Photos | Balfour Beatty finds Roman tweezers on bridge job

28 November 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Tweezers found on the site of the new Springhead bridge

Artefacts thought to date back 2,000 years have been discovered during Balfour Beatty's construction of a new £16m bridge that will connect Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent with Ebbsfleet International station.

Work on the Springhead bridge started in May last year and is due to be complete and open to the public in spring 2020.

The final sections of steel were put into place for the bridge last month, ahead of a concrete deck, road surfacing and utilities.

Construction of the new bridge

A Roman ear cleaner and tweezers have been found on the site, as well as a piece of timber that may have been used in construction 2,000 years ago. The timber may have found its way to the bottom of the River Ebbsfleet after being dropped from a barge during transportation.  

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, which is building the bridge, has commissioned specialists to preserve the timber in wax in a process that takes more than a year.   

Roman ear cleaner

The ear cleaner, like a cotton bud but made entirely of metal, was discovered during the excavation of a drainage trench on the south side of the River Ebbsfleet and is thought to date back between 1,600 and 2,000 years.

The tweezers date back up to 2,000 years. Pottery of Saxon origin has also been found in fragments across the site.

In Roman times, the area was the site of a settlement called Vagniacis.  

Timber possible intended for Roman construction work

In the fourteenth century it was a stopping place for pilgrims going to Canterbury. It is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as Ypwines fleot or Heopwines fleot.   

A bridge across the river at Northfleet is mentioned in 1451 and it was still used for shipping in the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth century the river was the earliest centre in Britain for the commercial cultivation of watercress.  

Fragments of Saxon pottery

Julia Gregory, director of projects with Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, said: “Ebbsfleet Garden City and the surrounding area has a fascinating history and while the work goes on to document the items found, it would be lovely to find them a permanent home here in the Garden City at some point in the future.”  

Ebbsfleet Garden City now has more than 1,800 homes with almost 5,000 residents. It also has a primary school with plans for two others and a major secondary school campus under way.

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