From the 15th to 19th August 2022, 26 members of CDAS and friends attended our Annual Study Tour with Philippa Cormack and Maureen O'Connor as leaders. We were based in the Orida Hotel in Penenden Heath, a suburb of Maidstone. The Heath was the site of various trials and executions of witches, rick burners, spies and William the Conqueror's half brother Odo (not executed!). Some important cricket matches were also played there. On the way to Kent we visited Eltham Palace, home of Tudor monarchs ( Henry VIII spent his childhood there) and in the 1930s it was extended in the Art Deco style by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld (no doubt encouraged by their pet lemur Mah-Jong!). There is a WWII bomb shelter in the basement. The moat of the original palace is now included in the Palaces' wonderful gardens. Some of us enjoyed a cup of tea sitting under a tree watching children being organized in a sword fight by English Heritage staff (possibly “resting” actors).

 On Tuesday we visited Dover Castle. As a result of it being at the nearest point to the continent it has always been an important defensive site. There was an Iron Age Hill fort on Castle Hill, the Romans built a octagonal lighthouse (pharos) which is the tallest Roman structure still standing in Britain. It is now next to the Church of St Mary's in Castro, originally built by the Saxons. The castle was besieged during the Barons' Wars in the reign of King John. Henry II greatly added to the castle's defences. It played no part in the English Civil War but was further fortified in the 18th and 19th Centuries, as a result of the threat from France. It played an important role in WWII when the evacuation from Dunkirk was masterminded in the tunnels under the castle.

After Dover Castle we went down the coast to the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1993. The memorial is in the shape of a Spitfire propeller with an airman sitting in the centre. There are information displays and a tea room in the main building. There are replicas of a Spitfire and Hurricane in the grounds. From there we had an eventful visit down narrow Kentish lanes, to All Saints church at Boughton Aluph which dates from the 13thC. It has a rare fireplace in the South Porch, possibly installed for the benefit of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. There are wall paintings dated to the 15thC.

 On Wednesday we visited Canterbury. We were guided around the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey. It was originally a Benedictine Abbey founded at the time of the conversion of the English to Christianity by St Augustine in 597AD. It was used as a burial place for the Anglo Saxon Kings, Abbots and Archbishops. It was rebuilt after the Norman Conquest. HenryVIII closed the Abbey, some parts were dismantled and some repurposed as Royal Residences. From there we moved to the Cathedral where we had lunch and then a guided tour of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral was also founded in 597AD and rebuilt in the 1070s. Over the next 500 years it underwent a series of rebuildings and extensions. In 1170 the then Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral on the “orders”of HenryII his one time friend. Thomas' canonization led to Canterbury becoming a major pilgrimage site. He had a magnificent tomb which was destroyed at the time of the Reformation. HenryVIII had a particular dislike of an Archbishop who had defied Royal Authority! The Black Prince and Henry IV are also buried in the Cathedral. The Cathedral escaped major damage in the German bombing raids of WWII (although the library as well as much of the town was destroyed) by the brave actions of Air Raid Wardens dousing incendiary bombs on the roof. On the site of Thomas Becket's martyrdom is a dramatic modern sculpture of a cross flanked by blood stained swords. It cast a dramatic shadow on the floor below. In the Norman crypt is a sculpture by Antony Gormley made of nails from the roof.

We then went on to the Eastbridge Hospital in the High Street . It was founded in the 12thC to give overnight accommodation to poor pilgrims visiting Thomas Becket's tomb. After the Reformation it carried on providing accommodation for 12 poor people and was also a school for 20 boys. Parts of the building are still used as Alms houses. A tributary of the River Stour flows under the building. We walked to the coach through the West Gate.

After dinner at the hotel we had a lecture by Stephen Clifton of the Maidstone Area Archaeology Group on excavations of a Roman Villa at West Farleigh, near Maidstone.

Thursday took us to the North eastern corner of Kent firstly visiting Quex House, a Regency Mansion which has a room decorated in an Indian style. The Powell-Cotton museum is linked to the mansion and houses a collection of African and Asian stuffed animals and artefacts. The 500 stuffed animals are arranged in large dioramas. We then went on to Ramsgate where we had lunch at the quirky Home Front Cafe, before walking through the town to the WWII tunnels. As Ramsgate was on the front line and within range of German guns as well as being attacked by bombers, an existing railway tunnel was extended to provide shelter for most of the town's inhabitants. It contained canteens and a hospital.

From Ramsgate we went down the coast to the cliffs above Pegwell Bay, to the replica Viking Ship “Hugin”. It was built in 1949 to commemorate the 1500 anniversary of the landing of the Anglo Saxon chieftains Hengist and Horsa at Ebbsfleet, and the betrothal of Hengist's daughter Rowena to King Vortigen of Kent. The Hugin was sailed to Kent from Denmark .

After dinner Jean Hannaford organized an entertaining quiz for us.

After leaving the hotel on Friday morning we visited Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. After a tour of the castle and a walk through the wonderful gardens, we had an enjoyable lunch in the Orangery before the drive back to Clevedon.


Tom Chown

March 2023 ( Leader of the 2023 Study Tour)