Published: 13:37, 30 March 2021
| Updated: 13:39, 30 March 2021
A volunteer helping to restore a derelict listed building in Maidstone has discovered a rare medieval tile.
During an archaeological investigation in the grounds of St Andrews, a medieval former chapel near Boxley, Craig Cope discovered the remarkably well-preserved 13th century decorative floor tile.
Previous digs in the large garden surrounding St Andrews have yielded fragments of 16th century stoneware, 18th century glazed red earthenware, 19th century white, cream and transfer printed pottery and traditional Kent peg roofing tiles, but the intact medieval tile has been the earliest and most fascinating find to date.
Mr Cope from West Sussex said: "I’m a specialist bricklayer not an archaeologist. I do have a great interest in historic buildings though, so to find that little bit of history was quite an achievement.”
St Andrews sits less than a quarter of a mile west of Boxley Abbey, a Cistercian monastic site, and would have been a gatehouse chapel to the monastery. Chapels like St Andrews served pilgrims visiting the site.
Boxley Abbey, which dates back to the 12th century, would have been a hive of activity, with beer brewing and farming sustaining its community.
Large quantities of floor and roof tiles were also made at the Abbey. These floor tiles were likely supplied to other Kent landmarks such as Canterbury Cathedral and Rochester Cathedral.
The site of a floor tile kiln was found in the 1920s, in the field just to the north of St Andrews.
Graham Keevill, the project’s lead archaeologist was delighted: “In a classic case of archaeological practice our one real find turned up with the very last act of excavation when our groundworker Craig came up to me and said ‘is this anything?’.
"He’d asked me what sort of things I was looking for on the first day, and I’d described medieval encaustic tiles. My reaction when presented with the unearthed tile isn’t hard to guess.”
St Andrews housed a relic of St Andrew, was owned by Tudor poet Thomas Wyatt, and acted as a local post office in the 20th century.
It is now owned by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and is part of its Old House Project, a five year building repair initiative.
The conservation charity purchased the former chapel in 2019 after it sat on Historic England’s ‘At Risk’ register for decades.
It has been empty since the 1960s and SPAB is working on bringing the characterful building back into use and using the site to teach volunteers and apprentices conservation skills.