Saxon Shore fort and Anglo-Saxon monastery at Bradwell-on-Sea
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Maldon (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- TM 03108 08178
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
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.
Part excavation at Bradwell Saxon Shore fort has confirmed the presence of valuable features and deposits surviving in good condition both inside and outside of the masonry walls. These deposits and features contain artefactual remains relating to the occupation of the fort and the life of its inhabitants during the Roman period as well as during the period of the reoccupation of the site by the early Christian monastery. These early monastic remains are also of very great importance because of the rarity of documented buildings and other structures of this type and date. It is also thought likely that organic remains will survive which will include environmental evidence, adding to our understanding of the environment in which the fort was constructed and to our knowledge both of the character of use of the site during the Roman period and of the changes brought about during its reoccupation in the seventh century.
The monument includes a Saxon Shore fort which was subsequently reused as an
Anglo-Saxon monastery, situated on the eastern tip of the Dengie Peninsular,
between the River Blackwater to the north and the River Crouch to the south.
The eastern part of the site, including the east wall, has been undermined by
the sea and washed away. It is thought that the fort was originally
rectangular in plan. The line of the western and northern defences is partly
visible at the ground surface as an earthwork bank and a short section of
standing masonry, representing the south wall survives on this side. The plan
of the surviving part of the fort was recovered in 1864 during part
excavation. The foundations of two bastions were recognised, forming part of
the defences in the north west part of the fort. At the north west corner the
bastion was horseshoe shaped in plan whilst further south, along the west wall
the second bastion was semicircular. These bastions are believed to have been
solid. The wall was more than 14 feet thick.
The defences included an inner rampart with an exterior masonry face
surrounded by a berm and outer ditch, which has become silted up over the
years. These defences enclose an area which now covers about 2ha, although it
may originally have been nearer 3ha.
The interior of the fort was also investigated at this time, although no
masonry buildings were recognised. Over 200 coins were found dating from
Gallienus AD 260-268 to Arcadius AD 383-408 and the pottery recovered was also
mostly of the same date, indicating only later Roman occupation here.
A trench was cut through the western defences in 1947. At that time
remains of a ditch c.20ft wide on the west and north sides of the
fort were discovered. This was separated from the wall by a berm c.30ft wide
on the west side and c.20ft wide on the north side. Although no trace of an
internal bank was recognised during excavation, a feature was noted behind the
north and west walls and a mass of yellow clay behind the south wall, both of
which are thought to indicate its existence.
On the line of the west wall, on the probable site of the west gate, is St
Peter's Chapel, believed to have been built in 654 AD by Bishop Cedd. It
incorporates much reused Roman masonry in its structure. The chapel, which
survives as a standing building, is still in occasional ecclesiatical use. It
is Listed Grade I and is excluded from the scheduling.
In Bede's history the fort is identified as the location of the Saxon
monastery founded by Cedd. It is believed that the conventual buildings lay
within the fort enclosure. The monastic site is thought to have survived and
developed through the eighth and ninth centuries until it was destroyed by the
Excluded from the scheduling are St Peter's Chapel, all modern buildings and
other structures, sheds, fences and fence posts although the ground beneath
all of these features is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Barford, P M, Bradwell-On-Sea; The Roman Shore Fort, Saxon Monastery & Church
Bede, V, The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation
Bede, V, The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation
Powell, W R, The Victoria History of the County of Essex, (1963)
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing