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Kent Archaeological Review extract


In Newsletter 1 Mr John Evans wrote about Early Kentish Place Names, including Reculver. For the benefit of new readers, let us look at this item again.

Reculver. Regulbium, Regulbi, ND. Racuulfe, Bede. Raculf, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 669. Raculfcestre, 784, BCS, 173. Ricuulfi, 765, BCS, 199. Roculf, Domesday. Raculvre, 1276. Meaning: British ro, great, and British gulbio, beak; hence Rogulbium, great headland or the promontory (Jackson). All experts agree.

It will be seen that the accepted derivation is from two British elements which join to form Rogulbium. On the other hand, the only evidence for the Roman form of the name is spelt Reg -- in the Notitia Dignitatum. Only four versions of this exist, in the form of 15th and 16th century copies of a lost 10th-11th century copy of a lost 5th century Roman Army List! The medieval version might have contained an error in this name -- it is not impossible that the original document was spelt incorrectly. The Notitia in at least one of its four versions names the garrison of Reculver "vetasiorum", whereas every Reculver Excavation Group member knows that the garrison spelt its name with a "b" as in CIB (Cohors I Betasiorum), so spelling was not the scribe's strong point.

Perhaps then, the derivation quoted by Mr Evans may have been the true spelling of the name of the fort at Reculver. In any case, the later spellings he gives do not disprove it, for, as he points out in reference to the name of Richborough, the vowel in the first syllable is equally uncertain. This is probably because in each case, the first syllable is unstressed, and we still tend to say 'r' KOL-va".

Having said this, let us now take a look at the (re-used) inscription fragment found about 80 years ago at Ford, near Reculver, and, now in Herne Bay Museum (Arch. Cant. lxxix, page 206). The first line is clearly -GOBAN-, the third is -ANTIS-; the second line reads -O (or D) G VL P (or B)-. Both ends of this line consist of damaged letters.

Can this second line be part of the word ROGVLBIUM?

GOBAN has been suggested to be part of the place name Gobannium, or an otherwise unrecorded personal name Gobannia or Gobannius, connected with the place, which is now Abergavenny. G VLP has been thought of as part of the name of one Gaius Ulpius and ANTIS, as part of Amantissimus coniux "most loving spouse". But none of these suggestions is certain or final; the stone might as well be an altar as a tombstone, or even a dedication.

If it does contain the name of the fort, however, it is worth fresh consideration.

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