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Victoria County History of Kent Vol. 3  1932 - Romano-British Kent - Towns - Page 95

   This area of occupation or, perhaps, rather some restricted part of it seems to have been known in Roman times as ‘Durolevum.’ But the identification falls short of precision. Our authorities differ amongst themselves; the second Iter of the Antonine Itinerary places Durolevum at a distance of 16 miles from Rochester (Durobrivae) and 12 from Canterbury (Durovernum), whilst the Peutinger Table gives the distance from Canterbury to Durolevum as 7 miles. In point of fact, Ospringe is about 9 English miles from Canterbury and 16½ from Rochester. The figures vaguely point to the Faversham.. Ospringe district, and in that general sense alone may the name ‘Durolevum’ be applied to the area of Roman occupation hereabouts.


   At Sittingbourne, the Watling Street crosses the head of the Milton Creek which joins the Swale, at the back of the Isle of Sheppey, some two miles to the north—east. As at other similar points where the road traverses a watered valley—at Ospringe, Springhead and Dartford, for example—a considerable, if scattered, Romano-British population has left its traces in the vicinity. Again as at these similar points, the vestiges assume the form of burials and scattered relics rather than of extensive structural remains. Indeed, at Sittingbourne itself there appear to be no evidences of Roman masonry, the only structural relic being a part of the Watling Street itself, observed during drainage operations in 1902. The observer noted that ‘in forming the road, the Romans removed the whole of the loam, placing as many flat stones as they could obtain in this district on the clean brick-earth. These large stones nearly all show signs of wear on one surface. Above this is, on the average, a depth of 4 ft. of metal. What was evidently the surface in the Middle Ages is peculiarly sandy, about half-way up.’ 86
   The nearest Roman masonry appears to occur on the northern outskirts of Sittingbourne, at Milton, where substantial Roman foundations were unearthed in 1872 after the enlargement of the churchyard on its northern side. Similar discoveries were made here during subsequent years; for example, in 1881 a piece of wall built of flint-rubble with a bonding-course of tiles and brick-dust mortar was seen and recorded. The Roman pottery included a Samian dish, bearing the stamp of the Flavian potter Primanus and ‘a large brass’ of Antoninus Pius. It was noted also that the masonry extended into the old churchyard.87
   It is probable that, as on so many Kentish sites, a great part of the local population lived in timber houses and hutments of which, in the absence of scientific excavation, no traces have been observed. Grave-goods, on the other hand, obtain an easy notoriety and have frequently been recorded in the district.
  (1)   To the east of Milton, and on the north side of the creek in a field known as Bexhill, have been found at various times since 1868 several elaborate inhumation burials. A leaden coffin, found in that year, contained a bearded male skeleton, with a phial of blue glass on the left shoulder and with a blue glass jug outside the coffin. Another leaden coffin found at the same time contained a female skeleton, and outside it were two earthen vessels. In 1869 was found a third leaden coffin ornamented with bead-and-ring moulding and medallions of ‘Medusa heads.’ It also contained
    86   Chatham News, newspaper, 27 Sept. 1902.
    87   G. Payne, Co//ectanea Cantiana, pp. 30 ff.

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