Saturday the 11th. This little notice appeared on the garden doors of St Peter’s from a member of the community who doesn’t appreciate the disruption to the peace and quiet of St Peter’s Church and the South Aisle gardens. It reads: To see the sensitive re-shaped garden. Go through Main Entrance of church. All done by the V.V. or VOLUNTEER VANDALS”!!
What our message writer seems to have missed out on is that this is a carefully planned project initiated between THE CHURCHES CONSERVATION TRUST, THE CANTERBURY ARCHEOLOGICAL TRUST and the DOVER ARCHAEOLOGICAL GROUP to clear an area of the South Aisle which was devastated when the tower collapsed back in 1661 to determine what is lying under the surface before a decision could be made where to install essential toilet facilities for the church.
Meanwhile, our undeterred VOLUNTEER VANDALS soon get stuck in!
What has become obvious from the amount of soil covering removed so far, is that the whole area has had drainage and sewer pipes dug through tombs and graves seemingly without any respect for the bodies interred there.
Our V.V.’s carefully sort out what is dug out of the soil, bits of pottery, clay pipes, bottles and china fragments are set aside….
and the scattered human bones are carefully removed for re-interring at the end of the dig.
What was determined at the end of the last weeks dig was that what was originally thought of as being a vault containing the remains of Katherine Harvey and her sister-in-law Anna Isabella wife of Katherine’s brother Lieu’ Col Harvey turns out to be a vault containing a boiler and heating system installed at some point at the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th.
The whereabouts of Katherine Harvey’s vault will remain a mystery, it could either be located in a part of the South Aisle gardens that remain undisturbed, or it could have been unceremoniously dug up to accommodate the boiler, or sewer pipes or whatever. A mystery that will remain unsolved. As our intrepid V.V’s proceed to dig deeper elements of the boiler system are exposed like a pressure gage and shattered pipes……
great care has to be taken to sort out what was apparently carelessly shoveled into the vault when the boiler was de-commissioned……
which amusingly enough happened to be at some point around February 1975 as at the very bottom of the vault a Golden Wonder Crisp Packet which contains its date stamp.
Accuracy is everything in archaeology.
Accuracy and attention to detail is the byword at an archeological dig. Everything not discarded….
has to be cleaned, logged and recorded…..
and accurate maps of the site carefully drawn out.
What has also been uncovered is the vaulted tomb of a Henry Pemble A.M. a former principle of the Royal Navel School on its first institution and many years rector of this parish. The surface of the tombstone is now pretty illegible but he seems to have expired on the 13th of some month at some point in the last century.
His vault and the stone will remain intact, until the weathering process makes it all the more unreadable.
We’re nearing the end of this exploratory dig. The Volunteer Vandals return next weekend to finish the job!