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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Reculver Sea Defences.
by Brian Philp.

The effect and extent of coastal erosion at Reculver has been documented over a period of 400 years. Estimates suggest that about three-quarters of a mile of land has been lost since Roman times. What is certain is that the Roman "Saxon Shore' fort was still intact at about 1700 and that now only half remains.

In the 19th Century the effect of sea erosion was partly offset by the erection of concrete aprons and wooden groynes. By chance a 200-foot section of the Roman fort was never protected and has suffered considerable damage. The Great Flood of 1953 smashed away a large slice of the fort and severe storms since have removed more.

In 1964 the Reculver Group suggested to the Ministry of Works, as Guardian of the fort, that a protective wall be built to prevent further damage. Rescue-work by the group then followed on the cliff-edge and work on the sea wall began in 1968 This work was completed early in 1969. At the same time the old cottages east of the ruined church were demolished. These were erected early in the 19th century and for many years served as Coastguard cottages. Buttons from the jackets of the more corpulent coastguards have been found during recent excavations. The area previously occupied by the derelict gardens of these cottages is now available for excavation!

In February this year members of the Group undertook further rescue-work on the beach in conjunction with the sea-wall scheme using one of the very latest archaeological devices. Despite arctic conditions of heavy snow and force 9 gales two members, Andrew Norris and Howard Davies, insisted on sleeping on the site to keep vigil on the huts and cliff. During this work high-tides swept waves over the top of the new toe-wall and gave the new defences their first test. The life of such defences depends on many factors. The two most important being the rate of vertical beach-surface erosion and the ability to hold large quantities of shingle between close wooden groynes. It is to be hoped that the new sea defences at Reculver will survive to protect both the Roman fort and later church for centuries to come, though the battle against erosion can never be won.

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