The Romans conquered Britain under the Emperor Claudius in AD 43. Under Aulus Plautius the Roman armies landed unopposed, but there is debate as to the location of the invasion.
A strong candidate is the Wantsum channel, and parts of fortifications of the Claudian period have been found both at Richborough and Reculver, located at opposite ends of the Wantsum. Both sites played a role in the earliest years of the conquest
During the 1st and 2nd centuries a Roman settlement grew up at Reculver, probably around a harbour. The size of this settlement is unknown as coastal erosion has destroyed much of the evidence.
In the early 3rd century a fort was built. This was nearly square, with rounded corners, and measured 180 metres by 175 metres (590 feet by 574 feet). Its flint walls were backed with earth ramparts and surrounded by two ditches 10 metres (33 feet) wide. This was one of the very earliest of the forts of the Saxon Shore, built against Saxon raids, and was traditional in its plan.
Later Saxon Shore forts (Richborough, Pevensey, Portchester) were built to a new model with projecting bastions. The walls and two of the four gates (south and east) can be seen.
By the 5th century the Romans had abandoned their defence of Britain and the fort at Reculver had fallen into disuse.
An Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded on the site in 669, reusing the existing defences, and the church of St Mary was built near the centre of the earlier fort.
Documentary evidence suggests that the site had ceased to function as a monastic house by the 10th century, after which time the church became the parish church of Reculver.
Remodelling of the church in the 12th century included the addition of tall twin towers.
The medieval church was partly demolished in 1805, when much of the stone was reused to construct a new church on higher ground at Hillborough, but the twin towers were left.
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