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From Debutante Antoinette to Mudlark Tony!

From Debutante Antoinette to Mudlark Tony!

A 50 year old ‘blog’ of Antoinette [Tony] Powell-Cotton, created by volunteers Vera & Trevor Gibbons who assisted Tony in her archaeology over three decades.During the last year Vera has been transcribing Tony’s field books and these will form the central interest as written 50 years ago to the month. . . . .

50 years ago in December 1965 we had the pleasure of having afternoon tea with Miss Powell-Cotton and her brother Christopher at Quex House. The purpose of that meeting was to see if we could help Antoinette [Tony] measure the positions of her archaeological sites in Minnis Bay.……..We had recently qualified as architects and had been volunteers with Brian Philp’s team excavating the Reculver Roman Fort throughout that summer. As can be seen by her field book extracts of March 1965 the normal method of measurement to locate pits on the foreshore was by paces [57P; 18P etc].

Tony’s field book for March 10th and 13th 1965


Over the coming months by using Tony’s field books  we will create a blog that will show her passion for the archaeology of the nationally important foreshore and cliff’s at Minnis Bay, about 2 miles from Quex Park.  Conditions were often harsh – contending with tides, seaweed, sand, stinking mud, gales, north winds…… all carried out with attention to detail in a professional manner as the following extracts from her daily ‘blog’ of 50 years ago will show for the month of March 1965. . . . . .At this time we were still 10 months away from meeting Tony.

 Each month we will add notes to clarify some of her hieroglyphics and personal shorthand. This will lead up to December when we became part of her ‘blog’!

 (Vera & Trevor Gibbons March 2015)



Tony excavating in cliffs above Minnis

 Monday 1st

Cold and windy –half hour at dusk – added 3 pails of chalk to mud of [pit] N.  Filling studded with chalk more or less all round now.  B.A.W. and everywhere covered with sand and some chalk washed out.

  • [BAW - Bronze Age Woods was an area of wood posts near where Jimmy Beck found the 3000 year old Bronze Hoard in 1938.] 

 Tuesday 9th   

Warm.  Collected a very little from ‘N’.

  • [Pit N one of Early Iron Age pits about 2,500 years old south of bronze site. Already excavated Tony kept a watchful eye on these pits following tide activity and protection – see Sat 13th below.]

 Wednesday 10th        

With Alice Coleman surveyed Med9(+8) x Med 10,11,13 added to the plan.  She took a sample of very poor wood and bark from the …… lying branch on west of N near where second pot was collected: also a little peaty fill lying against the wood and a piece broken off the ?‘modern’ timber from the east side of the pit.

These specimens for Francis Rose who has left Bedford College and joined Kings I understand and think he may get carbon dating done – he wants to get some for his own and it seems it is now easier to  get oddments of specimens done without the long queue wait.  Alice Coleman again remarked on the green flint (in N filling this time) and said it was supposed to be tertiary – right on top of the chalk.  She also remarked how very smashy the chalk near N is and said at Minnis the chalk is very near the top (surface of upper chalk I presume and it is like that) more so than other parts of the isle. 

Walked back from the station after she had caught train, along shore from far side Grenham -  saw the ‘ modern’ horse or cattle grave – at right angles to the prom. just past the gap and very close …… with some bones showing. 

Friendly dark Westgate policeman came up and spoke to us – said someone had collected part of a fossil human skull - from one of the bungalows at Minnis. 

A great deal of the foreshore could be explored just now – sandy.

  • [Alice Coleman was a lecturer in geography at King’s College, London and helped Tony, together with members of the Isle of Thanet Geographical Society]
  • [Med 9 and Med 10, 11, 13 are Mediaeval pits  about 1,500 years old. ]

 Saturday 13th             

Collected 1 piece black gritty sherd from amongst flints near larger post end of ‘saffron’ [pit] and near band of flints parallel to sea. - added 4 pails chalk to ‘N’.  Met by Dorothy.  Picked up bottle containing message from an 11 year old at Harwich.  A good part of ammonite remains off W cliff pits O.5 etc.

  • [We have no knowledge what the message said but if it had an address Tony would have certainly written to him!]
  • [‘saffron’ was a term for future recognition of this pit .]