Lydd Quarry, Jurys Gap Road, Lydd
Project type: Watching Brief
In 1991, Archaeology South-East (then South Eastern Archaeological Services) was commissioned by Brett Aggregates to undertake the first phase (Lydd Quarry Part 1) of a programme of archaeological investigation in advance of gravel extraction at Lydd Quarry. Over the years, this programme has identified widespread and significant remains ranging from the Bronze Age to the post-medieval period. The work is ongoing and Archaeology South-East is currently engaged in Lydd Quarry Part 17.
In 2000, a watching brief was held during topsoil stripping immediately to the north of the Camber Road (Lydd Quarry Part 12). An extensive area of predominantly Late Iron Age salt working was identified, comprising at least 70 settling tanks, 27 hearths, one kiln, five spreads and three pits. In addition, 11 post-holes may have been associated with salt working and probably dated to Late Iron Age/Early Roman, while a shallow pit produced mid 3rd-century pottery.
In 2001, a further watching brief was held during topsoil stripping and a further extensive area of salt working was revealed. A similar range of features associated with salt working was identified, including at least 31 settling tanks, eight hearths, four possible salt water collection pits, four pits and 18 post-holes. The activity was apparently a continuation of, and broadly contemporary with, that identified in 2000. In addition, a series of five possible ditches and nine probably natural creeks/channels were recorded. Late Iron Age pottery was recovered from one of the creeks, while a second creek and a possible ditch produced 1st-century Roman pottery.
Many of the salt working industrial features were very well preserved and contained associated stratified artefacts. This has allowed quite a detailed hypothesis to be constructed concerning the processes involved.
Salt water was collected directly from a tidal creek or improved channel, and/or from collection pits dug into the bed of the creek. Evidence suggests a wooden structure may have been employed to trap water in a small lagoon during ebb tide. The water was placed in clay-lined settling tanks, primarily to remove sediment, while a probable secondary function was to increase the salinity through evaporation. The resulting brine was placed in boiling vessels which were set on three, or more usually four, pedestals within clay-lined boiling pits. Green (unfired) clay pinch props were placed between the side of vessel and boiling pit to prevent rocking. Salt crystals were probably ladled off during boiling while the boiling vessel was continually topped up with more brine. The damp salt was placed in open fabric drying vessels, which may have been placed over slow fires, in order to produce salt cakes. Inland briquetage finds suggest that these drying vessels may have subsequently served as packaging during the transport of the salt.
Project Officer: Greg Priestly-Bell
Client: Brett Gravels Ltd.
Project type: Watching Brief