Archaeological investigation has been going on at East Wear Bay since 1919.
In 1924 S.E. Winbolt, a schoolmaster and classicist from Sussex, was asked to excavate the Roman buildings that had been revealed by the eroding cliff.
The uncovered Roman Villa became a popular tourist attraction and many postcards and photographs survive from this period showing visitors enjoying the site.
A toilet was built, along with a tea room - the concrete foundations and a tea cup from this were discovered in our 2015 season!
Up until the Second World War the site enjoyed considerable popularity. In 1940 the Villa was occupied by the army who dug slit trenches and weapon pits across the site, causing some damage to the archaeology!
The HISTORY OF THE SITE
The villa remained uncovered but sorely neglected until the mid-1950s when the council decided that it was too expensive to upkeep. Holiday makers were taking advantage of cheaper travel costs and heading to sunnier climates away from the British Isles so there was no longer an income to maintain the monument.
As a result the Villa was reburied in 1957 and almost entirely forgotten about until 1989. In this year the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit excavated part of the Villa. A key reason for doing this was to investigate the level of erosion since 1924. This established that a considerable amount of the site had been lost, but also that Winbolt's excavation had only removed the upper deposits within and immediately adjacent to the Villa, leaving considerable intact stratigraphy.
In 2010 and 2011 the Villa was re-opened as part of A Town Unearthed: Folkestone Before AD 1500, a community archaeology project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. As well as re-excavating the northern part of the Villa, this work revealed that unexpectedly complex and well preserved Iron Age structures and deposits underlie the Villa.
Following A Town Unearthed it was clear that a rich and important archaeological site existed across the cliff top. Given the threat posed to this by ongoing erosion it was decided to establish the East Wear Bay Archaeological Field School. The aims of this are to allow the excavation of this threatened heritage as well as meeting the need for high quality archaeological field training. The school opened its first trench slightly north of the Villa in the summer of 2015. Since then we have excavated an extensive late Iron Age quern production site (more detail of which can be found in our 'Archaeology of East Wear Bay' section).
In Season 3 we will be opening up a new area closer to the Villa as part of our aim to excavate a complete strip along the cliff edge.
AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR
Roman Villa 1924One of the first ever aerial photographs of an archaeological site was taken of the Villa at east Wear Bay.
Excavation of Folkestone Roman VillaThe uncovered Roman Villa being visited in the late 1920s by holiday makers to Folkestone. It was one of the biggest archaeological tourist attractions in the country.
1989 Bath house apseThe excavations in 1989 uncovered the bath house. Part of the structure in this photo has gone over the cliff.
Excavations 2010Volunteers working at uncovering the Villa in 2010 as part of A Town Unearthed: Folkestone Before 1500AD
All drone shots credited to John Stevens