During the Roman period, the geography of the area around Reculver was very different from today. The Wantsum sea channel, which in places was over four and a half kilometres wide, cut off the Isle of Thanet from the mainland. At this time, Reculver was a promontory at the north end of the channel where it joined the Thames estuary. Since that time, the Wantsum channel has silted up and become dry land.
During the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, a Roman settlement developed at Reculver, probably around the harbour. Little is known of this settlement, as most of it has been destroyed by coastal erosion. The Roman fort was built the early 3rd century. It measured 180 metres by 175 metres, although over a third of the fort has now been eroded by the sea.
The Anglo-Saxon church was founded in 669. It was sited near the centre of the fort, and continued in use with Norman and later extensions until its partial demolition in 1805.
Old Winchelsea was a prosperous town involved in cross-Channel trade and home to a naval base. It is which is said to have had 700 houses, 50 inns, and numerous churches in the 1260’s. Before 1280, several incursions by the sea damaged the town, but in February 1287 a massive storm hit the south coast of England. The impact of this storm was such that whole areas of the coastline were change and the town of Old Winchelsea was destroyed by floods.
New Winchelsea began in 1281 when Edward I ordered a planned town to be built with a tidal harbour on the River Brede. The new town was involved with the French wine trade from Guyenne, and many of the old houses have impressive cellars for this trade. The town suffered French and Spanish raids during the 15th century, but remained prosperous, although reduced in size.
The demise of Winchelsea came in early 16th century when the silting of the harbour removed its raison d’être. Today, parts of the planned town grid can be discerned in the field patterns, and the New Gate sits 800 metres away from the town, surrounded by fields.
Winchelsea Strand Gate.
Cockham Wood Fort
Cockham Wood Fort is a rare seventeenth century artillery fort which was constructed in 1669 on the north bank of the River Medway following a Dutch raid on Chatham Dockyard in 1667. Together with Fort Gillingham, Cockham Wood had the role of defending Chatham Dockyard from seaborne attack — a role which had previously been held by Upnor Castle.
The fort was designed by Sir Bernard de Gomme and consisted of a brickwork base which supported an upper tier of earthworks. The fort held 21 guns on the lower tier and 20 on the upper tier.
Changing sea levels mean that today the lower brickwork is now badly eroded, as it is washed by the tidal Medway. The upper earthworks survive, but are buried in woodland.