TIVOLI PARK AVENUE, MARGATE
investigation of the ancient landscape in the vicinity of Tivoli Roman
Villa Margate was carried out by the Society over three years (2008 to
2010) and included a resistivity survey of most of Tivoli Park Margate,
the construction of a 3D computer-based visualisation of the area in
the 1920's, (in order to try to locate the Roman building precisely
using the only known photograph) and excavation of several test pits in
the Park and in gardens of Tivoli Park Avenue.
Iron Age, flint-cobbled floor and much Iron Age and Roman pottery was
found at the various test sites. The few small finds, included one
Roman coin, and the results are now being studied with a full report in
Iron Age floor at rear of 4 Tivoli Park Avenue.
The article below extracted from the Society's qaurterly publication Earthworm:
"THE ROMAN BUILDING AND OTHER SITES – the “East Side Story”
As the digging season draws to a close for the SWOTs (Sunny Weather on
Thursdays!) team, it’s time to reflect on where we’ve got with the
sites on the eastern side of Tivoli Park Avenue, Margate in 2008.
Firstly, for new readers, it is necessary to briefly recap on where the
Society is coming from in respect of the Tivoli area. In brief, we are
trying to relocate the situations of earlier Romano-British and Iron
Age discoveries made over 80 years ago by Dr Rowe and to extend the
field of search to other areas in and around Tivoli Park. This quest
has been hampered by lack of written-up records, as we only had a
single site photograph, a letter to the Isle of Thanet Gazette in June
1924, and a reporter’s article in the Kentish Messenger in May 1925 to
Our first piece of luck on the paperwork side came from the rediscovery
of photocopies of a number of contemporary documents written by Dr Rowe
himself covering his original work on the eastern side of Tivoli Park
Avenue between 1923 and 1925. (The Society was previously unaware of
these survivals – resurrected as a spin-off from desk research for
Ges’s highly recommended new book, published and available to members
to order.) Major information was retrieved from two sources:- 1)
transcripts of 21 postcards sent to Howard Hurd from July 1923 to 1925,
giving a virtual running commentary/diary on his Tivoli work. This
included a sketch plan of the extensions to town council land
acquisitions beyond the top of the tennis courts during 1923. 2) copies
of an original sketch plan in Dr Rowe’s hand showing the positions of
the 6 trenches he had dug on his own between December 1923 and July
From the above it became possible to determine that all these trenches
were parallel, ran at right angles to the Tivoli Park Avenue eastern
pavement, and dissected the whole of what are now the front garden
areas of several houses in the Avenue. The one photograph and the
Kentish Messenger article of 30 May 1925 are all that we possess on
this further work.
Based on the above data, major effort has been devoted to working out
how the site photograph fits into the geographical context using clues
and landmarks from the landscape together with Chris Tucker’s expertise
with mapping software - with some success, but, so far, no definitive
physical confirmation from limited test digging.
A detailed ½ metre by ½ metre resistivity meter survey was carried out
in those few front gardens still grassed over and this produced
significant anomalies. As a result two test trenches have now been dug
across the higher resistance areas.
Trench A did not hit wall foundations, but did produce a fragment of
Flavian late C1st Samian cup rim 12cms in diameter – Type DR27, and a
cattle pelvis and Iron Age pot lower down.
Trench B hit a solid mortar/fine concrete foundation level 1.2 metres
across at a depth of 20cms., below which a major void/vault became
apparent! This feature now needs further investigation with specialised
equipment (now procured). In the meantime probing of the areas around
the trench indicate that the feature extends not only up to the front
bay window of the house, but also further back into the garden.
Our other work has explored a nearby rear garden, which did not appear
to have featured in Dr Rowe’s excavations, and is largely laid to grass.
Trench 1 at the bottom of the back garden has now grown to 3 x 2metres
and has produced large quantities of Iron Age occupation material
covering at least the Middle and Late periods, with possible vestigial
overlays of Romano-British activity. Detailed pottery analysis will be
needed to unravel the full story, but every type of Iron Age pot can be
identified from “primitive earth- baked” through combed-ware, and fine
scrolled decoration, to (possible) tiny Samian fragments that maybe
fell into a basement! Large quantities of disarticulated animal bone
fragments were also unearthed in one thick 20cm layer between ½ and ¾
metres below the surface – these are already under study, but include
dog, pig, sheep/goat, and a donkey hoof.
Part of a Samian bowl
by LOLLIIUS circa 160AD
Three further trenches (2, 3, and 4) have also been completed at the
same property across the top of the back garden – nearest the house.
These produced a major Samian bowl find in Trench 2 of mid-C2nd date;
Type DR18/31R produced by one Lolliius of Lezoux (Central Gaul, near
Clermont-Ferrand), see photograph above.
Trench 3 threw up a copper-alloy coin possibly of C3rd or C4th but was
unfortunately too badly corroded to be identified directly – but X-ray
scanning is now underway. The usual Iron Age occupational debris was
also located at levels below ½ metre.
So, we are getting closer to accessible parts of Dr Rowe’s “Roman
House”, have found continuous Romano-British occupation from late C1st
to C3rd AD; and confirmed Iron Age occupation throughout the Middle to
Late phases. "
Earthworm is edited by Gordon Taylor.