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Academics discover mysteries of Folkestone's past

31 October 2018

History academics from Canterbury Christ Church University, working alongside Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) and local volunteers, have unearthed an ancient watercourse in Folkestone, said to have been engineered by an Anglo-Saxon princess, Saint Eanswythe.

The excavation took place at the Morehall Recreation Ground, near Cheriton from October 6 and was led by Dr Lesley Hardy, Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Dr Andrew Richardson and Annie Partridge of CAT. Around 19 volunteers from Folkestone and surrounding areas assisted in the excavation, including the Canterbury Young Archaeologists Club. 

The community project ‘Finding Eanswythe’ has involved hundreds of local people to learn more about Eanswythe, a Kentish royal saint, and granddaughter of Ethelbert, the first English king to convert to Christianity under Augustine. 

One of the miracles attributed to the princess was that she made water ‘run up-hill’ from the Downs to the Bayle in the centre of the town. This is the ditch that the team were excavating, an ancient aqueduct which was the earliest means of conveying water to the population of Folkestone. 

Dr Hardy from Christ Church, said: “We are very grateful to all of our volunteers and supporters and to Folkestone and Hythe District Council for permission to excavate on their land. This is an incredibly important project for the town.  

“The watercourse, alongside mystery of Eanswythe’s relics which appear to have survived, hidden in the walls of the Parish Church are of national heritage significance, and we will be working to raise funding and seek permissions so that they can be fully understood and protected.” - Dr Lesley Hardy 

The next stage will be to collaborate with several national partners to raise money for a much larger high-profile conservation project.

Dr Richardson, of Canterbury Archaeological Trust also commented on the find. He said: “The hard work of volunteers has certainly paid off and we have located what appears to be a series of clay lined ditches which demonstrate that the watercourse was maintained over many centuries.” 

Bev Taylor, from Affinity Water commented on the find. She said: “Having seen CAT surveying the area earlier in the year, it was fascinating to watch them exposing the layers of history under our feet. The trench revealed the different natural layers of geology and how these had been cut through to create the ‘town ditch’ or contour aqueduct. 

“Brickwork and other features such as post holes showed later alterations had been made, although it is difficult to know when these actually occurred. 

“When you see first-hand the effort people made all those years age to move water to their settlement it certainly reminds you how critical water is to us all. The original engineering and setting out was so good that our modern pipe network follows the same contours almost exactly. I’m really excited to see how CAT interpret all the information from the dig and bring the story of St Eanswythe’s water together.” 

The project is grateful for the help from Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, Kent County Council and Folkestone Town Council. We are also grateful for the support of St Mary and St Eanswythe Church Folkestone, Folkestone and Hythe District Council and Affinity Water.

Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with 16,000 students across Kent and Medway. Its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • Over 94% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2015/16 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey

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Last edited: 20/11/2018 14:30:00