Was Roman Otford Important?

The simple answer to that question is we do not know yet, however the early indications are that Otford and its beautiful environs were a significant area of Roman activity. 

Before looking at the Roman Otford question, let’s do some scene setting. Otford is a crossing point on the River Darent which rises in Westerham, then travels for 43kms where it enters the Thames estuary at Dartford.  With careful management the Darent would have been navigable from Dartford to Otford. The Darenth Valley is prime agricultural land, and the physical landscape today would not be too different from Romano-British times. 

Poppies along the Darenth Valley is a photograph by Stuart Gennery, available to purchase (click on photo)

There is well established archaeological evidence of Roman habitation and industry at Dartford, Springhead, Green Street, South Darenth, Horton Kirby, Farningham, Eynsford, Lullingstone, Shoreham, Otford, all towns and villages near to the Darent.  

Further along the Downs at Kemsing there is a Roman Bath House and a Cremation burial site. Moving further still, at Borough Green there is a cremation burial site, and at Trottiscliffe there is another possible Villa. 

This strip of Roman habitation culminates at the villa site in Snodland.  Between the Rivers Medway and Darent there is a ribbon of Romano-British habitation that would have used the rivers to establish trading with other communities. To the south of Otford there is Plaxtol with its three villas. Plaxtol also has a tilery site that was operated by a tiler called Cabriabanus, whose marked tiles have been found elsewhere along the Darenth Valley and further afield. 

What is our current understanding of Roman Otford?

To date the following sites have been subjected to archaeological investigations: 

  • 1st – 2nd Century Roman Villa called Progress, excavated in 1928 
  • 3rd – 4th Century Roman Villa in Church Field, currently being excavated 
  • Roman barn/building located in the Charne area, excavated in 1960’s 
  • Roman Cemetery/Cremation site at Twitton 
  • Possible villa site at Twitton 
  • Frog Farm Twitton, Patch Grove Ware Roman Pottery manufacturing site 

Other than these sites having been investigated individually, we are only just starting to piece together the Romano-British story of Otford, and how that account fits into the wider Darenth Valley.  

The River Darent near Frank’s Hall, Darent Valley Landscape Partnership

It is very unlikely that a “Citizen of Rome” ever lived in the Darenth Valley. Maybe Romans would have passed through as part of the Claudian invasion, which means that the population of the Darenth Valley during Roman times was Romano-British. These are the local native tribes who would have assimilated Roman culture and identity. 

Otford would have been a significant crossing point and trading post on the river.  Raw materials and consumables came into Patch Grove pottery manufacturing site, and in turn finished goods went to market – they would have used the river to transport items, as would the farms and villas to move their produce. The river was an invaluable source of water for habitation, industry and agriculture. 

What’s next?

We are only just starting to discover and understand the Romano-British story of Otford, you are most welcome to join us.  If you are interested, please visit our Join Us! page, or use our contact form.

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