FOUR centuries of history have been revealed by the blow of a hammer at a new garden site on Portland.

Chiswell Community Trust has been working on the site of old toilets, a storage yard and a Second World War air raid shelter to turn it into a community garden.

Builders have been there since October 2004 and have recently uncovered exciting remains of one 17th century house as well as evidence that there could be the remains of a second on site.

Trust spokesman Margaret Somerville said: "The builders were working on the north wall towards Lerrett Ope when they began to knock off modern concrete render.

"What they found underneath were the remains of a 17th century mullioned window and the remains of the base of another.

"They also found the remains of a doorway which had been filled in which still has early plaster attached.

"We have asked the builders to stop while the finds are assessed by English Heritage, but it is a hugely exciting find which will make the garden not just more attractive but of historical importance as well."

The Trust has already raised £87,000 to create the community garden and has been told that another £20,000 could be available from the Local Heritage Initiative to interpret and preserve the finds which are believed to belong to a 17th century house.

Mrs Somerville said: "The money will also help pay for specialist lime mortar for stonework all over the site and the training for trainee stone masons to apply it as well as a computer web site so people can log on to find out all about what we have discovered in this conservation area on the Jurassic Coast."

She added that there will now be a series of talks over the next few weeks to decide how best to record and preserve the finds so the whole community can enjoy them.

Mrs Somerville said: "There is nothing like this in the whole of the Underhill area. It is an important Chiswell building.

"What is just as exciting is that there may be the remains of more than one house here.

"We know we have one because we have walls, windows, a door and the footprint of the whole house, but next to it we have also just started to find stone blocks marking the foundations of another building which has still to be excavated by an archaeologist from Terrain Archaeology, hopefully this summer.

"The community garden is still on course to be finished and open by Christmas, but we have to take the time to properly deal with these important archaeological finds."