A visit to Richborough Roman Fort.

A Roman bridgehead into Britain.

Recently Richborough Roman Fort has had a new addition, or rather a new version of something which stood there when the invasion of AD43 saw legionaries stepping foot on British soil. This was the reconstruction of a gateway of that period (you can read specifically about this here)

The gateway is very impressive and really adds something to the site. Naturally I took some appropriate headwear.


Why Richborough?

In AD43 Rome needed what any invasion would, a beach-head. Though today Richborough is inland the landscape of the 1st century AD was very different. As you can see in the below illustration the location Rome built its fort on was on the coast at the time.

The coastline at the time of the Roman invasion (top) versus today (bottom).

The fort therefore facilitated the deployment of troops with the gateway overlooking the causeway to the west and that route into Britain. The defences were built up over time with the initial trenches still there which date from the Claudian period (below).

In case you wondered what a view from atop the gateway looked like – here’s something I recorded an posted on my Youtube channel.

The growing site.

Once established the site had additional buildings such as baths but something else once stood there, a large triumph arch thought to have been dedicated to the emperor Domitian. The only remnant of it today is the stone platform it once stood in which is nothing compared to how it was thought to have looked. This was constructed using white Carra marble which was a luxury material. No expense had been spared. 

The arch in the centre of the fort with the gateway overseeing the connection inland.

Though there is little left of the site the ditches and earthworks provide a basic plan and the view from the gateway makes this much clearer. This is the view looking east, the treeline would have been close to the shoreline of the day. The arch stood on the raised area towards the back and centre of the photo, you might make out the cross foundation. The baths were located in the top left of the photo.

Museum and finds.

Though small the museum is full of some very interesting pieces. 

First up a boss from the centre of a Roman shield, as you’d expect there were a lot of military related finds here.

Next up a dice tower, this was a long box which you’d drop dice through and apparently would prevent cheating.


up close – the design is beautiful.

Glassware and pottery were found in quantities, the below cup is a ‘Hofheim’ cup often associated with the army. 

The below cup with a scaled decoration has been dated to AD50-120 and is apparently from Lyon in Gaul. In fact several finds have been linked to other locations in Europe. Rome was a sprawling empire after all!

I’d certainly recommend visiting – you can find more about the best way to get there on the English Heritage site. It’s not in a built up area, so pack a flask and perhaps go for a walk. There are some picnic tables dotted around which were much needed. Dogs are welcome on the site (as long as they are kept on a lead), the only place you can’t take them is into the museum.

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