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.
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.
Sources: Kent HER TR 13 SW 5. NMR TR 13 SW 5. PastScape 463999.