Lyminge in Prehistory


Some 8-10,000 years ago, following the end of the last Ice Age as the ice sheets retreated and the weather improved, while there was still a land bridge to walk over, people returned to Britain from Continental Europe. Before this, when the land was covered in thick ice, it was inhospitable and deserted of people.  But as the weather became warmer, the new arrivals could live by hunting animals and gathering edible plants. A sheltered valley like the Elham Valley, with running water, would have been one of the first places to be visited as people returned to Britain.  We know some of these people spent time camped close to the springhead of the Nail Bourne in Well Field because masses of flint flakes, from the manufacture of stone tools, were found during archaeological excavations in 2012.


Flint axe discovered in 2002Flint axe, c 5,000 years old, found on the edge of Lyminge in 2002 (© Rob Baldwin)

We know too there were farmers living in Lyminge from at least around 5,000 years ago because two flint axes have been found in and around the village. But ancient DNA now indicates that some 500 years later, most of the descendants of these first farmers were replaced by new people, immigrants from Europe  who knew how to make bronze. A barrow burial from this time has been found on Tayne Field close to the site of the modern primary school, and a bronze sword was recovered from the surrounding ditch.  The slight mound in the grass beside the tarmac path that crosses Tayne Field by the school is a restoration of the barrow that was carried out after the grave was excavated in 2014. 

Another burial from this period was found on the edge of the excavation site close to Church Road.  Although this was a single individual, it is perhaps quite likely that other people were buried close by within sight of the barrow mound.  Their graves may lie undiscovered under the roads, houses and gardens roundabout.  A further possible barrow has been identified on the edge of the village on the ridge to the right of Canterbury Road as you head towards Elham, perhaps from this period or may be later in date.  But as yet there is no evidence to show where settlement was located in this period. 


People continued to farm the surrounding hills, growing crops and keeping sheep and cattle, right through to the early years of the Christian Era. From around 500 BC, they began using iron to make most of their tools.  The coins of these Iron Age farmers are often found in the fields round about, and in 2021, a farmstead was excavated on the golf course in the area close to New Lyminge Surgery where new houses are currently planned to be built. This farm dates to the years around AD43 when the Romans invaded under Emperor Claudius and began an occupation of Britain that lasted some 400 years.  But although it is often said that people lived in Lyminge during the Roman period, there is still no archaeological evidence for anyone living here at this time. All the Roman artefacts found in Lyminge over the years were recycled by people at a later date and appear to have come from elsewhere. There is lots of evidence for people reusing Roman material in the centuries immediately following the end of Roman rule, but none for people living here from the 1st Century AD right up until the very end of the 5th Century.  This was around 80 to 100 years after the population of Britain stopped being governed by, and ceased paying taxes to, Rome.    


Windows in the church reusing Roman brick11th Century windows in the chancel of the Norman church of St Mary and St Ethelburga.  The round headers to these windows are re-using Roman brick (© Rob Baldwin)

Aerial view of church

St Mary and St Ethelburga Church, Lyminge.  In the period after the end of Roman rule, there would have been many abandoned Roman buildings incorporating lots of lead all over Kent. It is very possible that the lead on the church roof has been recycled from Roman buildings but there is no reason to think these stood in Lyminge  (©Will Wright – Amazing Aerial Views)


Pierced As

Very worn Roman As (a copper alloy coin) of the 2nd Century, possibly of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180), pierced at a later date probably for use as a pendant, found in the churchyard in 2019 (©Rob Baldwin)


This page is managed by Lyminge Parish Council Historic Environment Working Group