The Claudian Gateway

At the centre of Richborough Roman Fort, is a timber gateway — a replica of the Roman original that stood in this exact spot. The gateweay represented the Romans planting their flag in Britain. The gate was part of a fortification with a defensive rampart and two deep ditches, and the first structure they built during the invasion.

Climb up the rebuilt rampart and then head to the top of the Gateway for stunning views across the site and far beyond.

The Original Gateway

When the Romans first came to Richborough, things looked rather different. At that point, Richborough was on a small island off the coast of Britain, and so was the perfect place for the Emperor Claudius to land his invasion force. The gateway was part of a fortified area built to protect Claudius' army as they disembarked in Britain in 43 AD — hence why we call it a Claudian gateway. The defended area, with its rampart, two parallel defensive ditches, and the gateway, effectively sealed off one end of the island for the Romans to land their 40,000 soldiers, equipment and supplies.

It was of upmost importance to the Romans that the fortification with its gateway be erected as quickly as possible. The Romans may have pre-fabricated the gateway timbers in northern Gaul, and then flat packed it, like a Roman version of IKEA!

Building the rampart and gateway

At Richborough today, the gateway you can see and climb to the top of is a replica that stands in the exact spot of the original. We know this because of the postholes of the main timber uprights uncovered in past excavations of the site. This new gateway was built by local carpenters who paid close attention to authentic details and, for instance, used Roman joint types throughout the build.

Find out more about the gateway's construction

Spectacular Views

The rampart, ditches and gate stood for only a few years before they were dismantled and infilled. Standing atop the gateway today unlocks a whole new perspective of what the Romans built at Richborough afterwards. It's far easier to get a sense of scale of the ruins of the monumental arch and the mansio — a guest house for visiting officials — that remain in situ. There's a panel that identifies the various Roman ruins beneath. You can easily picture how this area was once a bustling town, filled with people from many parts of the empire.

The Romans too, would have appreciated the epic views from atop the gateway. That was one of the key reasons they built it — a Roman sentry stationed up there had a 360 degree perspective and could sniff out the first sight of danger miles off.

Roman neighbours

On a clear day you can see all the way to Reculver from the top of the gateway, another English Heritage site in Kent. Like Richborough, Reculver was the site of a Roman fort and coastal settlement, which was named as part of the 'Saxon Shore' command at the end of the Roman period. There are several other forts of this later Roman era, dotted along the south coast, such as Pevensey Castle and Portchester Castle.

Visit Reculver
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