Richborough Fort, Kent
Richborough Fort dates back to the third century AD and was in its day a vitally strategic harbour to the Wantsum Sea Channel, into the English Sea and to Gaul. Today the fort is inland far from its once critical importance as a Roman military supply base.
It is at Richborough that the Roman Emporer Claudius landed his army to begin the invasion of Britain and remained for hundreds of years as the gateway to Britain. The town thrived for some 200 years until Saxon raids forced the building of a massive fort, as part of a whole chain of 11 forts along the coastline.
Richborough however, with its massive monumental arch - one of the largest in all of Roman Empire and therefore the known world, remained one of the most important of all, and the last to be abandoned.
Today the fort with is massive stone walls & series of defensive ditches provide a fascinating insight into this ancient lost empire. Even today the site is simply breathtaking. One can only wonder how utterly imposing this fortress would have been to the native Britains in its day.
One of the most impressive Roman fortifications in all of Britain.
~ History ~
55BC ~ Julius Caesar lands his forces on the Kent shore in order to punish the British tribes who had assisted the Gauls against their fight against Roman rule. In addition Julius Caesar is in need to enhance his prestiage back in Rome. The expedition is a near disaster after winds delay his landing, storms damage his ships and once ashore British tribes drive his men back into the sea.
54BC ~ Caesar sets sail for Britain to avenge is near earlier disaster with a much larger fleet, which are also better equiped for a beach landing. This time his forces march through Kent sweeping aside any resistance and manage to cross the River Thames leading to the submission of the war leader of the Catuvellauni tribe. Soon other British tribal chiefs ally themselves with the all conquering Roman army, paying tribute with hostages.
AD40 ~ The British chieftan of the Atrebates tribe dies leaving a disputed succession which escalates into open warfare between pro and anti Roman tribal leaders. One of these tribal kings is forced to flee to Rome as civil war erupts.
41 ~ Upon arrival in Rome Claudius becomes Emperor and he quickly see's the power struggle in Britain as a way of securingg his legitimacy as Emperor from the growing power struggle in Rome.
43 ~ Emperor Claudius general Aulus Plautius and his 40,000 Roman soldiers land unopposed near Richborough in Kent. The invasion is delayed due to many sailors believing they would sail off the edge of the world. The sheer scale of the Roman army is sufficiently massive to supress any potential resistance. Once secured Emperor Claudius sets sail to join his army. An early Roman settlement is secured in the harbour at Richborough.
85 ~ With London became the provincial capital, it is Richborough that is recognised as the gateway to all of Britain. This status is symbolized by the building of a massive monumental arch on the orders of the Emporer Domitian, to be one of the largest the world has ever seen. It is also built to commemorate the conquest of Britain and defeat of the Caledonians in the Battle of Mons Graupius, near Inverness.
200's ~ The thriving settlement at Richborough is slowly falling into decline as the gateway to Britain begins to move to the port at Dover.
273 ~ The growing threat of Saxon raiders leads to the building of a massive new fortification at Richborough as well as a further eight forts along the shoreline to add to the nearby fort to Reculver, and a further two on the Norfolk coast. The urgent need to build huge new walls of stone leads to the total distruction of the massive arch for building materials.
286 ~ A naval command covering the northern coastline of Gaul and southern coast of Britain is given to a Roman officer named Carausius.
His task is to clear the seas of Frankish and Saxon raiders. Following an accusation that he deliberately allows these raiders to attack and plunder, only for him to intercept these ships so as to grab the booty for himself, he flees to Britain and declares himself emperor. He claims parts of Gaul and Britain for himself.
288 ~ Emporer Maximian leads his forces from Rome to attack Carausius but is unsuccessfull.
293 ~ Carausius vitally important port of Boulogne is captured and shortly afterwards he is assassinated by his finance minister, Allectus.
296 ~ The rebel Roman empire is finally brought to heel following a successful landing in the solent. Allectus is defeated and killed. The province of Britain is recovered for Rome.
360 ~ General Lupicinus lands his troops at Richborough to begin his campaign against the Picts, Scots, Saxons, Franks and Atacotti tribe, known later as the 'Great Barbarian Conspiracy'.
597 ~ St Augustine lands at Richborough to begin his mission to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. He makes for King Ethelbert's court at Canterbury where he is welcomed and eventually converts the King and his followers.