This article appeared in the Autumn 1978 (Issue #53) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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Storm Damage at Reculver.
On the night of Wednesday 11th January, 1978 near-hurricane force winds from the north caused severe damage along the North Kent coast. The winds pushed the tide high above its normal level and heavy seas smashed into the Roman fort at Reculver; exactly as it did 25 years ago during the Great Storm of 1953.
A section of cliff, more than 100 feet in length, was swept away close to the east wall of the Roman fort just above the new protective toe-wall. Happily, this is exactly the section that was dressed back and excavated by the Group in 1957 and again in 1967 and thus the damage was minimal.
Another large section of cliff was swept away close to the nearby Saxon church, but here too the damage was minimal. However, had the next section of cliff gone as well then there is every chance that the great north tower of the church would have fallen into the sea. Immediate repairs are essential.
The story of this famous Kent site has long been that of a battle with the sea. The Roman fort was in fact built about half a mile inland around AD 200-25, but so rapid was sea erosion that its north defensive wall was swept away around 1700. Even the famous Anglo-Saxon church, built in safety in AD 669 in the centre of the fort, was only 5m. from the cliff edge in 1805. As a result the church was then demolished by the parishioners and rebuilt inland. Shortly after this the first attempts were made to build stone aprons and walls and these have largely kept the sea at bay, so that by 1978 the distance is now 2 metres The area well to the west of the fort continues to be swept away and the result is that the church now stands out on a headland. The January storm was just another chapter in the story of the battle against the sea which one day must be lost.