OTHONA

Saxon Shore Fort

Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex

NGRef: TM0308
OSMap: LR168
Type: Saxon Shore Fort
Roads
Possible Road: WSW (32) to DVROLITVM (Harold Wood, Romford, Greater London)

Mentioned Only in the Notitia Dignitatum

Praepositus numeri Fortensium, Othonae
"The commander of the Company of Brave Men at Othona"
(Notitia Dignitatum xxviii.13; 4th/5th C.)

The only classical geographical source which mentions the Roman fort at Bradwell-on-Sea is the Notitia Dignitatum of the 4th/5th centuries. In this document, the first garrison unit "at the disposal of the Right Honourable Count of the Saxon shore in Britain" is housed at a place named Othona, which has been identified with the Bradwell fort.

The meaning of the name Othona is unclear. The notion that the name is somehow associated with the emperor Otho, who ruled the Roman empire for three months and a day at the beginning of AD69, must be discounted as these 'Forts of the Saxon Shore' were not built until the end of the third century. Unfortunately, there are no inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Bradwell, to either substantiate or dispute the association of this fort with the Othona entry in the Notitia.

The Bradwell Fort

"Bradwell-juxta-Mare, at the mouth of the Blackwater, has lost its seaward wall; the west wall is 522 feet long, the north and south, both ending in the air, are respectively 290 and 150 feet. The area must have been larger than 4 acres, but one cannot say how much larger. The walls are 12 feet thick at the base and now stand at most about 4 feet high. They have triple bonding-courses of tiles. The corners are rounded, but the cylindrical bastions seem contemporary with them. There was a gate in the west side, and traces of a ditch are still visible." (Collingwood, p/49)

Other Roman Sites in the Region

There are traces of a Roman road leading south-west along the peninsula, possibly to a crossing of the River Crouch near the Roman potteries at Rettendon Hall in Essex (at NGRef. TQ7796). This road perhaps continued along the north bank of the Crouch, past further pottery kilns at Norsey Wood and Billericay in Essex (TQ6895 & TQ6795 respectively), to join up with the main Roman road between Chelmsford and Romford somewhere near Brentwood.

There is a Romano-British burial mound at Shelford (TQ9790) on Foulness Island about 11 miles to the south, with another pottery kiln nearby at Shoebury (TQ9485).

See: Historical Map and Guide - Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001);
The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930).

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