Published: 09:10, 30 November 2020
| Updated: 09:14, 30 November 2020
Maidstone has lost one of its most charismatic repositories of historical and archaeological knowledge in Albert Daniels, who died last week.
Mr Daniels, 73, was admitted to Maidstone hospital after a fall in the town centre and sadly died from complications, including an underlying heart condition, a week later on Tuesday, November 24.
For decades, Mr Daniels had been at the centre of the heritage and history of Kent and of Maidstone in particular.
He was president of the Maidstone History Society; he was also an early member of the Maidstone Area Archaeological Group (MAAG), where he served as chairman, secretary and archaeological director at various times.
He was also a key member of the Kent Archaeological Society (KAS), serving on the council and on its field work committee for many years.
There are very few archaeological sites in and around Maidstone that he was not in some way connected to and he was a fount of knowledge on many aspects of Kentish life.
In recent years he was probably best known for his work at the Roman site in East Farleigh which began in 2005, and where by 2017 he had uncovered at least six previously unknown buildings.
Angela Muthana, a MAAG member, said: "This is the passing of an era, not just a man.
"Albert defined so much that is both historical and archaeological both in Maidstone and beyond for so many years that his death leaves an Albert-shaped vacuum that will be impossible to fill."
Mrs Daniels' list of site credits is extensive, including assisting on the Peter Tester excavations at Boxley Abbey in 1970, the Mount Roman site in Maidstone, the Snodland Roman villa and Leeds Abbey.
He also participated in digs around the county, especially in East Kent with the Dover Archaeological Group (DAG), where he suffered a rather embarrassing moment - accidentally splitting a gold stater (a type of coin) in half with his mattock, while digging at the Folkstone Roman Villa site.
He also enjoyed post excavation work, and spent much time working on processing the Lullingstone finds, as well as at Shorne and Randall Manor.
Community archaeologist Andrew Mayfield said: "Albert’s knowledge, support and Trojan-like digging qualities were invaluable to me as a green community archaeologist, running a large-scale dig.
"His dry wit and ability to call a spade a spade was loved by all at Randall Manor.
"He was one of a dwindling band of gifted amateur archaeologists, with an encyclopaedic knowledge that was valued by everyone he met."
Mr Daniels was born in 1947 at his parents' home in Milton Street in Maidstone.
He was a lifelong advocate of Maidstone, often writing to the Kent Messenger on various issues of concern.
He was always interested in his own family history, which contains an extensive list of ancestors, including owners of ‘doss houses’ in Stone Street and publicans of several public houses throughout the town.
He was well known for his public talks about Stone Street, its surrounding area and the antics of the residents.
He attended St Philip’s Primary school, then South Borough Boys School, coming away with 12 O levels.
From the age of fourteen he had a keen interest in the theatre and would have liked a profession in theatre production.
He went for an audition at the National Youth Theatre where he was pipped to the post by Simon Ward (who went on to star in Young Winston).
Mr Daniels left school at 16 and took a job with a local builder where his father worked.
He later got a job on the North Sea oil rigs and from there secured a job in oil exploration in Africa.
He once said: “You landed in Lagos and lasted just the two weeks before you could get a flight back – or you lasted the three years!”
Mr Daniels lasted the three years and returned home where he worked as a freelance surveyor for various companies travelling across Kent and beyond, frequently bringing him into contact with archaeology.
It was at this time that he met his wife Diane and they adopted three children, and he eventually studied part time for a BSc in Archaeological Sciences, which was awarded in 1989.
'We have lost a legend'
During the 1980’s, he was confirmed into the Church of England, worshipping at St Philip’s and latterly, at St Paul’s in Boxley Road.
When his children were younger, he was always involved in their work and could be seen preparing woodwork and painting scenery for the annual nativity and other stories.
He also played joined in with their end-of-the-week performances, for example as Noah in his Ark with rearranged choir stalls and obligatory tea-towel on the head.
He will be sorely missed for his church maintenance skills in both churches.
Stephen Clifton, who took over as archaeological director at MAAG from Mr Daniels in 2018, said: "Albert loved life and he loved people."
"He adored his grandchildren, of which he had 12, and one great grandchild
"He also liked a beer, preferably with convivial company."
Often seen in The Rifle Volunteers, he would swear by the benefits of "Mrs Goacher's Patent Medicine."
He was a keen member of the quiz team and was team captain of the Rifle Volunteers B team in the Maidstone League for many years.
Linda Weeks, long-time member of MAAG, summed up what Albert meant to the group.
She said: "We have lost a legend; he was one of a kind, such a lovely and interesting man, with an amazing personality and dry sense of humour.
"He had so much patience with new diggers, and gave so much of his time and effort and expertise.’