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Historic England Research Records

Richborough Roman Fort

Hob Uid: 469547
Location :
Kent
Dover
Ash
Grid Ref : TR3240060150
Summary : The site of Richborough Roman fort and associated settlement, port and roads. The site is important for its long history within Roman Britain: it was probably the landing place for the Roman invasion of 43 AD and it appears to have remained in use until the end of Roman rule. Now inland, during the Roman period the site was an island on the south side of the Wantsum Channel. The first phase of this site was a temporary camp dated to 43 AD. Part of the camp's ditches are visible as excavated features within the fort. This camp was levelled circa 53 AD and a supply base established. A large courtyard building was also found and has been interpreted has either a mansio or administrative centre. During 85-90 AD many buildings were cleared and a rectangular monument built to celebrate the conquest. The cross-shaped footings set on a rectangular foundation are still visible. During 90 to 250 AD the former supply base developed into a town, some of the buildings are visible as cropmarks. Around 250 AD the centre of the town was levelled and the great monument converted into a signal station defended by 3 closely spaced V-shaped ditches with one entrance. These are still visible as excavated features. The large courtyard building appears to have remained in use during this period and its foundations are also still visible. By 270 AD the town was deserted, the signal station levelled and a Saxon Shore fort built. The eastern side of the fort has been destroyed by erosion, but originally there were circular corner towers and rectangular interval towers. The 4th century garrison was the Legio II Augusta from Usk. The site was occupied into the 5th century and reused in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval times. It is now in the care of English Heritage.
More information : TR 324 601: Richborough Castle [NAT]
RVTVPIAE [NR]
Roman Fort [NR] (1)

Richborough Castle is as described in the MOW pamphlet.
Published 1:2500 survey revised. (2)

Name "RVTVPIAE" accepted for 4th edition Roman Britain map - the Roman Fort at Richborough, Kent. (3)

A mid 3rd century earth fortlet enclosing 0.5 hectares surrounds the monumental arch. The summit must have commanded a wide view forming an invaluable look-out. Whether the structure incorporated a beacon or other aid to navigation is unknown but seems likely. (4)

TR 324 602: Richborough Castle. Schedule number 66. (5)

Richborough Castle, Grade I, Richborough. Remains of Roman settlement of Rutupiae 43 AD, 2nd century, circa 289, 10th century and 12th century. Principal remains are the sea-pebble and rubble stone walls faced with stone and tile levelling courses, three sides of the late 3rd century Saxon Shore fort (the eastern wall fell to the sea, now some miles distant). Walls approximately 25 feet high and 12 feet thick, enclose an area of approximately 5 acres. Within this area are foundations of a huge monument to commemorate Agricola's final subjugation of Britain circa 85 AD, a 2nd century government rest house (mansio), shops, the font of a Christian church circa 400 and a late Saxon church, extended 12th century, destroyed 17th century. Within and surrounding the fort are extensive earthworks associated with various phases of development. At some time a large port with extensive wharfing: the landing place and supply base for the Claudian invasion of 43 AD. Scheduled. (6)

TR 324 602: Richborough. A Roman settlement arose and grew around a harbour in the 1st and 2nd centuries. In the following century, reacting to military demands, it was converted into a fortified base forming part of the unified chain of commands, the "Saxon Shore", around the southern and eastern coasts of Britain. Richborough is now landlocked and presents an uncompromising Roman solidity, its massive walls dominating the site. Excavations have revealed a long history of nearly four hundred years of Roman occupation and developments, within which the standing defensive walls represent a relatively late phase. Historical and archaeological details cover conquest, consolidation, growth, 2nd century town and port, the Great Monument and 3rd century earth and stone forts. (7)

A Saxon Shore fort, Roman port and associated remains at Richborough.
The first phase of this site was a temporary camp dated to 43 AD. It was circa 4.45 hectares in size and part of the camp's ditches are visible as excavated features within the fort. This camp was levelled circa 53 AD and a supply base established; storehouses and granaries were uncovered by excavations. A large courtyard building was also found and has been interpreted has either a mansio or administrative centre. It was originally built of timber, later in stone.
Circa 85-90 AD many of these buildings were cleared and a rectangular monument was built to celebrate the conquest. The superstructure has not survived but the cross-shaped footings set on a rectangular foundation are still visible. The monument may have taken the form of a four-way arch above a cross-passage way, set on a raised plinth. It measured circa 26.5 metres by circa 14.5 metres and may have stood circa 25 metres high.
From circa 90 AD to circa 250 AD the former supply base developed into a town, some of the buildings are visible as cropmarks. Circa 250 AD the centre of the town was levelled and the great monument converted into a signal station, it was defended by three closely spaced V-shaped ditches with one entrance which are visible as excavated features. The large courtyard building appears to have remained in use during this period and its foundations are still visible.
By 270 AD the town appears to have ended; the signal station was levelled and a Saxon Shore fort built. It was of rectangular plan and circa 4.5 hectares in area. The eastern side of the fort has been destroyed by erosion and the other walls partially survive up to 8 metres high and 3 metres thick. There were circular corner towers and rectangular interval towers.
The site was occupied into the 5th century. The 4th century garrison was the Legio II Augusta, from Usk. Excavations uncovered timber buildings and a stone bath house on the site of the mansio. Scheduled. (8-9)

The earthwork and masonry remains of the various phases of the Roman fortification and occupation at the site of the Roman fort of Richborough which are described by the previous authorities were mapped at 1:2500 scale from aerial photographs as part of the English Heritage: Richborough Environs Project. This multi-disciplinary project was initiated by EH Centre for Archaeology and the combined results of the aerial survey, geophysical surveys and small scale excavations will be used to improve the interpretation, management and presentation of the site. (10-12)

During excavations, 1928-31, several bone fragments were found near the bottom of the inner ditch just outside the late 3rd century walls. It is now established that these fragments were plates facing a dice tower, a device for throwing dice. The plates were originally attached to a wooden scaffold which has rotted away. (13)

Now inland, during the Roman period the site was an island on the south side of the Wantsum Channel, which then separated Thanet from the mainland. Excavations along the collapsed eastern wall of the Saxon shore fort in 2008 concentrated on examining the role of the site as a port and may have uncovered the layers of the Roman period shoreline. later part of the Roman wall was incorporated into a late 14th century dock- the channel had begun to silt up in the 14th century AD. (14)

Main excavation reports of excavations from the 1920s to the 1960s (15-18)

An article from 1970 on the date of the construction of the Saxon Shore fort at Richborough, in which the author Stephen Johnson argued against a construction date in the reign of the "rebel" emperor Carausius. (19)

Discussion of the construction techniques used for the Saxon Shore fort phase at Richborough (20)

A combination of aerial photograph analysis and geophysical survey have revealed the plough-levelled remains of the Roman Settlement and roads associated with Richborough Fort, as well as a number of features in its wider environs. (21)

A project to test the methodology of geochemical survey was carried out at Richborough Roman fort. The premise of this type of survey is that the presence of higher than usual levels of certain chemical elements can aid archaeological prospection. The collection methodology was found to work, however the levels of chemicals found did not lead to any particular clear conclusions about the specific site. (22-23)

In 2001 a magnetometer survey was carried out on 18.7ha of land at Richborough Roman Fort. It revealed concentrations of activity around roadways, especially along Watling Street and to the south. There was also possible evidence of Late Roman industrial activity to the north of the fort. However, the survey did not clearly show any individual buildings, nor did it pick out the Claudian period ditches. (24)

Richborough was once a port on the Wantsum Channel. In AD 43 the Roman Emperor Claudius’s fleet landed and established a fortified beachhead. It became a military supply base and developed into the port of Rutupiae. There was an amphitheatre and one of the biggest monumental arches in the Roman Empire: an official ‘gateway to Britain’. The Town thrived for nearly 200 years until attacks from Saxon and Frankish raiders prompted the building of a massive fort. AD275-300 the monumental arches were demolished altogether to make room for the Saxon shore fort, and the marble cladding was broken up and burned in kilns to produce lime needed to make concrete for the fort. Late 3rd and 4th century occupation of the fort is difficult to identify and the internal layout is not fully understood. Buildings were likely to have been timber. The last garrison of Richborough was the 2nd Augustan legion and it was there as late as AD 402 known from coin finds.
There is a tradition that St Augustine landed here in 604 and this was strong enough to have a small chapel built here in the Middle Ages. The Watsum channel began to silt , becoming partially marshland, and the cliff on which the fort stood eroded which made the east wall unstable and it collapsed. This was later used in the 15th century as a minor waterfront.
During the first world war the area to the east of Richborough was a temporary port for the embarkation of men and materials to the front. During the 2nd world war the site was used again as a transit camp for refugees. At the fort itself trenches were dug in connection with the defence of Britain fighter base at Manston. (25)


Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" 1960
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Source Number : 2
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ASP 11-OCT-63
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Source Number : 11
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : NMR TR 3260/116-118 (212266/4-6) 16-JUL-2001
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Source Number : 12
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : NMR TR 3260/29 (906/264) 01-MAR-1976
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Source Number : 13
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : Article by Cobbett, RE
Page(s) : 219-35
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 39, 2008
Source Number : 14
Source : Research News
Source details : "Richborough: a Roman and Medieval Port" Article by Tony Wilmott and Jessica Tibber
Page(s) : 20-22
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Vol(s) : SUMMER 2009, 12
Source Number : 15
Source : Second report on the excavation of the Roman fort at Richborough, Kent
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Vol(s) : no.7
Source Number : 15
Source : First report on the excavation of the Roman fort at Richborough, Kent
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Vol(s) : no.6
Source Number : 16
Source : Third report on the excavations of the Roman Fort at Richborough, Kent
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Vol(s) : no.10
Source Number : 17
Source : Fourth report on the excavations of the Roman fort at Richborough, Kent
Source details :
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Vol(s) : no.16
Source Number : 18
Source : Fifth report on the excavations of the Roman fort at Richborough, Kent
Source details :
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Vol(s) : no.23
Source Number : 19
Source : The date of the construction of the Saxon Shore fort at Richborough [Kent]
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Source Number : 3
Source : The place-names of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 448-50
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Source Number : 20
Source : The construction of the Saxon Shore fort at Richborough
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Source Number : 21
Source : Richborough environs project, Kent : report on the aerial photographic transcription and analysis
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Source Number : 22
Source : Geochemical Survey at Richborough, Kent: an assessment
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Vol(s) : Apr-03
Source Number : 23
Source : Geochemical Survey at Richborough Roman Town, Kent
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Vol(s) : Mar-04
Source Number : 24
Source : Richborough Kent: report on geophysical survey, September 2001
Source details :
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Vol(s) : 35/2001
Source Number : 25
Source : Richborough and Reculver
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Source Number : 4
Source : Roman Britain from the air
Source details :
Page(s) : 78-9
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Source Number : 5
Source : List of ancient monuments in England: Volume 1, Northern England; Volume 2, Southern England; Volume 3, East Anglia and the Midlands
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Vol(s) : 2
Source Number : 6
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Dover, Kent, 26-NOV-1987
Page(s) : 14
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Vol(s) : 1891
Source Number : 7
Source : Richborough and Reculver, Kent
Source details :
Page(s) : 3-25, 37-49
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Source Number : 8
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 10-Jul-96
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Source Number : 9
Source : Collectanea historica : essays in memory of Stuart Rigold
Source details :
Page(s) : 23-31
Figs. : 2
Plates : I-IV
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Source Number : 10
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : MAL /78027 249 19-AUG-1978
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : 250-270 AD
Monument End Date : 270
Monument Start Date : 250
Monument Type : Signal Station
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : 270-410AD
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 270
Monument Type : Saxon Shore Fort
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : 43-53 AD
Monument End Date : 53
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Temporary Camp
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : 53-270 AD
Monument End Date : 270
Monument Start Date : 53
Monument Type : Building, Mansio
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Conjectural Evidence
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : 53-90 AD
Monument End Date : 90
Monument Start Date : 53
Monument Type : Military Base
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : 90-270 AD
Monument End Date : 270
Monument Start Date : 90
Monument Type : Town
Evidence : Cropmark
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : 90-250 AD
Monument End Date : 250
Monument Start Date : 90
Monument Type : Commemorative Monument
Evidence : Structure

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : KE 66
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 27039
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 178071
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 212
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TR 36 SW 15
External Cross Reference Notes :

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Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1792-01-01
End Date : 1792-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH
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Start Date : 1826-01-01
End Date : 1826-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1843-01-01
End Date : 1843-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1849-01-01
End Date : 1849-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1865-01-01
End Date : 1865-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1887-01-01
End Date : 1887-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1900-01-01
End Date : 1900-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1922-01-01
End Date : 1938-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON TR 36 SW 15
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1963-10-11
End Date : 1963-10-11
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH (VICUS)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: RICHBOROUGH ENVIRONS PROJECT
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2002-02-18
End Date : 2002-05-10
Associated Activities : Primary, RICHBOROUGH ROMAN TOWN
Activity type : GEOCHEMICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2004-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LOWTON, RICHBOROUGH HILL
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2008-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT RICHBOROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2013-01-01
End Date : 2013-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT RICHBOROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2014-01-01
End Date : 2014-12-31