development. It is likely that Roman occupation
also extended to the north east of the area of protection, although this now
lies beneath modern housing and is not included in the scheduling.
The results of the geophysical survey demonstrate that the layout of the Roman
settlement survives in the form of ditched, rectangular plots up to 30m wide.
The plots are arranged at right angles to the axial road on its north western
side, with a less regular layout to the south east. The excavations revealed
that most of the roadside plots originally contained timber buildings, and
associated evidence suggests that some of these structures were used for
intensive industrial activity, particularly iron smelting and smithing. The
results of the geophysical survey suggest that a similar range of features
survive at the core of the Roman settlement, within the area of the monument.
Artefacts recovered during the excavations include pottery, tile and glass, as
well as part of an oak ladder (one of only five examples known from Roman
Britain) and other organic remains, retrieved from two roadside wells.
The remains of a polygonal timber shrine, set within a rectangular ditched
enclosure were also discovered within a substantial open area on the north
eastern side of the Roman Weald-Canterbury road. Votive coins were recovered
from a nearby well, situated on the opposite side of the road, and artefacts
from the shrine itself included a fragment of cone from the Stone Pine (pinus
pinea), a Mediterranean species particularly associated with temple sites. It
is thought that the Stone Pine was not grown in Britain until about AD 1500,
and the cone was therefore imported into Roman Britain by way of trading links
with the Continent. In Roman religion, the pine tree was sacred to the
fertility goddress, Cybele, and symbolises the immortality of nature and the
cycle of the seasons. The pine cone is also frequently associated with her
lover, Attis, who died under a pine tree and was restored to life.
Several burials were excavated across the settlement, including a small
cemetery located outside the boundary ditch on its north western side, and a
high status cremation burial of the late Iron Age-Swarling tradition implying
that an important late Iron Age settlement may have existed in the vicinity.
Further evidence for prehistoric activity within the settlement area includes
traces of a Bronze Age field system and Paleolithic flint implements.
The hexagonal, Type 24 pillbox is situated at the north western edge of the
monument, adjacent to the farm access track. It is one of several pillboxes in
this part of Kent, built in 1940 to counter the threat of German invasion
during World War II, belonging to a network of defences constructed to protect
the key nodal point at Ashford. The pillbox is a low, concrete structure with
a maximum diameter of about 5m. Five of its faces are pierced by a single
rectangular embrasure, while its longer, sixth side contains the entrance, now
blocked, flanked by an embrasure on either side.
Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fence posts, the low modern walls
and surfaces of all modern roads and tracks, although the ground beneath and
around these features is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
OAU, Westhawk Farm, Kingsnorth, Ashfd Kent; Arch Post-Excv Asst Rpt, 2000, interim draft
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