Friday, 4 March 2011


     Reculver is approached through what Pevsner described as "the vulgarest caravan site in the county."  I don't know whether it is or not, but it seems a pity that it had to be located - along with its attendant amusements - so close to a site that is such a remarkable example of this country's historical heritage. 

   It was here that the Roman fort of Regulbium stood to defend the northern entrance to the Wantsum channel.  The remains of the walls - part of the southern perimeter - are still here, (most of the northern section having been lost to the sea by erosion), and I find it awe-inspiring to think that these stones have stood for close on sixteen-hundred years.  Next to come was King Ethelbert's palace, built here after leaving Canterbury having been influenced to accept Augustine by his Christian consort, Bertha, in 597 AD.  Sadly, no trace remains of it today.  In 669 AD, King Egbert's priest, Bassa, built a Saxon minster on land within the fort, which amazingly survived virtually intact until 1809, when it was disgracefully pulled down by the vicar of the parish, having been persuaded that it was "nothing but a poppet show" by his mother.  What little is left can still be seen at ground level.

     The substantial remains that can be seen today are the medieval additions effected during the 12th and 13th centuries.  The western facade of the twin towers - often referred to as the 'Two Sisters' - were once topped with two spires of nearly equal proportions, virtually doubling the height, and must have been an impressive sight in its day.  Legend has it that they were erected by the Abbess of Davington in honour of her dead sister, and in thanksgiving for her own life having been spared from drowning.  The Abbess had been very ill and had vowed that, should she recover, she would make a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Blessed Virgin at Bradstow to make an offering.  She embarked by ship, with her sister Isobel, but ran into a storm which drove them onto a sandbank near Reculver.  They were all rescued but her sister, who had suffered badly from the cold and exhaustion, died the following day.  The Abbess had the towers built to immortalise her sisters' memory.  The spires were eventually removed as they had become unsafe, but the square-topped towers were spared as a sea-mark for shipping in the estuary.

     Given the significant historical importance of Reculver, and the spectacle of the lonely towers standing on their isolated and windswept promontory, I consider it little wonder that I find myself returning again and again to try to capture the scene in all photographic conditions.  It is in the hope of imparting the spirit of this unique place that I have not confined myself to illustrating it with the usually seen aspect from the west, but have used the imposing view from the beach.  To this end, it is to be hoped that I have succeeded.



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