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Archeological dig in Woolcomber Street could reveal more about Dover's history

By Victoria Chessum

The largest archaeological excavation in Dover for 20 years is set to begin next week.

A team from Canterbury Archeological Trust will start digging off Woolcomber Street ahead of the long planned St James’ development.

Working on behalf of developers Bond City Ltd, it represents a new stage in the continuing investigation of the town.

This is what the scheme could look like on completion
This is what the scheme could look like on completion

It previously revealed internationally important finds such as the Roman Painted House in New Street and the Bronze Age Boat dating to 1550 BC.

Archaeologist Keith Parfitt, leading the team, said: “We don’t know exactly when these old Dover streets were first laid out; there is a suggestion that St James’s Street originated before the Norman Conquest.

'There is a suggestion that St James’s Street originated before the Norman Conquest.' - Mr Parfitt

“When we excavated on the adjacent BP filling station site in 1996, it was established that parts of Clarence Street there had first been created around 1250, with its course hardly changing over the next six hundred years.”

The excavation off Woolcomber Street will focus on medieval and later Dover.

Before the Second World War, this area of the town had been densely packed with streets and houses, along with the grand Burlington Hotel, but these were all swept away during the post-war years.

The archaeologists are hoping to reveal portions of several long-lost streets and their associated buildings, including parts of Clarence Street, St James’s Street and Arthur’s Place.

The St James' area including County Hotel
The St James' area including County Hotel

They will also be looking for evidence of the 14th century town wall with its associated East Brook Gate, which is believed to have once spanned Woolcomber Street.

“Although we found quite a bit of the town wall during the construction of the new A20 in 1992, we have never seen anything of it east of the river,” he said.

The eastern side of Dover, below Castle Hill around the Norman church of St James was the fishermen’s quarter of the old town.

Mr Parfitt said: “During the thirteenth century lots of simple timber houses were crowded onto the beach ridge in this area.

“The shore-line then was probably between the Townwall Street and the Gateway flats.”

It is planned that the excavations will be accessible for the public to view.

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