Have you ever wondered about the thousands of years of history lying beneath your feet? HELOISE WOOD gets up, close and personal with the Romans of Bromley.

‘THAT hair pin you’re holding is around 2,000 years old. Isn’t that amazing?’

As Museum of London Archaeology Collections Manager Adam Corsini showed me round the museum’s archives and encouraged me to get to grips with ancient artefacts I was shocked by how much history was packed into the tiny objects.

The hair pin was just one of the many things found in the Roman Villa in Keston which was occupied between the 1st and 4th centuries AD and excavated between 1967 and 1990.

News Shopper: Find out about the ancient Romans in Bromley through Museum of London project

I am also showed a pickaxe from the Iron Age (from which the site dates) made of deer antlers, a gem-stone ring and a dice both from the Roman period.

Mr Corsini also revealed a "maker’s mark" - a stamp press made of ceramic, used to show where objects came from.   

He said: "It opens up your mind to how they lived and gives you an amazing idea of what life was like then.

"Someone wore that hair pin in the same way people wear accessories today.

"What will people find after we’ve gone?

"The archaeologists  found so many things - mainly pottery but also rings, brooches which made them think it had something to do with the military, tools and remains of humans and animals. It’s an amazing site."

News Shopper: Find out about the ancient Romans in Bromley through Museum of London project

He is keen to emphasise the importance of Brian Philp who led the original dig with Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit and the Bromley and West Kent Archaeological Group. 

The West Wickham-based archaeologist was honoured last year for 60 years of service to uncovering the history of London and south east.

Mr Corsini said: "The excavation was done in an incredible way - it’s just storage methods have improved so much since then and we want to ensure the objects last.

"This was rescue archaeology in a way there isn’t nowadays. Today, excavations are generally only funded by developers before they build on a site."

He said he thought Bromley’s cultural identity echoes that of the place 2,000 years ago. 

"I never knew anything about Bromley until recently and now I think it’s a really interesting place - there’s a real split between residents who feel it’s part of Kent and those who feel it’s part of London.

"Romans would have faced a similar choice - were they Londoners or Romans or something else?"

"Experts thought there was something on the Keston site because there were nearby settlements and it gave a good view of London, known as Londinium."

Some of the found objects have been on display in the Museum of London in Barbican but many have been sitting in rows of cardboard boxes in the museum’s archives in Islington.

News Shopper: Find out about the ancient Romans in Bromley through Museum of London project

Staff have decided it’s time to bring the artefacts back to life by taking them on a Bromley "roadshow" to locations such as The Glades and Tesco Extra so any residents can learn about their local history while helping repackage the artefacts.

Mr Corsini added: "We’re hoping people will learn about the objects, help us re-package them so we can store them better and they’ll last longer - whether they can give five minutes or an hour, it doesn’t matter. People in Bromley can contribute to their heritage."


Drop by to find out how you can uncover more about life in Roman Bromley and help care for objects from the past at the following locations:

The Glades in Bromley High Street between March 8 and 10

Tesco Extra in Augustus Lane, Orpington on March 15 and 22

Bromley Museum in The Priory, Church Hill, Orpington, on March 6, 13, 20, 27

For more information, email communityarchaeology@museumoflondon.org.uk

History, Right Under Your Feet is funded by Arts Council England