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Richborough Through the Ages

The Centre for Kent History and Heritage held a one day conference ‘Richborough through the Ages’, that took place on Saturday 25 June 2016.

The event was held at Old Sessions House (lecture theatre Og46), with doors open at 0930 and concluding at 1630. The conference consisted of four sessions, taking the history of Richborough from Roman and Anglo Saxon times through the Medieval period, the First World War and culminating in 1940. This broad timescale allowed for a fascinating insight into the importance of this now almost forgotten port, and the contribution it made to local and national history, politics and culture.

In addition to CCCU staff members Drs Paul Dalton, John Bulaitis and Lesley Hardy and the CKHH ‘s Dr. Martin Watts, speakers included familiar experts such as Keith Parfitt, of Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Ges Moody of the Trust for Thanet Archaeology, Professor Emeritus Clare Ungerson and Dr Frank Andrews.

  • Date: Saturday 25 June 2016 1000:1630
  • Venue: Lecture Theatre Og46, Old Sessions House, Canterbury Christ Church University.

Read about the conference on our blog. 

Conference schedule

  • 09:30 Doors open
  • 10:00-10:15 Introduction
  • 10:15-11:30 SESSION 1: ROMAN and ANGLO-SAXON
Keith Parfitt: Crossing Richborough Island: Investigations along the 2007 supply main

In connection with plans to construct a new pipeline, Canterbury Archaeological Trust undertook investigations at Richborough during 2007. Extensive trenching provided an important north–south transect across the full width of the island, from Ash Level to the Goshall Valley, passing about 450 metres west of the Roman fort. The research served to focus attention on Richborough island’s archaeology beyond the area of Rutupiae and provided a valuable over-view. Given the perceived importance of the region, discoveries were remarkably sparse, although a major late Roman settlement area was located at Lowton on the south side of the island.

Ges Moody: Contested Ground, the politics of a landscape

My talk will review the published interpretations of how the physical landscape has changed over time and how these earlier discussions can be integrated with interpretations of landscape using modern geographic sciences and methods of representation. I will go on to explore how a growing appreciation of the influence of landscape and geography has affected the interpretation of major historical events such as the Roman invasion and the arrival of the Anglo-Saxon people. Some conclusions will be drawn about how an appreciation that a landscape is not static but is at any time a phenomenon of dynamic processes can alter the perceived context of historical events and change our understanding of them.

  • 11:30-11:45 Tea and coffee
  • 11:45-13:00 SESSION 2: MEDIEVAL AND TOWARDS MODERN
Dr Paul Dalton: Medieval Richborough in Context

Richborough’s major importance as a settlement, fort and port during the Roman period is well known. It was powerfully illuminated by extensive archaeological investigations, and remains evident, for example, in Richborough’s massive Roman walls, large sections of which survive to this day. With certain exceptions, however, the history of Richborough during the medieval period is less well understood. This paper aims to cast more light on this history, particularly during the late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman era.

Dr Lesley Hardy: The Lantern Bearers: Richborough and the idea of Rome in History and Imagination,1800-the present

'We are the Lantern Bearers, my friend; for us to keep something burning, to carry what light we can forward into the darkness and the wind.'

Richborough or Rutupiae is the scene of Rosemary Sutcliff’s 1959 novel ‘ The Lantern Bearers’ set in the chaotic last years of Roman Britain. The lantern, a beacon set on top of the site’s ruined triumphal archway, stands as a symbol of Roman civilisation in the face of chaos. Dr Hardy will explore Sutcliff’s work and influences and the power of Richborough and other Roman sites as an inspiration for historical imagination and national identity in the uncertainties of the C20th.

  • 13:00-13:45 Lunch
  • 13:45-15:00 SESSION 3: FIRST WORLD WAR
Dr Frank Andrews: The Mystery Port

By 1900-14 there were proposals for the development of a major coalfield in East Kent and it was suggested that a dedicated coal port might be developed at the mouth of the Stour, at Richborough. In 1914 the outbreak of the First World War effectively put a stop to any harbour development, but by 1916 the War Office was facing the problem of supplying the armies in Flanders, and so the plans were taken over lock stock and barrel. Within months what was to be a town of 19,000 men and 60-odd miles of railway track, and hundreds of yards of quay had appeared: this was the Mystery Port..

Dr Martin Watts: Controversy and Disposal

In September 1918, before the wartime operations at the port were run down, Eastern Command commissioned a report on Richborough Port, and appointed a senior officer, Colonel W. H Briggs as investigator. Briggs wrote two simultaneous reports, the second headed ‘Confidential”, thus sparking a row between the War Office and Eastern Command. Martin Watts examines the controversy to reveal a story of extravagance and command confusion, which resulted, nevertheless in the rapid completion of the port at a time when it was vital to the British Army in France and Flanders.

  • 15:00-15:15 Tea and coffee
  • 15:15-16:30 SESSION 4: BETWEEN THE WARS
Dr John Bulaitis: Farmer, entrepreneur, historian, fascist: GC Solley of King’s End Farm, Richborough

G. C. Solley was the most prominent figure in Sandwich political and cultural life in the inter-war years. He served as Mayor and became an Alderman and JP. He was Chair of East Kent Chamber of Commerce and an official in the Canterbury Farmers’ Club. In the early 1930s, he led local farmers in a campaign against the Tithe Rent Charge. A long-standing conservative, in 1934 he signed up to Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. John Bulaitis considers what his story tells us about inter-war Kentish politics.

Professor Emeritus Clare Ungerson: Four Thousand German Jewish Refugees at Richborough in 1939/40

In 1939 one of the seven First World War camps at Richborough, known as the Kitchener Camp, became the home of 4000 German speaking Jewish men who were refugees from Greater Germany. Many of them came straight from concentration camps to which they had been taken after the Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938. The Kitchener camp was rented by the Central British Fund for German Jewry and the rescue was organised and funded by them in exactly the same way as the Kindertransports which the CBF also funded. This paper presents the story of this rescue and particularly addresses the question of the response of the people of Sandwich to the presence of 4000 German Jewish men in their midst.

  • 16:30 CONCLUSION

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Last edited: 30/05/2017 10:58:00