A unique site emerges from the nettles

Stone Chapel lies just north of the A2 (which here follows the line of a Roman road, "Watling Street"), west of Faversham, Kent, and not far from the Roman settlement at Syndale.

In 1967, the Sittingbourne and Swale Archaeological Research Group, which at that time was made up largely of schoolboys, asked to be allowed to clean up the overgrown site, which had probably not been touched since it had been excavated in Victorian times.

They advanced on the jungle of foliage, and were rewarded, many nettle-stings and bramble-scratches later, by the re-emergence of the chapel ruins.

This jolly escapade was interrupted by the arrival one hot summer's day by Sir (later Baron) Eric Fletcher, then Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. He'd passed the site a few weeks earlier and had been unable to gain access because of the undergrowth, so was delighted to see it free of vegetation. He decided to ask Colonel G. W. Meates, excavator of Lullingstone Roman Villa, to carry out an excavation, which duly followed (E. Fletcher and G.W. Meates, ‘The ruined Church of Stone-by-Faversham’, Antiq. J., xlix (1969), 273—94. E. Fletcher and G.W. Meates, ‘The ruined Church of Stone-by-Faversham: Second Report’, Antiq. J., lvii (1977), 67—72.)

Although Meates was an experiened excavator, I remember feeling at the time that his Stone dig was muddled, but he was loth to accept the doubts of schoolboys. I mostly remember him each lunch break, sitting atop the haystack that stood next to the site, eating a sandwich and downing a can of Mackeson Stout, belching loudy, and exclaiming "Extraordinary!" I also remember us excitedy raising a grave slab, presumably expecting to find a miraculously preserved tomb beneath it, only to find a note from Brian Philp, who had been there before us! (The slab had been disturbed and moved in antiquity.) In the end most of the diggers were called away to a rescue excavation, and Col. Meates finished recording the site with a skeleton crew.

The Fletcher and Meates report was duly critically examined by Taylor and Yonge (Taylor, H.M. and Yonge, D.D., 1981. The Ruined Church at Stone-by-Faversham: a re-assessment – Archaeological Journal 138) and again by Wilkinson (Wilkinson, P., 2007. The interim results of an archaeological investigation at Stone Chapel Field, Syndale, Faversham, Kent. The Kent Archaeological Field School).

English Heritage Stone Chapel