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Monument details

HER Number:TR 13 SW 5
Type of record:Monument
Name:'Stutfall Castle', Lympne, actually Roman fort of Portus Lemanis

Summary

A Roman fort of the Saxon Shore. The assumed coastline during Roman times would have allowed the fort at Lympne to protect the entrance of a substantial natural harbour in an area now part of Romney Marsh. It is suggested that the surviving remains belong to a fort of the Saxon Shore and belonging to the period c.AD 270. The fort is sometimes known as Stutfall Castle. The remains were investigated by Charles Roach Smith and more recently by Barry Cunliffe. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that there was earlier occupation with military connotations. This fits well with a mention in the Antonine Itinerary (early 3rd century) of Portus Lemanis. The present fort appears to have been abandoned c.350 on the basis of coin and pottery evidence. There is, however, a reference in the Notitia Dignitatum c.395 to a garrison of the numerus Turnacensium but this is not thought to be realistic and is possibly an error.

Images

Stutfall Castle Roman Fort, Lympne   © Kent County Council
Grid Reference:TR 117 342
Map Sheet:TR13SW
Parish:HYTHE, SHEPWAY, KENT
LYMPNE, SHEPWAY, KENT

Monument Types

  • FORT (Roman - 270 AD? to 409 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ALTAR (Roman - 133 AD? to 140 AD?)
Protected Status:Scheduled Monument 1005179: Stutfall Castle

Full description

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(TR 117342) Stutfall Castle. LEMANIS (NR) ROMAN FORT (NR) (Remains of) (1) Lemanis. (2) Stutfall Castle excavated by C. Roach Smith in 1850 (a) and Sir Victor Horsley in 1894. (b) (See plan AO/62/141/5). An irregular shaped fort with east, north and west walls surviving. (3-6) The Saxon Shore fort at Lympne is probably dated to the last quarter of the 3rd century. (7) Stutfall Castle is scheduled as an ancient monument. (8) The remains of this Saxon Shore fort are very fragmentary. Owing to numerous springs in the clay soil on which it was built, landslips have occurred and large portions of the walling have either fallen down or been thrown out of their original positions, the south wall having disappeared entirely. The remaining walling, constructed of typical Roman masonry with tile bonding courses varies between 3.7m and 4.5m in thickness and stands in places to a height of about 5.0m. Three bastions survive at the north, north-west and south-east corners whilst the sites of two more can be identified in the middle and at the south end of the south west side. There is now no trace of gateways or posterns. Published earthworks (25") revised. (9) Excavations by Roach Smith located a second century altar, covered with salt water barnacles, reused in a gate platform. The altar had been dedicated by L. Aufidius Pantera, Commander of the British fleet c. AD 133 or soon after (see illustration). This and tiles of the Classis Britannica suggest a naval base nearly a century before the construction of the fort. Excavations by Barry Cunliffe between 1976 and 1978 at Lympne failed to reveal an underlying Classis Britannica base but further reused masonry and an uninscribed altar and more tiles stamped by the Classis Britannica were found. It seems likely that the Classis Britannica base did not lie beneath the later Saxon-Shore fort, but the ruins were fairly close when Stutfall Castle was built. It is quite likely that the base has already disappeared because of the erosion along the coast. The excavation allowed tentative reconstructions of the east gate, which appears to have been of at least two storeys, and the fort plan (see illustrations). It is thought that the fort was built in the late third century and abandoned c 350 AD. (10-15) LEMANIS, PORTUS LEMANIS - the Roman fort at Stutfall Castle, Lympne Kent. (16) TR 117342. Most of the circuit of the walls, of irregular polygonal plan, can be traced, but the greater part is fallen and large chunks of the walls and towers lie about. It is built of flint with the bonding courses and had semi-curcular bastions. Substantial portions of the perimeter walls run along the NE and W boundaries. In places these have collapsed en bloc. Practically all the dressed stone has been robbed exposing stonework. Some dressed stone however survives on west side. (17) The Roman fort of Lemanis, hanging on a clay slope below the village of Lympne, is one of the few ruins still to retain a Victorian flavour. Springs, cutting into the clay have caused serious subsidence and and slipping of the Roman walls, giving a confusing impression, but originally the walls enclosed a semi-rectangular fort 10-11 acres in extent. They were 12-14 ft thick and 20ft high. Externally a number of semicircular bastions projected from the wall. The main gate lay in the centre of the east wall; not much can be seen, but Victorian excavations showed it to be a simple opening flanked by two bastions. Two masonry buildings have been excavated inside, the principia, and a small bath suite. The fort was probably built in the 280s under Carausius, but judging from quantities of earlier material there must have been a naval base here in the C2. Coin evidence suggests abandonment about 370, possibly because of the land-slipping. (18) In 1943, Mrs E S G Robinson presented to the Haverfield Library Sir Victor Horsley's field notes of the 1893 excavation in the east part of the south ramparts, plus a report of what was found in four of the seven trenches dug. The scale plan, photographs, pottery, coins and metal objects were all missing and there was no account of work in 1894. (19) Studfall Castle was visited by members of the Royal Archaeological Institute on 29th July 1896. Stutfall Castle seems to have occupied a broad point of land forming the north shore of a strait separated by a wide tract of marsh and sandbank from the mainland. This sea channel gradually disappeared to become part of Romney Marsh, but excavation has demonstrated that the shoreline was originally 1.8m below the present level of the marsh. The siting of the fort and its Classis Britannica predecessor, with the command of this narrow estuary, made good strategic sense enabling it to control all shipping entering the harbour, and to oversee the transport of the iron mined and extracted in the Weald. Air photographs in 1945-1952 showed the threat to the site with the wealden clays slipping downhill. This resulted in buildings being displaced, and the fort-wall shifting. This has led to a suggestion that perhaps the fort was originally rectangular and it is the land movement that has caused its irregular shape. However, B. Philp believes that with the available evidence, Roach Smith's reconstruction of a pentagonal plan to the fort is the best suggestion. He believes that the movement may have not been as much as suggested, and the majority of shore-forts built at the end of the C3rd, were in fact trapezoidal. At Lympne where the steep slope of the hill was a major consideration, a pentagonal plan is probably the most likely possibility. (20-24) A date in the reign of Carausius is strongly suggested by the coin series for Lympne. (25) Lympne. The name applies to other locations with an ecclesiastical settlement being no more than an open possibility. The borough and port of Limen may well have been situated within the shore fort, and it has been suggested that a church may have likewise. (26) Additional bibliography. (27-43, 48-51) Photographs on the OS cards? (52-56).

In 2015 a geophysical survey was carried out by the University of Kent. The site has suffered major land slippage however the results of the survey indicate that the survival of below ground archaeological remains is still strong. The relocation of the bathhouse identified in the archaeological investigations by Charles Roach Smith carried out in 1850. The survival of roads appears to be apparent within the fort walls however no evidence for continuations of these roads is evident outside of the East and West Gates. (57)

From the National Heritage List for England:

Details
The monument includes a Roman fort of the Saxon Shore series, now called Stutfall Castle, surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It is situated towards the foot of a steep escarpment at the north-east edge of Romney Marsh, a short distance south of Lympne. The fort walls survive in a fragmentary form due to landslips, but it appears to have originally been of irregular pentagonal plan. The upstanding remains of the walls are about 3.5m thick on the west, north and east side of the fort. In the mid 20th century they were recorded as being up to approximately 5m high. The fort is built of flint with tile bonding courses and has semi-circular bastions around the perimeter. Partial excavations have demonstrated that the main gate is in the east wall of the fort and is flanked by a pair of semi-circular towers. There is at least one postern gate defended by a flanking tower. The Saxon Shore fort was built in about the late third century AD, during the reign of Carausius, and abandoned in about AD 350. The conjectured coastline during the Roman period would have allowed the fort to protect the entrance of a substantial natural harbour in an area which is now part of Romney Marsh. The site was partially excavated in 1850, 1893-4, 1976-80 and 1982. A bath house was uncovered in the south-west corner of the fort and a range of buildings were recorded, including the principia, within the northern part of the interior. A second century AD altar dedicated by Lucius Aufidius Pantera, Commander of the British fleet, and covered with salt water barnacles was found reused in a gate platform. Other finds included reused masonry and tiles of the Classis Britannica, suggesting that a Roman naval base existed near by. A site in this vicinity known as Portus Lemanis is mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary. The monument excludes all modern fences and fence posts, gates and gate posts but the ground beneath is included.

Reasons for Designation
Saxon Shore forts were heavily defended later Roman military installations located exclusively in south-east England. They were all constructed during the third century AD, probably between c.AD 225 and AD 285. They were built to provide protection against the sea-borne Saxon raiders who began to threaten the coast towards the end of the second century AD, and all Saxon Shore forts are situated on or very close to river estuaries or on the coast, between the Wash and the Isle of Wight. Saxon Shore forts are also found on the coasts of France and Belgium. The most distinctive feature of Saxon Shore forts are their defences which comprised massive stone walls, normally backed by an inner earth mound, and wholly or partially surrounded by one or two ditches. Wall walks and parapets originally crowned all walls, and the straight walls of all sites were punctuated by corner and interval towers and/or projecting bastions. Unlike other Roman military sites there is a lack of standardisation among Saxon Shore forts in respect of size and design of component features, and they vary in shape from square to polygonal or oval. Recognition of this class of monument was partially due to the survival of a fourth century AD Roman manuscript, the Notitia Dignitatum, which is a handbook of the civil and military organisation of the Roman Empire. This lists nine forts which were commanded by an officer who bore the title 'Officer of the Saxon Shore of Britain' (COMES LITORIS SAXONICI PER BRITANNIAM). Saxon Shore forts are rare nationally with a limited distribution. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments which are important in representing army strategy and government policy, Saxon Shore forts are of particular significance to our understanding of the period and all examples are considered to be of national importance. Despite damage by landslips and past disturbance, the Saxon Shore fort now called Stutfall Castle survives well with a considerable amount of upstanding masonry remains. It was a site of considerable strategic significance during the later Roman period and a major bastion of defence on the south-east coast. Only part of the fort has been excavated and it retains high archaeological potential. The site will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the fort and the landscape in which it was constructed.


<1> OS 6" 1961 (OS Card Reference). SKE48369.

<2> OS Roman Britain Map (OS Card Reference). SKE48432.

<3> Richborough Reculver & Lymne 1850 233-68 (C R Smith) (OS Card Reference). SKE49256.

<4> Athenaeum 22 9 1894 (OS Card Reference). SKE37418.

<5> VCH Kent 3 1932 55-9 plan (F J Haverfield & R E M Wheeler) (OS Card Reference). SKE51126.

<6> VCH Kent 1 1908 406 (I C Gould E A Downmen) (OS Card Reference). SKE50885.

<7> PSA 2 1850 89-90 (F W Fairholt) (OS Card Reference). SKE48759.

<8> JBAA 40 1884 234 (OS Card Reference). SKE44972.

<9> JRS 22 1932 70 (J P Bushe-Fox) (OS Card Reference). SKE45063.

<10> AM Eng & Wales 1958 46 (MOW) (OS Card Reference). SKE33005.

<11> F1 CFW 28.11.62 (OS Card Reference). SKE42793.

<12> Roman Forts of the Saxon Shore 1976 (S Johnson) (OS Card Reference). SKE49333.

<13> Britannia 11 1980 227-288 illust photos (B Cunliffe) (OS Card Reference). SKE38362.

<14> Kent Arch Review 68 1982 175-191 (B Philp) (OS Card Reference). SKE45862.

<15> Ro Inscript of Brit 1 1965 19 (R G Collingwood R P Wright) (OS Card Reference). SKE49273.

<16> Arch Cant 18 1889 41-45 (C Roach Smith) (OS Card Reference). SKE34778.

<17> Collectanea Historica (ed A Detsicas) 1981 46-49 (B Philp) (OS Card Reference). SKE39226.

<18> Place-names of Roman Britain 1979 386-7 (A L F Rivet & C Smith) (OS Card Reference). SKE48525.

<19> DOE(IAM) AM7 AM12 3 Nov 1986 (J M Melhuish) (OS Card Reference). SKE41409.

<20> Bldgs of Eng W Kent & the Weald 1980 394-395 (J Newman) (OS Card Reference). SKE37886.

<21> JRS 34 1944 85 (OS Card Reference). SKE45078.

<22> Arch J 53 1896 388 352-375 (G E Fox) (OS Card Reference). SKE36653.

<23> Late Roman Fortifications 1983 52 53 201 204 205 illust 207 (S Johnson) (OS Card Reference). SKE45999.

<24> Arch & Coastal Change (ed F H Thompson) 1980 45 (B W Cunliffe) (OS Card Reference). SKE34364.

<25> JRS 43 1953 97 (J K St Joseph) (OS Card Reference). SKE45094.

<26> Roman Military Def of the Brit Provinces in Later Phases BAR 101 1982 (D A Weslby) (OS Card Reference). SKE49336.

<27> JRS 22 1932 69-71 (J P Bushe-Fox) (OS Card Reference). SKE45062.

<28> The Saxon Shore (ed D E Johnston) 1977 73 (S E Rigold) (OS Card Reference). SKE50510.

<29> Roman Forts of the Saxon Shore 1964 (L Cottrell) (OS Card Reference). SKE49332.

<30> Archaeologia 41 2 1867 421-452 (T Lewin) (OS Card Reference). SKE37315.

<31> JBAA 20 1914 207-208 (OS Card Reference). SKE44904.

<32> Gents Mag lib 1 1887 (ed G L Gomme) 152-153 (OS Card Reference). SKE43593.

<33> South Hants Arch Rescue Grp 18 1976 10 (R Bridgland) (OS Card Reference). SKE49521.

<34> Towns of Roman Brit 1975 26 189 193 (J Wacher) (OS Card Reference). SKE50613.

<35> Britannia 8 1977 425 (S S Frere) (OS Card Reference). SKE38383.

<36> Current Archaeology 50 1975 71 (OS Card Reference). SKE39528.

<37> Castles of Great Britain 1953 18-19 (S Toy) (OS Card Reference). SKE38639.

<38> Roman Britain 1978 52 56 59 (J Wacher) (OS Card Reference). SKE49327.

<39> SE Eng 1970 177 (R Jessup) (OS Card Reference). SKE49422.

<40> Archaeologia 93 1949 37 (I A Richamond O G S Crawford) (OS Card Reference). SKE37324.

<41> Castles of Eng 1 1897 30 (J D Mackenzie) (OS Card Reference). SKE38625.

<42> Richborough Reculver & Lympne 1850 (C Roach Smith) (OS Card Reference). SKE49257.

<43> Colectanea Antiqua 2 1852 1 (C Roach Smith) (OS Card Reference). SKE39087.

<44> Collectanea Antiqua 7 1880 158 (OS Card Reference). SKE39204.

<45> Country Life 28 682 (OS Card Reference). SKE39421.

<46> Field report for monument TR 13 SW 5 - November, 1962 (Bibliographic reference). SKE5381.

<47> PLAN OF STUFFALL CASTLE AT LYMPNE (Photograph). SKE2583.

<48> PURLANDS VISITS (Collection). SKE6532.

<49> Chris Blandford Associates, 1992, A259 Dymchurch to M20 (Junction 11) Stage 1 Heritage (Unpublished document). SKE6769.

<50> Chris Blandford Associates, 1994, A259 Dymchurch to M20 (J11) Draft Brief for Archaeological Field Evaluation (Unpublished document). SKE6884.

<51> Anthony E. Collins, 1992, Archaeological Potential of the Hythe Haven (Unpublished document). SKE7373.

<52> SAXON SHORE FORT Types: FORT (Photograph). SKE388.

<53> Brian Philp, 1982, Romney Marsh and the Roman Fort at Lympne (Article in serial). SKE7806.

<54> SAXON SHORE FORT Types: FORT (Photograph). SKE389.

<55> SIMILAR (BUT NOT IDENTICAL) TO AO62/141/5 Types: FORT (Photograph). SKE556.

<56> PLAN OF CASTRUM AT LYMNE (FROM COLL ANT) SAXON SHORE FORT DATED TO LAST QUARTER OF 3RD CENT. - UNDER (Photograph). SKE202.

<57> University of Kent, 2016, Report on a Geophysical Survey of Stutfall Castle, the Roman Saxon Shore Fort at Lympne, Kent (Unpublished document). SKE31559.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
<1>OS Card Reference: OS 6" 1961.
<2>OS Card Reference: OS Roman Britain Map.
<3>OS Card Reference: Richborough Reculver & Lymne 1850 233-68 (C R Smith).
<4>OS Card Reference: Athenaeum 22 9 1894.
<5>OS Card Reference: VCH Kent 3 1932 55-9 plan (F J Haverfield & R E M Wheeler).
<6>OS Card Reference: VCH Kent 1 1908 406 (I C Gould E A Downmen).
<7>OS Card Reference: PSA 2 1850 89-90 (F W Fairholt).
<8>OS Card Reference: JBAA 40 1884 234.
<9>OS Card Reference: JRS 22 1932 70 (J P Bushe-Fox).
<10>OS Card Reference: AM Eng & Wales 1958 46 (MOW).
<11>OS Card Reference: F1 CFW 28.11.62.
<12>OS Card Reference: Roman Forts of the Saxon Shore 1976 (S Johnson).
<13>OS Card Reference: Britannia 11 1980 227-288 illust photos (B Cunliffe).
<14>OS Card Reference: Kent Arch Review 68 1982 175-191 (B Philp).
<15>OS Card Reference: Ro Inscript of Brit 1 1965 19 (R G Collingwood R P Wright).
<16>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 18 1889 41-45 (C Roach Smith).
<17>OS Card Reference: Collectanea Historica (ed A Detsicas) 1981 46-49 (B Philp).
<18>OS Card Reference: Place-names of Roman Britain 1979 386-7 (A L F Rivet & C Smith).
<19>OS Card Reference: DOE(IAM) AM7 AM12 3 Nov 1986 (J M Melhuish).
<20>OS Card Reference: Bldgs of Eng W Kent & the Weald 1980 394-395 (J Newman).
<21>OS Card Reference: JRS 34 1944 85.
<22>OS Card Reference: Arch J 53 1896 388 352-375 (G E Fox).
<23>OS Card Reference: Late Roman Fortifications 1983 52 53 201 204 205 illust 207 (S Johnson).
<24>OS Card Reference: Arch & Coastal Change (ed F H Thompson) 1980 45 (B W Cunliffe).
<25>OS Card Reference: JRS 43 1953 97 (J K St Joseph).
<26>OS Card Reference: Roman Military Def of the Brit Provinces in Later Phases BAR 101 1982 (D A Weslby).
<27>OS Card Reference: JRS 22 1932 69-71 (J P Bushe-Fox).
<28>OS Card Reference: The Saxon Shore (ed D E Johnston) 1977 73 (S E Rigold).
<29>OS Card Reference: Roman Forts of the Saxon Shore 1964 (L Cottrell).
<30>OS Card Reference: Archaeologia 41 2 1867 421-452 (T Lewin).
<31>OS Card Reference: JBAA 20 1914 207-208.
<32>OS Card Reference: Gents Mag lib 1 1887 (ed G L Gomme) 152-153.
<33>OS Card Reference: South Hants Arch Rescue Grp 18 1976 10 (R Bridgland).
<34>OS Card Reference: Towns of Roman Brit 1975 26 189 193 (J Wacher).
<35>OS Card Reference: Britannia 8 1977 425 (S S Frere).
<36>OS Card Reference: Current Archaeology 50 1975 71.
<37>OS Card Reference: Castles of Great Britain 1953 18-19 (S Toy).
<38>OS Card Reference: Roman Britain 1978 52 56 59 (J Wacher).
<39>OS Card Reference: SE Eng 1970 177 (R Jessup).
<40>OS Card Reference: Archaeologia 93 1949 37 (I A Richamond O G S Crawford).
<41>OS Card Reference: Castles of Eng 1 1897 30 (J D Mackenzie).
<42>OS Card Reference: Richborough Reculver & Lympne 1850 (C Roach Smith).
<43>OS Card Reference: Colectanea Antiqua 2 1852 1 (C Roach Smith).
<44>OS Card Reference: Collectanea Antiqua 7 1880 158.
<45>OS Card Reference: Country Life 28 682.
<46>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TR 13 SW 5 - November, 1962.
<47>Photograph: PLAN OF STUFFALL CASTLE AT LYMPNE. OS62/F141/5. Black and White. Negative.
<48>Collection: PURLANDS VISITS.
<49>Unpublished document: Chris Blandford Associates. 1992. A259 Dymchurch to M20 (Junction 11) Stage 1 Heritage.
<50>Unpublished document: Chris Blandford Associates. 1994. A259 Dymchurch to M20 (J11) Draft Brief for Archaeological Field Evaluation.
<51>Unpublished document: Anthony E. Collins. 1992. Archaeological Potential of the Hythe Haven.
<52>Photograph: SAXON SHORE FORT Types: FORT. BB81/01221. Black and White. Negative.
<53>Article in serial: Brian Philp. 1982. Romney Marsh and the Roman Fort at Lympne.
<54>Photograph: SAXON SHORE FORT Types: FORT. BB81/01222. Black and White. Negative.
<55>Photograph: SIMILAR (BUT NOT IDENTICAL) TO AO62/141/5 Types: FORT. P29099. Black and White. Print.
<56>Photograph: PLAN OF CASTRUM AT LYMNE (FROM COLL ANT) SAXON SHORE FORT DATED TO LAST QUARTER OF 3RD CENT. - UNDER. AO62/141/5. Black and White. Negative.
<57>Unpublished document: University of Kent. 2016. Report on a Geophysical Survey of Stutfall Castle, the Roman Saxon Shore Fort at Lympne, Kent.

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