25th November Work started on a dig near Ranscombe in Kent. On initial inspection the feature consisted of a round hole about 3½ feet in diameter about 2 feet deep filled with logs. After several dozen logs were removed work started in ernest to dig out the hole. Previous experience suggested it would be a collapsed dene hole. However as we began to increase the depth, evidence of other possibilities came to light.
The shaft appears to be flint lined suggesting the possibility that is not a dene hole but a well instead. By the end of the day we had managed to excavate about 20 feet and were now well into the chalk layer. Foot holds are clearly visible in the sides of the shaft and the flint lining above the chalk is clearly visible. More pictures can be found in the recent photos section.
16th December Work continued on the dig and grill has now been fitted to the hole. Although we removed another 10 feet of infill the purpose of the hole still remains a mystery. The composition of the infill seems to have changed very little, being very light and easy to remove and the shaft is still progressing down through the chalk layer.
31st December Work continued downward. Along with the infill some pottery remains and a large stone was recovered from the hole. Further investigation of the pottery found suggests it is associated with cooking or low status drinking type vessels. The piece with a rim was suggested as Romano British (3rd or 4th century) and the 5 other pieces of about same period to around Norman conquest, dating is imprecise on these pieces as there are no real distinguishing features. It would appear that pottery pieces above are from at least 3 different items which rather suggests more than just casual occupation in the area. There was also a hand made nail, 18th or very early 19th century and scrap of hand made salt glazed stoneware of probably 18th century.
20th January 2007 Work continued on the dig but nothing of huge interest was found. The hole is almost certainly a well, and having almost reached the end of the cable for our small winch the decision was taken not to proceed any further. Work was concluded, the site was tidied up and left safety gated
2nd April Rod, Harry, Hugh and Mike visited a house in Cliftonville where a hole had appeared in the back garden. There was a narrow trench some 10 feet long which slopes down to a arch cut in the chalk at the base of the chalk face at the end of the trench. This was about 10 feet below the surface of the ground. The slope was comprised of loose earth. They shifted some of the earth at the bottom but were unable to get into the chamber.
29th April. A KURG organised group arrived to have a dig in the trench. While the youthful team were, allegedly, kept out of the way digging into a not so exciting WW2 air raid shelter, the geriatric team made a breakthrough in the main trench after only an hour of digging. An extensive tunnel system was found stretching for some distance. At this stage the exact nature of the system is not understood but suggestions are that it was either dug as a folly or a practice tunnel during WW1.
This picture shows surveying in progress, to try and map the full extent of this underground system. Various inscriptions have been found with dates of 1917 & 1918, but apart from a a tin of Zog Paint Cleaner very few artifacts were found in the tunnel. The system was predominately clean and dry although evidence of some past water could be seen on the floor in places. There was also some evidence of candle (or similar) lighting on the walls and roof. The far end of the tunnel appeared to be backfilled from the surface in two places. For more pictures click here.
16th June After many years of being sealed up the concrete lid was raised on the old Ice House at Lullingstone.
22nd June Digging then began to clear out all the rubble and return the Ice House to it’s original state so it can be used by the local bat population
Winching out the buckets
Looking down into the Ice House
June 29th Further digging took place and the level has now fallen significantly inside.
Fortunately the side entrance is well appointed and allows access without having to Descend / Ascend through the top.
Looking out of the side entrance
Nearly at the bottom !
June 29th More digging and hauling away of rubble.
After further digging the end is now in sight and will hopefully be reached during the next digging session.
The digging crew having a break
Looking down at the bottom
August 3rd After further digging during the intervening weeks, tonight we finished clearing all the remaining rubble from the Ice House.
The whole chamber is now clear. The bottom is clearly visible and the whole chamber is remarkably well intact. The chamber is approx 19′ deep with a further 4′ deep drain hole / soakaway in the bottom.
Looking into the drain hole
Installing the bat boxes.
Bat boxes have now been attached to the walls and all we can now do is wait and see if the bats will take up residence. During this visit we also had a look at the nearby bathhouse with a view to clearing the ivy off the outside and emptying the rubble out of it.
21st November Work started to look the the “bath house” although there are still conflicting ideas as to whether this is what it actually is. The pool itself was full of debris, probably from the crumbling walls and possibly a roof. There would appear to be a spring that feeds it, on the side furthest away from the river, with a constant source of fresh clean water.
Cleaning out the rubble
21st March 2010 Work continues on the “bath house”. Progress was hampered by the ability of the pump to keep up with the inflow of water. Initially this was thought to be entirely from the spring but further investigation revealed a link to the river. As fast as we were trying to empty it the river was refilling it. After digging an investigative hole and plugging the inflow we were able to drop the level significantly, especially with the aid if some manual bailing. Amongst the debris removed were some nice tiles, possibly from the bottom. Hopefully the next trip, when the river level is lower or we can use an additional pump, should see the task completed, and the bottom exposed.