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Kent Archaeological Review extract

The Thames Estuary in Roman Times.
by W N Nichols.

Several years ago my interest was aroused by local talk to the effect that the Thames many years ago flowed nearer the Kent villages than today. As time permitted I did a considerable amount of research into this question and came to the following conclusions: In Roman times the Thames flowed in its present path as far as East Tilbury at which point it flowed about midway between Cliffe Creek and an ancient road running west to east. From there it flowed into a pool which widened to about 1 miles between Southend and Sheppey. This reduced to quite a narrow channel before entering the North Sea.

The distance between Cliffe Creek and the road is about half a mile. The possibility should be noted here that the Medway in Roman times flowed to the sea via the present Swale and the Connection with the Thames came later. This leaves us with the thought that the present bed of the Thames from short of East Tilbury to Southend or Shoeburyness was dry land. Evidence is fairly plentiful to substantiate this theory.

  1. The ancient chalk road or Causeway can still be traced today between Higham and Cooling.
  2. The land just north of Cliffe Creek was a large Roman cemetary found close to the present sea wall in 1908 at a depth of four feet (see {Arch. Cant. Vol. XXIX p.1 XXVI-IX).#Archaeologia Cantiana, volume twenty-nine, page 1 twenty-six to nine.}
  3. The well known huts on the foreshore at East Tilbury.
  4. Blyth sands and other places on the Essex side have produced many Roman relics (see Early sites and Embankments on the margins of the Thames Estuary, Arch. Journal XLVII by Spurrell).
  5. St Paul's accounts in the early centuries refer to our estates at Tilbury .. . "at the mouth of the Thames."
  6. Some indication of the size of the Thames before the flooding may be found in "Note of a Boat" found at Albert Dock, Woolwich by F C J Spurrell.
  7. Shoebury Camp, Essex again by Spurrell gives some indication of the tremendous effects of the flooding tides.
  8. All Roman remains are close to the ancient road which is on the OD line and was clear of the flooding and therefore not covered in silt from the tides.

It may be of interest here to mention the much discussed site of Cloveshogh In view of the fact that these councils were held before the flooding, it is most probable that the place was on the ancient road on the present marshes below the cliffs on the same line as the many remains. It should be remembered that the ancient name of Cliffe was Clyve amongst many other variations.

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