Saxon Shore Forts: Brancaster


Brancaster (Google Earth, 2010)

The Roman fort at Brancaster lies to the east of the village of the name on the north Norfolk coast. Numismatic evidence suggests that the fort was occupied in the 3rd century.

Bury St Edmunds Abbey

Bury St Edmunds Abbey

The abbey at Bury St Edmunds can be traced back to the early 7th century. The remains of the martyred St Edmund were buried here in 903. The Abbey survived until 1539 when it was handed to the Crown. English Heritage are now custodians of the site.

This guidebook, published in 1971 (and reprinted here in 1976) was prepared by A. B. Whittingham for the Department of the Environment. This was based on Whittingham’s 1951 article published in the Archaeological Journal. [For details see here.]

The guide (331 pp.) contains:

a. History

b. Description

c. Glossary

There are two plans inside the back cover: the Abbey Church (and crypt), and the Abbey precinct. There are also back and white photographs as well as reproductions of 18th century views of the ruins.

Landguard Barracks

Landguard_3967During our tour of Landguard Fort we were allowed to have access to the upper levels. These provided amazing views across the barracks (officers above, men below) towards the Port of Felixstowe container port. The channel for ships entering (or leaving) Harwich brings vessels close to the walls (and guns) of Landguard (note the position of the Stena Line ferry). The large arches on the left of the picture are the gun casemates, positioned to dominate the harbour mouth.

Landguard Heritage


Simon Thurley at Landguard Fort © David Gill

Professor David Gill, Director of Heritage Futures, joined Simon Thurley of English Heritage, the staff of Landguard Fort and the Landguard Partnership for a tour of the fort and the Felixstowe Museum. There are wonderful views over the estuary to Harwich and the adjacent Felixstowe container port, and up the coast to the now lost location of the Roman Saxon Shore Fort (Walton Castle).

Saxon Shore Forts in Norfolk


Three Roman forts associated with the Saxon Shore defences are located in Norfolk (and one of them used to be located in Suffolk before the county boundary changed!). David Gurney has written a helpful illustrated booklet on the forts for the Norfolk Archaeological Trust: Outposts of the Roman Empire: a guide to Norfolk’s Roman forts at Burgh Castle, Caister-on-Sea and Brancaster (2002). There is an introductory section that includes a map of Roman Norfolk, and another showing the estuary of the Bure, Yare and Waveney in the Roman period.

The book contains information about how to visit the three sites, and where to see the finds. There is also a short bibliography.

Burgh Castle: the leaning walls

Burgh Castle
The Roman fort at Burgh Castle © David Gill

Concern was raised earlier this month that the excessive rainfall over the winter months had destabilised the impressive Roman walls at Burgh Castle (press report). It now appears that the walls are stable although some sections appear to be leaning in a quite dramatic way.

Burgh Castle is one of a series of major Roman forts of the “Saxon Shore” that can be found from Brancaster in north Norfolk to Portchester in Hampshire. The fort at Walton Castle near Felixstowe has now disappeared into the sea.

Welwyn Roman Bath-house


The Welwyn Roman bath-house is preserved under a special vault under the A1(M) in Hertfordshire. Details about visiting times can be found here (along with pdf guides in English, French and German). Tony Rook produced a small folded card guide (for 10p) on behalf of the Welwyn Archaeological Society (1975). A notice about the “Dicket Mead” excavation (as it was known in 1972), conducted by the Lockleys Archaeological Trust, appeared in the reprint of J.B. Ward Parkins, ‘The Roman villa at Lockleys, Welwyn’, The Antiquaries Journal 18, 4 (October, 1938) 339-76 (my copy has a pencil price of 50 p). The reprint contains a short introduction by Rook. Lockleys is close to the bath-house.


Guides to Corbridge


Interpretation of sites is crucial. Guide books were produced to help visitors understand the sites. The ‘green’ guide to ‘Corbridge Roman Station (Corstopitum) Northumberland’ was prepared by Eric Birley in 1935 and the copy shown is the 3rd edition (1954; Fourth impression, 1958; 1 shilling) (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office / Ministry of Works: Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings). The guide has the following information:

I. The Site

II. The History of the Site

III. Description of the Remains

IV. The Museum

There are black and white plates, and a folding plan inside the back cover.


My 10th impression (1970) of the 3rd edition (1954) has the more traditional ‘blue’ cover (Ministry of Public Building and Works, Official Guidebook; 2 shillings and 6 d [helpfully with the new decimal currency, 12.5 p]. This follows the structure of the ‘green’ guide but with black and white images in the text at appropriate points. In the spirit of decimalisation there is a ‘Conversion Table’ at the end converting feet and inches into metres.


J.N. Dore’s ‘Corbridge Roman Site’ was published by English Heritage in 1989 (HMSO). Note the change from ‘Roman Station’ (£1). This has a fuller structure with the main themes:

a. Tour

b. History

c. The Museum

There are plans, reconstructions, and black and white images in text.


The Dore guide was revised in 2012 (with an image of the ‘Corbridge Lanx’) with a colour cover.

Heritage Feasting at Tretower

The Great Hall at Tretower Court

CADW has fitted out the mid-15th century Great Hall at Tretower. It aims to give a sense of how the space would have been used. The feel is certainly different to the former open space where one could appreciate the building.

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