Britain was under Roman rule from approximately AD43, when successfully invaded by armies under the Emperor Claudius. They remained in Britain for around 400 years, before leaving in 410AD to defend other regions of the Roman Empire. Invaders from northern Europe, including the Saxons, fought battles for control of England and, by about 600AD, Anglo-Saxon rule was established. You can read more about Anglo-Saxon rule in England in the embedded PDF.
These invaders had been attacking the Romans for many years and in the third century, a series of Saxon Shore forts were commissioned by the Romans to act as defence against the invaders. Many of these forts can still be seen in Britain today and are detailed in the Notitia Dignitatum, one of the few surviving administrative documents from this time.
Fiyaz Mughal has a keen interest in the Roman history of Britain and enjoys taking trips to view historic Roman sites such as the Saxon Shore fortifications. You can find out more about Fiyaz Mughal by taking a look at the infographic attachment.
Norfolk: Burgh Castle
Burgh Castle in Norfolk was the station of the Stablesian cavalry and was built between the late third and early fourth centuries. The ruins of the fortifications at Burgh Castle, known as Gariannonum in the Notitia Dignitatum, are among the highest to survive in Britain, standing up to 4.6 metres tall.
Branodunum, also in Norfolk, is today only visible as earthworks. Built around 235 CE, this Roman fort served as a garrison for troops in defence of the shoreline harbour. Several of the walls of this fort did survive into the 17th century but were slowly eradicated through stone robbing over the years.
The Rutupiae fort in Kent was originally built by the Romans as a staging post in the first century. Between 277 and 285 CE, this staging post was enlarged and converted into one of the Saxonicum. The embedded short video looks at the definition of the word Saxonicum. The conversion was ordered due to the proximity of Rutupiae to the coast and the fortified site was occupied into the fifth century, after which it was re-used under Anglo-Saxon rule and throughout medieval times.
Regulbium is the second Saxon Shore fort to be found in Kent, close to an early fort constructed almost immediately after the initial Roman invasion of Britannia. Regulbium was constructed around the year 210 to defend against the Saxons and other invaders from Europe but was largely abandoned by the year 360. Visitors today will note that the style of the fortifications compares to those at Hadrian’s Wall in the north. Regulbium later served as a residence for the Saxon Kings of Kent, under the name Raculf, and King Ecgbert founded a monastery here in the year 699 CE.
Little remains today of the Saxon Shore fort of Othana in Essex, with most traces having long been washed away by the sea. The Notitia Dignitatum recounts the use of the fort to station ‘numerous of the brave’.
East Sussex: Pevensey Castle
The structure in East Sussex today known as Pevensey Castle was once a Saxon Shore fort named Anderitum, which was converted in medieval times into a castle. Anderitum was constructed in the late third century and is presumed to have been the base for the Classis Anderidaensis fleet.
There are several other remains of Saxon Shore forts in Britain, including what is now Portchester Castle in Portsmouth but was once Portus Adurni, or Portus Lemanis and Dubris which are both in Kent.