98.—Plan of Richborough.details

[Picture: 98.—Plan of Richborough.]
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98.—Plan of Richborough.

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A (rather minimal) plan of Richborough castle, an ancient Roman fort on the south-east coast of England, dating to maybe A.D. 43. There is also an amphitheatre at the site. Richborough was the first Roman fort in England, and marks the start of the real invasion. The Roman name for the place was Rutupiæ. The account in the book (following) is a little confused about which parts were built when and by whom.

Ascending the narrow road which passes the cottage built at the foot of the bank, we reach some masses of wall which lie below the regular line (Plan 98). Have these fallen from their original position, or do they form an outwork connected with fragments which also appear on the lower level of the slope? This is a question not very easy to decide from the appearance of the walls themselves. Another question arises, upon which antiquarian writers have greatly differed. Was there a fourth wall on the south-eastern side facing the river? It is believed by some that there was such a wall, and that the castle or camp once formed a regular parallelogram. It is difficult to reconcile this belief with the fact that the sea has been constantly retiring from Richborough, and that the little river was undoubtedly once a noble estuary. Bede, who wrote his ’Ecclesiastical History’ in the beginning of the eighth century, thus describes the branch of the river which forms the Isle of Thanet, and which now runs a petty brook from Richborough to Reculver: “On the east side of Kent is the Isle of Thanet, considerably large, that is, containing, according to the English way of reckoning, six hundred families, divided from the other land by the river Wantsumu, which is about three furlongs over, and fordable only in two places, for both ends of it run into the sea.” Passing by the fragments of which we have spoken, we are under the north (strictly north-east) wall,—a wondrous work, calculated to impress us with a conviction that the people who built it were not the petty labourers of an hour, who were contented with temporary defences and frail resting-places. The outer works upon the southern cliff of Dover, which were run up during the war with Napoleon at a prodigious expense, are crumbling and perishing, through the weakness of job and contract, which could not endure for half a century. And here stand the walls of Richborough, as they have stood for eighteen hundred years, from twenty to thirty feet high, in some places with foundations five feet below the earth, eleven or twelve feet thick at the base, with their outer masonry in many parts as perfect as at the hour when their courses of tiles and stones were first laid in beautiful regularity. The northern wall is five hundred and sixty feet in length. From the eastern end, for more than two-fifths of its whole length, it presents a surface almost wholly unbroken. It exhibits seven courses of stone, each course about four feet thick, and the courses separated each from the other by a double line of red or yellow tiles, each tile being about an inch and a half in thickness. The entrance to the camp through this north wall is very perfect, of the construction marked in the plan. This was called by the Romans the Porta Principalis, but in after times the Postern-gate. We pass through this entrance, and we are at once in the interior of the Roman Castle. The area within the walls is a field of five acres, covered, when we saw it, with luxuriant beans, whose green pods were scarcely yet shrivelled by the summer sun. Towards the centre of the field, a little to the east of the postern-gate, was a large space where the beans grew not. The area within the walls is much higher in most places than the ground without; and therefore the walls present a far more imposing appearance on their outer side. As we pass along the north wall to its western extremity,

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