Sandwich, Deal, Walmer, Richborough
by Enza Ferreri
The town of Sandwich in Kent, one of the original Cinque Ports, with a long history like much of this region, has several original Tudor houses with oak timber framing that cantilevers out at the first floor. Sometimes additions have been built in later centuries, and only the original Tudor timberframes remain in the new houses constructed on or around them.
Sandwich is now almost 2 miles from the sea and no longer a harbour.
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Near Sandwich the small seaside resort of Deal, now quiet and peaceful, has not always been that way.
The village of Walmer, closely associated to Deal, has an important place in history: this is where, according to the best historical suppositions, Julius Caesar first landed in Britain with his soldiers. A plaque on the beach commemorates the event.
Not far from Walmer are the remains of the Richborough Roman Fort and Amphitheatre, considered by English Heritage possibly the most symbolically important Roman site in Britain, "witnessing both the beginning and almost the end of Roman rule here". Although it is now 2 miles from the sea because silted up, Richborough was in Roman times a major natural harbour providing a safe route from Europe to the Thames estuary.
It has long been known that the fort was the gateway to Roman Britain, but recent archaelogical excavations in 2008 found that there was here a Roman harbour.
Julius Caesar Plaque on Walmer Beach
The digs unearthed more: "Two metres beneath the Kent countryside, archaeologists have found the beginning of British history. Excavations at Richborough in east Kent have uncovered the original beach – now two and a half miles from the sea – where the Roman legions started their conquest of Britain almost 2,000 years ago. The site represents the moment Britain's prehistory ended and its history began."
Archaelogists believe that the Romans, during their third invasion of Britain in 43 A.D. ordered by Emperor Claudius, initially sailed to Richborough where they established a beachhead and a bridgehead port protecting 700 metres of coast, and then some of them sailed west to Chichester. For a century or more Richborough was the main port of Roman Britain, linking the British province to the rest of the Roman empire.
From Roman times onwards the town of Deal was an important defensive position: this is why Henry VIII chose it to build Deal Castle, his largest coastal fort, which remained fortified until 1815 with the end of the Napoleonic wars.
The nearby Walmer Castle was also built by Henry VIII.
Enza Ferreri is an Italian web author living in London, and former journalist.
Email: ehg89 at britaingallery dot com