Brandy running was very popular at Reculver in the 1830's. The Church with its ruinous nave and preserved towers (navigational aid for centuries) dates from the 12th century and was nicknamed the Two Sisters after a pair of real sisters who passed this way during the period of the Wars Of The Roses: the civil wars fought in medieval England from 1455 to 1487 between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. They were shipwrecked in a fierce storm during a voyage to the Shrine of Our Lady at Broadstairs. One was drowned and the surviving sister gave money for church repairs and construction of the towers in memory of the other and in thanksgiving for her own rescue.
The church fell into ruin (abandoned in 1809) and much of the masonry was removed to build a replacement church at Hillborough. Trinity House took over the towers to maintain as a navigation aid. The lost spires were replaced by wooden vanes, but have since been removed. As of 1925, this site has been carefully preserved as an ancient monument.
A 1st century Roman fort on the northern end of the Wantsum Channel was enlarged in about the year 210 when the other major coastal forts were built to form a line of Saxon Shore forts along the south east of the country. Parts of the outer walls remain on the south and east sides although the northern half disappeared into the sea around 300 years ago. When the fort was built it was three quarters of a mile from the coast. The church inside the walls was started in 669 and was extended in the 12th century when the two towers were added. Most of it was demolished in 1809, apart from the famous towers, kept as a navigation aid for shipping.
Wantsum Channel: the coastline of East Kent has changed dramatically over the last two thousand years since the Roman Invasion. This explains the location of the early fortifications of Reculver and Richborough which were positioned to guard the north and south entrances to the Wantsum Channel. The Isle of Thanet, an island at that time was not defended. Over time the channel silted up, but it was still possible to sail to Canterbury in the 15th century. All that is now left is the River Stour.
Canterbury's importance to the Romans lay in it being a port on the western side of the Wantsum Channel. The city walls are mainly Roman, dating from the end of the 3rd century, though they were repaired in the 14th century and strengthened with a number of towers. At least half of the city walls are visible on the eastern side of the city, as well as the city's West Gate, which dates from 1380. The other three gates were destroyed in 1648. A wooden motte and bailey castle were erected in 1066 and the motte, known as Dane John is still visible. The large keep was rebuilt in stone in 1100 and the lower half of it still remains, the top floor having been destroyed in the 19th century.
The structures above each tower have long since been removed. Reculver is one of the oldest development sites in Kent, dating from the Roman fort of Regulbium of the 3rd century AD. The whole fortress is believed to have extended to about eight acres, parts of which have been washed away into the North Sea.
The two towers were known to be complete with spires in about 1800. Every ship's master and sailor knew and used them in navigating in or out of the Thames Estuary where it changes into the open sea. King Ethelbert of Kent was long believed to have been buried in this church. Ethelbert was said to have retreated to Reculver from Canterbury on the accession there of Augustine. An old document describes: 'Ethelbert, the first Christian King of Kent about 1060 years since, built a palace for himself and successors'.
Around 1800 the structure was extensive, but by 1806 because of the sea gnawing at it and village, which was not protected from flooding, local farmers took up stone wall and sold it to Margate Pier Company for building work. Hefty oak timbers were also removed, being 'fit for their home use', so there was no more protection from sea. Storms and winds both helped the sea attack Reculver.
As early as 1937, the Air Ministry had drawn up a list of potential targets to attack in the event of war between England and Germany. The Ruhr area was such a target and destroying the means of generating electricity and power. To attack the large dams was considered, but rejected as the large amount of ordnance/bombs required was unrealistic.
© Louis Brothnias (2010)