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Kent Archaeological Review extract

by Vincent Rendel.

Excavations at the Lydd Basilica. E D C Jackson and Sir E Fletcher,
Journal of British Archaeological Association,
3rd Series XXXI (1968) 1926.

Soils of Romney Marsh. R D Green,
Soil Survey of Great Britain,
Bulletin Number 4(1968) 158 pages.

Jackson and Fletcher's paper is of far more than specialist interest. The authors come finally down on the view that the tiny basilican church, of which they have found evidence at ALL SAINTS, LYDD, is "a Romano-British survival." A valuable two-page discussion of the early history of the ROMNEY MARSH leads to the conclusion :

"It is therefore possible that a small and self-supporting community with its fishing, plough-land and grazing land at LYDD-accessible to ROMNEY across the estuary of the ROTHER and remote from areas of JUTISH settlement-maintained an independent life into the seventh century and continued to use a basilican church built in Roman or sub-Roman times."

Fletcher and Jackson have come a long way from their 1958 opinion (ARCH. J. 3rd Series XXII (1958) 41-52) that LYDD was "a remote outlandish spot" in Roman days thanks largely to the influence of R D Green. But do they yet fully grasp the significance of the place in early times? They refer to the ecclesiastical connections between ROMNEY and LYMINGE, but not to those between LYMINGE and LYMPNE nor to the existence of the PORTUS LEMANAE or its fort -- nor to BRADWELL (OTHONA) with its interesting similarities. Whatever view one takes of "JUTES" (whom the authors fancy) or of "FRANKS" (whom they do not) or of the Roman withdrawal or "the ANGLO-SAXON invasions," it may be thought that the presence in the fourth century at LYMPNE (less than ten miles away) of the TURNACENSES and later presumably of their descendants, legitimate or illegitimate, deserves to be mentioned. But the facts are of major importance and are admirably stated.

Green's bulletin (with its splendid soil map) is indispensable for any ROMNEY MARSH research. Regrettably it is strictly limited in terms of space -- by the ROYAL MILITARY CANAL on the one side and high water mark on the other. GREEN is not addressing himself primarily to archaeologists, but he has spent much time and trouble in examining what has been written about the MARSH and provides much expert information for future students. To summarise his conclusions in a short review is impossible. Much hard work in many disciplines still needs to be done. Above all a new and authoritative look at the changes in shore levels is essential. GREEN is perhaps unduly respectful towards the views of some geologists whose conclusions (e.g. about DUNGENESS) have been founded partly on archaeological opinion, which they were not themselves qualified to evaluate.

As so often before, GORDON WARD or his ghost, always dangerous to ignore but always dangerous to follow closely, continues to haunt triumphantly the misty history of the MARSH.

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