The Saxon Shore: Reculver


Reculver, Late Roman walls © David Gill

One of the Late Roman Saxon Shore forts in Kent was located at Reculver. Although the northern parts of the fort have eroded into the sea, the line of the walls can be traced on the landward side, especially to the east.

Pevensey Castle: signage


Pevensey Castle © David Gill

Pevensey Castle was given to the Office of Works by the Duke of Devonshire in 1925. It became one of the front line defences of Britain in 1940.

Pevensey Castle was one of the Saxon Shore forts and was later reused as a medieval castle.

For guidebooks to the fort and castle see here.

Sir Charles Peers and Pevensey Castle


1952 (rev. with additions 1963)

Sir Charles Peers prepared the guidebooks for two of the Saxon Shore forts that had been reused  as medieval castles: Portchester Castle in Hampshire and Pevensey Castle in Sussex.

The guide is divided into two main sections: history and description. There is a foldout plan inside the back cover. Peers describes the nature of the Saxon Shore forts and some of their reuse. He continues with the granting of the site to the half-brother of William the Conqueror.

Peers notes the use of the fort during the Second World War including the insertion of pill-boxes and a blockhouse to protect against tanks: ‘By the grace of God these twentieth-century defences were never put to the test’.

Richborough Guides



The Department of the Environment (DOE) enhanced the former ‘paper’ guides issued by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (e.g. Lullingstone Roman Villa; Tretower)  by adding a ‘blue’ masthead. These were published alongside the fuller blue guidebooks (e.g. Stonehenge and Avebury; Bury St Edmunds Abbey). An example of this is provided by the 1978 (2nd ed.; reset 1983) guide to Richborough Castle by J. P. Bushe-Fox (Edinburgh: HMSO; price, 20p). This consists of 8 pages with a short history of the site and then a longer description. There is a single plan showing the different phases of the site. It is worth noting that the site was known as “Richborough Castle” whereas English Heritage now calls it “Richborough Roman Fort and Amphitheatre“. This DOE guide had its origins in the 1933 Office of Works guide to Richborough Castle (reprinted 1936) at 33 pages.


The DOE guide was published alongside two separate guides for “The Saxon Shore” that placed Richborough alongside the other forts under state guardianship: Portchester, Pevensey, Dover Castle (with the Roman lighthouse), Reculver, and Burgh Castle.



The present English Heritage guide by Tony Wilmott covers both Richborough and the nearby fort of Reculver. This has 48 pages along with fold out plan of Richborough and site guides for Richborough and Reculver.

Heritage Fortnight in Ipswich

Back on Track

Back on Track Heritage Lecture © Caroline Gill

UCS contributed two lectures to the Ipswich Heritage Fortnight: one on the Saxon Shore by Professor David Gill, and the other on Back on Track by Dr Geraint Coles. They were opportunities to present to a wider public the two projects that we would like to develop through Heritage Futures: the first linked to the benefits of heritage tourism, and the second to economic regeneration. We were impressed by the large audiences for both the lecture (as well as the Sutton Hoo conference where there was a waiting list). We are hoping to hold follow-up workshops to both lectures.

Saxon Shore: Heritage Lecture

Professor David Gill at 2014 UCS Heritage Lecture © Caroline Gill

Professor David Gill at 2014 UCS Heritage Lecture
© Caroline Gill

I was greatly encouraged by the packed lecture theatre for the first of two UCS Heritage Lectures for the 2014 Ipswich Heritage Fortnight. We explored the development of the ‘Saxon Shore’ fort system and members of the audience shared their knowledge of what was visible of Walton Castle (near Felixstowe) at very low tides. We also considered how a number of the ‘Saxon Shore’ forts (Burgh Castle, Caister-on-Sea, Bradwell, Reculver, Richborough and possibly Walton Castle) were reused in the 7th century as monastic sites.

The lecture concluded with a suggestion that a Late Roman / Anglo-Saxon trail could be developed from Brancaster to the Blackwater, taking in a number of key sites including North Elmham, Bury St Edmunds, West Stow, Burgh Castle, Sutton Hoo, and Iken.