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Excavations at the Roman Fort at Lympne, Kent 1976–78

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2011

Barry Cunliffe
Institute of Archaeology, Oxford.


The remains of the Roman fort, known as Stutfall Castle, hang, in picturesque isolation, on a sloping hillside of Wealden clay, dominated to the north by the castle and church of Lympne which occupy the edge of the ragstone plateau above: to the south lies the vast expanse of Romney marsh. In its present position the fort straddles the 100 ft. contour but as we will see (p. 234 ff.) the clay slope has slumped to such an extent in the past, moving the fort with it, that its present elevation and immediate environment bear little resemblance to its original situation.

Britannia , Volume 11 , November 1980 , pp. 227 - 288
Copyright © Barry Cunliffe 1980. Exclusive Licence to Publish: The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

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1 John Leland, ed. Hearne vol. vii, 132 (2nd ed. Oxford 1744).

2 William Stukeley, Itinerarium Curiosum 132.

3 Smith, C. R. in Collectanea Antigua ii (1852)Google Scholar. The Appendix, dated 30 Sept. 1850, gives an amusing insight into the fund-raising of the period.

4 The Antiquities of Richborough, Reculver and Lymne by Smith, C. Roach (London 1850)Google Scholar and Report on Excavations made on the Site of the Roman Castrum at Lymne, in Kent in 1850 by Smith, C. Roach (London 1852).Google Scholar To these should be added an account which appeared in the Illustrated London News (5 Oct. 1850), a summary in Thomas Wright's Wanderings of an Antiquary (1854), 122–36, and a letter by Wright published in The Times (9 Sept. 1850).

5 Horsley's work was never published apart from a brief note in The Athenaeum (22 Sept. 1894), 394, but his note books for the 1893 season were given by his daughter to the Ashmolean Museum Library, Oxford. They form the basis for the account by Miss M. V. Taylor subsequently published in JRS xxxiv (1944), 85.Google Scholar No records of the work undertaken in 1894 survive.

6 Wheeler, R. E. M., Lympne, in VCH. Kent iii, 55–9.Google Scholar

7 The excavation was carried out by Mike and Sue Rouillard, who were present during all three seasons, Judi Startin, Cynthia Poole, Mary Alden, Tim Ambrose, Tony Norton, Ian Brooks, Julian Rouse and Jonathan Riddell. Several other volunteers took part for shorter periods.

8 The sketch is preserved in the library of the Society of Antiquaries.

9 These results should be regarded as preliminary. A programme of core boring, aided by the Royal Engineers, has begun. Further work is anticipated.

10 B. Cunliffe, ‘The evolution of Romney Marsh: a preliminary statement’ in Archaeology and Coastal Change, Society of Antiquaries (1980), 37–53.

11 This map is based on the work of the Soil Survey of England published in Green, R. D., The Soils of Romney Marsh (Harpenden 1968).Google Scholar

12 R. Reece, ‘Summary of the Roman coins from Richborough’, in B. W. Cunliffe (ed.) Fifth report on the Excavations of the Roman Fort at Richborough, Kent (1968), 200–16.

13 R. Reece, ‘The Coins’, in B. Cunliffe, Excavations at Portchester Castle, Vol. I Roman (1975), 188–97.

14 R. Reece, ‘Coins and frontiers – or supply and demand’, in J. Fitz (ed.) Limes: Akten des XI Internationalen Limeskongresses (1978), 643–5.

15 See Toynbee, J. M. C., Art in Roman Britain (London 1962), 133Google Scholar and Richter, G. M. A., The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, fourth ed. (New Haven 1970), 37, 230 ff., fig. 77.Google Scholar

16 J. P. Bushe-Fox, Second Report on the Excavations of the Roman Fort at Richborough, Kent. Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London vii (1928), pl. xxiv, 74.

17 Hawkes, Sonia, Britannia v (1974), 386–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar, fig. 3, 8.

18 Clarke, Giles, Antiq. Journ. i (1970), 292–8, figs. 4–6Google Scholar.

19 It is remarkable how few were buried in the numerous late-Roman graves at Krefeld-Gellep in the Rhine-land, for example. Renate Plrling, Das römisch-frankische Grüberfeld von Krefeld-Gellep i, ii. Germanische Denkmaler der Völkerwanderungszeit B, 2 (1966), 8 (1974).

20 The majority of this material is now conveniently published together in H. W. Böhme, Germanische Grabfunde des 4, bis 5. Jahrhunderts zwischen unterer Elbe und Loire, Münchner Beiträge zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte xix (1974).

21 Böhme, op. cit. (note 20), pls. xli, 7, xliv, 8, li, 13.

22 As note 16.

23 Mertens, J. and Impe, L. van, ‘Het Laat-Romeins Grafveld van Oudenburg’, Arch. Belgica cxxxv (1971), 60 f., pl. v, 4.Google Scholar

24 Keller, E., ‘Die spätrömischen Grabfunde in Südbayern’, Münchner Beitröge zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte xiv (1971), 26 ff.Google Scholar

25 Jope, E. M., Antiq. Journ. xxvi (1946), 70 ff., pl. xi, a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

26 They have been listed and discussed recently by Böhme, op. cit. (note 20), 129 f., with map fig. 49.

27 Mertens and van Impe, op. cit. (note 23), 196 f., pls. liii and xci, 2a-b; Böhme, op. cit. (note 20), pl. xcvii, 5.

28 Rigollot, , Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Plcardie x (1850), 216 ff.Google Scholar, pls. x and xi; Werner, J., Bonner Jahrbücher clviii (1958), 405 ff.Google Scholar, pls. lxxxii and lxxxiii; V. Evison, The Fifth-Century Invasions South of the Thames (1965), 102, figs. 2–3 and frontisplece; Böhme, op. cit. (note 20), 323, pl. cxxviii.

29 Lindenschmit, L., Die Alterthümer unserer heidnischen Vorzeit v (1911), 123 ff.Google Scholar, pl. xxiii; G. Behrens, Das frühchristliche und merovingische Mainz (1950), 17 ff., fig. 34; Jope, op. cit. (note 25), pl. xi, b; Werner, op. cit. (note 28), 394 f., fig. 19.

30 Fleury, E., Monuments et Antiquités de Département de L'Aisne ii (1877), 250 ff.Google Scholar, fig. 320; Evison, op. cit. (note 28), 114, fig. 27; Böhme, op. cit. (note 20), 320, pl. cxxvi, 13.

31 Breuer, J. and Roosens, H., ‘Le cimetiere franc de Haillot’, Arch. Belgica xxxiv (1957), 343 ff.Google Scholar, fig. 34, 10; Werner, op. cit. (note 28), pl. lxxii, 10; Böhme, op. cit. (note 20), 305, pl. ex, 17.

32 Bushe-Fox, J. P., Fourth Report on the Excavations of the Roman Fort at Richborough, Kent. Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London xvi (1949), pl. i, 1Google Scholar; Werner, op. cit. (note 28), 374, fig. 1; Sonia Chadwick Hawkes and G. C. Dunning, 43–44 Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission (1962–63), fig. 7, 2.

33 See note 28.

34 Plrling, Renate, Kölner Jahrbuch für Vor- und Frühgeschichte ix (19671968), 40Google Scholar, fig. 8, 16b; op. cit. 1974 (note 19), 92, pl. lix, 7a, b.

35 See note 21.

36 Hawkes, Sonia Chadwick and Dunning, G. C., Medieval Archaeology v (1961), pls. i and iiiGoogle Scholar; op. cit. 1962–3 (note 32), pls. lviii and lxix; Mertens and van Impe, op. cit. (note 23), pl. lxxxviii, 3; Evison, op. cit. (note 28), figs. 1, a; 2, 2–3; 3, 8; 26, c; frontisplece and plate ix, c; Böhme, op. cit. (note 20), pls. xl, 1–4; c, 1–4, 6; cxxii, 4; cxxviii, 1–2; cxxxv, la; cxli, 11.

37 Hawkes and Dunning, op. cit. (1961), note 36, 23 ff., fig. 15, n, o; op. cit. 1962–3 (note 32), 181 ff., fig. 16, 14–15; Hawkes, Sonia Chadwick, Trans. Birmingham and Warwickshire Arch. Soc. lxxv (1972), 145 ff.Google Scholar, figs. 1, 4; 3, 1; pl. xxii; op. cit. 1974 (note 17), 386 f.

38 Stevens, C. E., Arch. Journ. xcvii (1940), 137Google Scholar; Hawkes and Dunning, op. cit. (1961), note 36, 20; op. cit. (1962–3), note 32, 179.

39 Saville, A., ‘Two Mesolithic Implement Types’, Northamptonshire Arch, xii (1977), 38.Google Scholar

40 Palmer, S., ‘The Stone Age industries of the Isle of Portland’, Proc. Prehist. Soc. xxxvi (1970), 82116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

41 This report is based on notes and identifications provided by Gerald Brodribb. The types referred to are described in detail in Brodribb, G., ‘Stamped Tiles of the Classis Britannica’, Sussex Arch. Colls, cvii (1969), 102–25Google Scholar, and an updated survey is forthcoming in Sussex Arch. Colls, cxvi (1978).Google Scholar

42 cf. Gose, E., Gefässtypen der Römischen Keramik im Rheinland, Beiheft Bonner Jahrb. no. I (Kevelaer 1950), tafn. 1920.Google Scholar

43 Fulford, M. and Bird, J., ‘Imported Pottery from Germany in Late Roman Britain’, Britannia vi (1975), 171–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

44 See Fulford, M., New Forest Roman Pottery (Oxford 1975)Google Scholar, for full descriptions of fabrics and forms.

45 See Young, C. J., The Roman Pottery Industry of the Oxfordshire Region (Oxford 1978)Google Scholar, for full descriptions of fabrics and forms.

46 See Fulford, M. G., ‘A fourth-century colour-coated fabric and its types in South-East England’, Sussex Arch. Colls, cxi (1973), 41–5Google Scholar, and C. M. Green, ‘The Roman Pottery’ in Bell, M., ‘Excavations at Bishopstone’, Sussex Arch. Colls, cxv (1977), partic. 158–9, 177–8Google Scholar, for discussion of fabric, forms and dating.

47 Fulford, op. cit. (note 5), fig. 1, 12.

48 C. M. Green, op. cit. (note 5), 157.

49 See Williams, D. F., ‘The Romano-British Black-Burnished Industry: an Essay on Characterization by Heavy Mineral Analysis’, in Peacock, D. P. S., Pottery and Early Commerce (London 1977), 163220Google Scholar, for description of fabric.

50 Gillam, J. P., Types of Roman Coarse Pottery Vessels in Northern Britain (Newcastle 1968).Google Scholar

51 Perkins, J. B. Ward, ‘Excavations on Oldbury Hill, Ightham, 1938’, Arch. Cantiana li (1939), 176–80.Google Scholar

52 cf. M. G. Fulford, ‘The Pottery’, in B. W. Cunliffe, Excavations at Portchester Castle: I: Roman (1975); C. M. Green, op. cit. (note 5).

53 C. M. Green, op. cit. (note 5), 177–8.

54 Fulford, op. cit. (note 11), fig. 141.

55 C. M. Green, op. cit. (note 5), 175, Table VIII.

56 Cleere, H. F., ‘The Roman Iron Industry of the Weald and its connection with the Classis Britannica’, Arch. Journ. cxxxi (1975), 171–99.Google Scholar

57 The dating of Aufidius Pantera depends upon the identification of the Prefect on the Lympne altar with L. Aufidius Panthera who led an ala of lancers on the Danube frontier in A.D. 133 (Pflaum, , Les Carriéres procuratorietmes equestres sous le Haul Empire romain (Paris 1960), no. 133)Google Scholar. If the identification is accepted he is likely to have arrived in Britain soon after his Danube command. The dating of the stamped CL BR tiles has recently been discussed by Peacock, D. P. S., ‘Bricks of the Classis BritannicaBritannia viii (1977), 235–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 244–5.

58 So far only interim accounts of which the most extensive is Philp, B., ‘The Discovery of the “Classis Britannica” and “Saxon Shore” forts at Dover’ in Kent Arch. Rev. xxiii (1971), 7486.Google Scholar

59 Discussed in detail in Johnson, S., The Roman Forts of the Saxon Shore (London 1976), 38.Google Scholar

60 See the discussion above p. 262 for the coins and p. 281 for pottery. For dating problems in general see Cunliffe, B. W., ‘The Saxon Shore – some problems and misconceptions’ in (ed.) Johnston, D. E., The Saxon Shore (London 1977), 16.Google Scholar

61 A substantial Roman site has been discovered by field-walking on the hill top 1 km NE of the fort (TR 126352). Among the material collected is a quantity of samian ware, Castor ware and late-Roman coarse wares together with more than one hundred coins mostly of the late third and fourth centuries. Unlike the list from the fort the collection contains a high percentage post-dating 350.

62 The late Saxon material from Sandtun, now in the British Museum, has never been published in detail. A sketch of the metal objects including fish hooks, the shoe of a spade and a spoke-shave was illustrated by David Wilson in The Anglo Saxons (London 1960), 82.Google Scholar

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