Roman fort. Saxon Shore Fort. Saxon Minster.
The fort covered around 3.2 hectares. The walls measured 3m thick at their base narrowing to 2.5 at the top and stood 4.5m high. Defences included two ditches outside of the walls, measuring 10m wide. There were the usual four entrance gates which were single in width. The north and the west gates have now been lost to sea erosion of the site. Archaeology has shown that the gateways had square towers. Sections of the south wall remain today.
Internally the remains of the basilica, principia, baths, commanders house, and barrack blocks have been uncovered, as well as a Roman oven. Altogether the remains of 11 buildings have been identified internally. Some of the remains of the Roman buildings were used in the construction of the Anglo-Saxon Minster, of which parts remain today.
The fort was constructed to guard the approach to the Thames Estuary and also the northern end of the Wantsum Channel – the stretch of water which once separated the Isle of Thanet from mainland Kent. A road led from the fort to Canterbury – Durovernum Cantiacorum of Roman times.
The site would originally have included a vicus – a settlement which grew up outside of the fort, populated by local people who serviced and supplied the fort. Archaeologically this has been shown to have once existed to the north and west of the fort, the area now lost to sea erosion. The fort would also have included a harbour, but its whereabouts is still unknown.
The remains of 10 infant burials have been discovered at the fort. These may have been for ritual purposes, but this is unclear. A baby’s feeding bottle has also been recovered along with 25,000 other finds! One of the best finds, for me personally, is a seal of one of the vicars of Reculver Church.
Other finds include coins, parts of Roman cross bars from a vexillum, or standard.
The site still has a lot to tell us, however, unfortunately the sea has stolen a lot of that history and it now awaits rediscovery on the sea bed, covered by sand – one for maritime archaeologists to uncover!
Here is a timeline for Reculver,
43 Small fort originally. Later abandoned.
204/10 The Roman fort was built on the site under the orders of Emperor Severus, to guard the northern end of the Wantsum Channel.
270 Remains of barrack blocks date from.
3rd C Mid: Large amount of coin loss at and around the fort.
330 The number of Roman coins from this date drops off drastically.
5th C Saxon Shore Fort in bad repair.
669 King Egbert of Kent granted this Royal site to a priest named Bassa, with instructions to construct a Monastery on it.
892 Large Danish army camped on Thanet. The minsters of Reculver, Minster in Thanet and Lyminge were all affected by this incursion,
9th C Viking incursions and attacks impacted the Monastery.
1020-1038 Mentioned in a Charter of Ǽthelnoth, Archbishop of Canterbury, as St. Mary’s Monastery.
1030 Until: A Deacon was still in charge at the site.
1216-1272 Dating from the Reign of Henry III: Coins have been found at the site.
1272-1307 Dating from the reign of Edward I: Coins found at the site.
1284 The Vicar of Reculver was informed he had to supply a regular priest to All Saints by Archbishop Peckham.
1291 Reculver was restored to the See of Canterbury.
13th C The Chancel was extended.
1307-1327 Dating from the reign of Edward II: Coins found at the site.
1327-1377 Dating from the reign of Edward III: Coins found at the site.
1540 Visited by the antiquarian John Leyland.
1780 A portion of the cliff fell into the sea taking the north wall of the Roman fort with it.
1781 The old Chapel House/cottage was demolished. It was one of the original monastic buildings added when the Minster was built in 669.
1802 The Chapel House collapsed. It was a smaller old chapel being used as a cottage.
1802 Vicar C. C. Nailor had most of the old church pulled down to use as buildings material for the new church he was given permission to construct at Hillborough, nearby.
1877 Archaeological sections were cut against the walls by George Dowker.
1878 Excavated by Mr. George Dowker. The inner face of the eastern wall.
1927 Excavated by Major Gordon Home. The inner face of the southern wall.
1927 The base of a possible preaching cross was uncovered.
1931 Excavated by Major Gordon Home. The foundations of one of the gates was uncovered.
1951 Excavated by the Ministry of Works.
1953 The Roman road to the west of the fort was discovered but soon lost to erosion of the cliffs.
1963 Field Investigation.
1993 The sea wall was surveyed.
1995 Watching Brief.
1958 Some of the metaling from the Roman road, west of the fort, was still visible.
1999 Scheduling Notification.
2004 Watching Brief.
2007 Report written on the state of the site.
2008 Watching Brief.
2008 Geophysical Survey.
2011 The Caravan Park was evaluated.
2015 Watching Brief.
2016 Watching Brief.
References & Bibliography
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