Believe it or not, just on the doorstep of Thanet stand the incredible ruins of a Roman fort and amphitheatre. Situated on the outskirts of Sandwich and cared for by English Heritage, Richborough Roman Fort & Amphitheatre is a fascinating piece of British ancient history that we are very lucky to have access to. In fact, it has recently been confirmed by historians that Richborough was the first landing place of the Roman Invasion of Britain in AD43!
On arrival, you will see that the Richborough settlement is located in the middle of picturesque fields and marshland, a good mile or two from the East Kent coast. However, when the Roman army originally claimed the land, the site sat strategically on a chalk clifftop. It looked out onto the North Sea and the mouth of the River Wantsum that separated the mainland from the Isle of Thanet. Long after the Romans retreated out of Britain centuries later, the sea gradually receded and the waterways silted up, joining Thanet with the mainland and leaving Richborough landlocked.
English Heritage takes good care of the heritage site, creating a well thought out visitor experience, and tickets are reasonably priced. As you explore the various foundations, tracks and paths, you can access an informative audio-guide via your smartphone, with regular signposts recounting the lives and events of the inhabitants. Something that hits you from the outset is the sheer size of the settlement and how much went on there. By the entrance a small museum displays the archeological finds to give you real insight into the site's significance .
We learn that long before the defensive walls went up a thriving commercial port had developed, with a whole civilian town growing to support it. A 25-metre high Italian granite arch stood at the port as a grand, triumphal entrance to the region, signifying Roman control of Britain. It was only once the settlement was under constant attack in later centuries that the enormous walls were constructed, marking the beginning of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
There is certainly a wealth of history to be learned at Richborough, a real tonic for the trials and tribulations of modern life 2020-style. If you're looking to get outdoors into a beautiful open space away from it all, Richborough Roman Fort & Amphitheatre is your place. There are wonderful views and some great photo opportunities set against the dramatic backdrop of the ancient stone battlements. Adults and children alike will love stepping back in time.
The team at Broadstairs Apartments hopes you enjoy a great day out visiting this valuable part of East Kent's rich and dramatic past. It's a chance to connect with our ancestors and gain some perspective too - where the Isle of Thanet as we know it has beach huts and ice-creams, paddling and sandcastles, there used to be Roman invasions and Saxon marauders. Now there's a thought!
Please continue to follow the Covid-19 social distancing guidelines and stay safe.