The Saxon Shore Forts (Part 3)

Rather than wait until I have the opportunity to get around the South Coast to re-visit the remaining three Forts which are, after all, each situated in different counties and rather further spread out than those of East Kent, I though I might make use of my father’s pictures to complete this expedition without further delay.

The remains of Lympne or Portus Lemanis (Fort number 7) lie halfway down a hill full of sheep on the edge of the Romney Marsh at some distance from the current shoreline (005). Pictures (007-015) show that my parents were able to obtain permission to explore this private piece of land and also show how little can still be seen of the original Roman fort. The picturesque site is nowadays much better known for the wonderful views it affords to Lympne Castle, a weddings-and-weekends Edwardian re-imagining of the medieval castle that once overlooked the Marsh.

So far in my search through the family albums (040-042) I have found only one photograph of Pevensey or Anderida (Fort number 8 ) which lies on the Sussex coast not far from Hastings, scene of the ignominious defeat of 1066. This is picture number 020 and I was only able to positively identify it by taking a magnifying glass to the pub on the far right. Without reference to the Priory Court Hotel (currently under new management, bed and breakfast, tea rooms etc) this imposing stretch of Roman-built defensive wall might well have remained unidentified. For it must be acknowledged that a certain resemblance to a number of the other Roman sites in the family archives is beginning to emerge.

As well as its Roman walls, Pevensey has aquired a splendid Norman keep, some cleverly concealed WW2 defences and an English Heritage gift shop. Why, then, there is just this one photograph in the collection I have no idea. Perhaps it was removed from its fellows for an essay at one time and perhaps I shall come across the rest of the site at a later date. Better still, the castle will make an enjoyable detour on my next trip to Hastings when I can do it justice with a set of pictures of my own.

Portchester or Portus Anderni (Fort number 9), which some claim to be the best preserved Roman fort North of the Alps, has all the appearance of the Norman castle which it subsequently became (034-039). For it retained its strategic importance at the head of Portsmouth Harbour and played an important role in the Defence of the Realm for more than seventeen hundred years. And thanks to a rather more stable coastline it also retained all four of its curtain walls and most of its original round towers.

I really can’t tell its story properly in this post and can only add Portchester Castle to the list of “visits pending”. When I last visited in 2005 I felt sure that I had been there before but just ascribed the sensation to deja vu or “fortification overload” but the recent discovery of a holiday snap from (ahem) 1970 shows that my memory was not playing tricks on me (041)

In order to save the unwitting browser from having to look them up separately, the full list of the Comes Litoris Saxonici per Britanniam follows below. Constructed in the late third century, often overlying previous settlements or defensive works, they formed part of an integrated attempt to protect the coastline from the increasing threat of barbarian attack. Of course, another set of barbarians overran the last of the declining empire less than two hundred years later but the enduring construction of these fortified walls has withstood all the attacks invaders have launched at it and fallen victim to nothing but the waves.

Name

Location

Date

Garrison

Branodunum

Brancaster, Norfolk

c230

Equites Dalmatae Branodunenses

Garianonnum

Yarmouth, Norfolk

c260

Equites Stablesiani Gariannoneses

Othona

Bradwell, Essex

c270

Numerus Fortensium

Regulbium

Reculver, Kent

c210

Cohors I Baetasiorum

Rutupiae

Richborough, Kent

c270

Legio II Augusta

Dubris

Dover, Kent

c270

Milites Tungrecani

Portus Lemmanis

Lympne, Kent

c270

Numerus Tumacensium

Anderitum

Pevensey, Sussex

c290

Numerus Abulcorum

Portus Adurni

Portsmouth, Hants

c280

Numerus Exploratorum

Categories: Britain, East of England

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