Type: Fort, Signal Station.
Plan of the Saxon Shore Fort at Reculver Adapted from The Cantiaci by Alec Detsicas (p.21, fig.5).
SSW (9) to DVROVERNVM CANTIACORVM (Canterbury, Kent)|
Possible tidal causeway: E (4) to TANATVS INSVLA (Isle of Thanet)
The name of the Roman station at Reculver is first mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum of the late-4th / early-5th centuries. In this document the name appears as Regulbio, between the entries for GARIANNVM (Burgh Castle, Norfolk) and RVTVPIAE (Richborough, Kent). The full ND Reculver entry is given below.
"Reculver Kent. Regulbium c.425, Roculf 1086 (DB). An ancient Celtic name meaning 'great headland'." (Mills)
The name appears as Raculfmynster in a document dated AD669, and as Raculfceaster in a Charter dated AD784, the text of which is reproduced below:
Ann.DCCLXXXIV. "Ego Ealmundus Rex Cantiæ do tibi, Wihtrede, honorabili Abbati, tuæque familiæ degenti in loco qui dicitur Raculfcester, terram 12 aratorum quæ dicitur Sildunk."
|I, Ealmund, king of the Cantiaci, grants to thee Wihtrede, most-honourable Abbot, and to your family inhabiting the place called Raculfcester, land for twelve ploughs that is named Sildunk.|
One of the original Claudian bridgehead constructs; a small defended area of about an acre was probably a signal station, or even a lighthouse, situated at the northern entrance to the Wansum Strait, and indicating the importance which the Roman military attached to this supply route. No precise dating evidence has been found, but coins of Tiberius and Nero in mint condition suggest that this initial military site was maintained until at least c.AD65.
"Reculver (Fig. 11a) was a square fort with walls 10 feet thick at the base, 8 feet thick above offsets ; the corners were rounded and no bastions are known, nor are there any bonding-courses. One gate is known, in the centre of the west wall. There is said to have been a ditch once visible. The internal area seems to have been about 7½ acres." (Collingwood, p.51)
Measuring about 10 feet (3m) wide at the base with two offsets tapering to about 8 feet (2.5m) wide at the top, and backed by an internal earth rampart, the fort walls would originally have been some 20 feet (6m) high. Two external ditches have been noted, the inner some 2.7m in depth and 7.9m wide, and the outer c.2m deep and 5m across.
|Tribunus cohortis primae Baetasiorum, Regulbio|
|"The tribune of the First Cohort of Baetasians at Regulbium."|
|(Notitia Dignitatum xxviii.18; 4th/5th C.)|
The only evidence we have which identifies the Roman garrison of Reculver is the above entry from a 4th/5th century document. The regiment is a cohors peditata quingenaria, a unit of foot soldiers nominally five-hundred strong, which were originally recruited from among the Baetasii of Lower Germany; this tribe inhabited the lowlands between the Maas and the Rhine, their capital city being Novaesium now Neuss in modern West Germany.
|AEDEM PRINCIPIORVM CVM BASILICA SVB A TRIARIO RVFINO COS ... FORTVNATVS .... DEDICAVIT|
|"The rooms of the principia along with the basilica,¹ under Aulus Triarius Rufinus,² consul(ar) [...] Fortunatus [...] he has dedicated."|
(JRS li (1961), p.191, no.1)
There are two references to Reculver in the Saxon Chronicle of the twelfth century, where it both times appears as Raculf:
"A.D. 669. This year king Egbert gave to Bass, a mass-priest, Raculf to build a minster upon."
"A.D. 690. This year archbishop Theodore, who had been bishop twenty-two winters, departed this life, and was buried within the city of Cantwanbyrig.¹ Bertwald, who before this was abbot of Raculfe, on the calends of July succeeded him in the see; which was ere this filled by Romish bishops, but henceforth with English. Then were there two kings in Kent, Wihtred and Webherd."