Upon the invasion of the Romans in Britain, hundreds of Roman Forts were built all over our country, and today we shall be focusing on one site in Great Yarmouth, on the East coast.
The site is called Burgh Castle, just one of several forts constructed to hold a cavalry of defence against the threat of Saxon raids up from the south coasts of Britain, known as the ‘Saxon Shore’.
The fort that was built was rather a marvel – 205 m by 100 m, almost perfectly rectangular. Three of the flint, stone and redbrick tile walls are still in place, towering as thick and as high as they were when first built, but the fourth fell into what is now the nearby marsh, Breydon Water. At the base it is 3.5 m, and tapers up to the top (4.5 m high) ending in a thickness of roughly 1.5 m in most places.
After finishing the main construction, further fortifications were made, with projecting towers, each of which had a central hole, possibly to anchor catapults, called ‘ballistae’. These would certainty encourage less people to attack, but the holes may also have been used to support timbers holding watchtowers in place, around the tops of the walls.
Finished in about the 3rd century AD, Burgh Castle held out securely against invaders for over half a century, until the Saxons, Picts and Scots made a joint attack on Britain, and not just Burgh but also plenty of other forts fell.
Naturally, over time, the Romans left Britain (history 101!) and the fort fell into disrepair. You can still visit it today though, for free, and also the nearby church of St Peter and Paul is worth visiting.
Finally, an Archaeology tip – if you find any molehills at Burgh Castle, don’t hesitate to kick through them, you may well find a souvenir of your visit, even if it is only a shard of Roman pottery! Moles are like mini Archaeologists, digging up through the layers of earth and bringing the artefacts up to ground level!
Until next time,