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Margate: Iron Age hill fort remains found by archaeologists excavating Margate Caves area

By Katie Davis

Archaeologists excavating an area in Margate have discovered the remains of an Iron Age hill fort.

The find came as part of an archaeological dig at the Margate Caves site.

Last year, the Margate Caves Community Education Trust announced it successfully bid for more than £420,000 from the Big Lottery Fund.

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An Iron Age hillfort has been discovered
An Iron Age hillfort has been discovered

It is hoped that the centre will reopen in 2019.

The ancient fort remains were found in the area of the proposed ticket office of the centre.

Dr Paul Wilkinson, of SWAT Archaeology, said: "Margate Caves, also known as Vortigern's Cavern, are a set of galleries radiating out from a rectangular shaft.

"The chalk mine was probably worked between the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The discovery was made as part of an excavation
The discovery was made as part of an excavation

"In 1798 the caves were found by a gardener. The houseowner, Forster, had the caves opened and employed a local artist, Brazier, to create carvings and paint scenes on the walls.

"The caves were used for storage, a wine cellar and as a grotto.

"A number of modifications were made to the caves during this period, with new features and passages being cut."

Hillfort found at Margate Caves site
Hillfort found at Margate Caves site

From 1835 until 1863 the caves went unused.

"They were then rented by a shopkeeper, John Norwood, who opened them to the public under the name of Vortigern's Cavern." Dr Wilkinson added

"This enterprise was successful for some time but eventually closed, parts of the system being backfilled at this time.

Margate Caves centre design
Margate Caves centre design

"The caves were next opened in 1907 by Dr Prior, the vicar, who cleared and cut new shafts, eventually opening the caves to the public again after 1910.

"A new entrance was cut in 1914 for use of the caves as an air raid shelter. The caves reopened to the public after the war until 1938 when they were closed.

"The vicarage above the caves was destroyed in June 1941 and afterwards the entrance to the caves was bricked up.

"In 1958 James Geary Gardner again reopened the caves. They were again closed in 2004."

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