« PreviousContinue »
I may add at spring tides; that it was but a shallow estuary for most part is also apparent by Bede's adding "and fordable only in two places.
The Roman writers on the Portus Rutupensis, by way of description, term it "Stationem Britanniæ tranquillam,"* quiet or calm station or bay for ships, as stated by Somner.† Battely writes: "The Isle of Thanet, opposite the coast of Kent, forms such a haven as Virgil describes :
'Sheltered from the rolling sea
An Island forms a port.'"
The advent of Theodosius is thus described. had come to Bononia, which is separated from the opposite coast by a narrow channel-where the sea is subject to transitions from violent tempests and tides to the smoothest calms and safe navigation-he crossed over, and arrived at Rutupiæ, a safe and quiet station opposite.‡
Mr. Battely, quoting from Giraldus Cambrensis, writes: "The outer haven of Sandwich, which agrees with my supposition, for the outer haven was that part of the river which lay between Sandwich and the sea; the inner was that which extended from Sandwich as far as Reculver, and these two together formed the haven of Rutupiæ."§
I may note that in the map accompanying Battely these are represented by Portus interior and Portus exterior, but as the map omits the Stonar beach, which, as I shall shew further on, shuts off the waters of the exterior from those of the interior by a barrier opening only between Stonar and Sandwich, this division must have been absurd, no division being shewn in the map between them; but by placing the Stonar beach in its proper position this division would be quite apparent, and it would also account for the Rutupian harbour being the quiet harbour that is represented by the Roman writers.
I will now draw attention to Stonar. In the last 6-inch
* Ammianus Marcellinus Rutupiæ.
† Roman Ports and Forts in Kent, page 3.
See Roach Smith's Antiquities of Richborough, Reculver, and Lymm,
§ Battely, abridged, page 10.
Ordnance Map we find it recorded on the piece of ground just behind the present residence, "Roman coins, urns, swords, axes, portions of armour, and human remains found here."
The site of the town destroyed in the reign of Richard II. is given, and it is called the supposed Lapis Tituli. I will not presume here to argue the vexed question as to the place called by Nennius Lapis Tituli, which is by many learned historians described as at Stonar in Thanet. Somner would have it that this place was at Folkestone; but I believe he stands alone in this supposition. I may mention as my authorities Nennius, Camden, and Usher. The name of the place has been variously described as Stonar, Estanore, Eastanores, and Scorastan.
I have previously related that it was one of the reputed landing-places of St. Augustine and his followers in A.D. 597. Hasted, folio, vol. iv., page 384, following Battely, states: "Here Tuskill the Dane is said to have landed in the year 1009, and to have fought the English and afterwards to have burnt the town, which was however not long after rebuilt, and notwithstanding the increasing prosperity of its opposite rival remained a port some time after the Norman Conquest. In 1216, Lewis, Dauphin of France, landed here. In 1350, King Edward III. lodged here in Stonar, waiting to embark at Sandwich for foreign parts." In the same year there was a great inundation of the sea for the space of three miles on from Cliffsend to Stonar.
In the reign of Richard II., A.D. 1385, the French landing here first plundered, and afterwards burnt, the town. The Rev. Canon Scott Robertson, in Vol. XII., Archæologia Cantiana, page 330, in an essay on the Port of Stonar, identifies this place with the ancient Lundenwic, and I think with great show of reason, and he concludes " that Estanore or Stonore existed centuries before Sandwich was heard of." If this is the case, the early arrivals at the Port of Sandwich, which most authors have claimed as the ancient Lundenwic, must be shifted to Stonar. At any rate Stonar as a port and town existed at such a remote date that it precludes altogether the notion that it was covered by the
waters of the sea at the Roman period, as represented in the map I have previously alluded to. Another fact shews that at the time of the Roman occupation of Britain, not only did Stonar exist as dry land, but that part of the sand-hills between Sandown Castle and Sandwich were in existence. I allude to the discovery of Roman remains and of a hoard of Roman coins there. Mr. Roach Smith mentions this discovery in his Retrospection, vol. i., pages 2, 7.* I have of late had the position of these Roman vestiges pointed out to me, and have seen them with Mr. Manser of Deal, near the Rifle Butts in the sand-hills of that town.
I have sought in vain for any authentic notices of the landing of ships at the spot indicated by the traditional Ebbsfleet. In Canon Isaac Taylor's Words and Places, under the head of Ebbsfleet, he writes: "Ebbsfleet, which is now half a mile from the shore, was a port in the twelfth century, and its name indicates the former existence of a tidal channel at the spot." On writing to Canon Isaac Taylor I find from his reply that the Abbey of Minster in Thanet is supposed to mark the site of Ebbsfleet, the traditional landing-place of St. Augustine in 596. But he adds, "All the traditions must be taken for what they are worth." He referred me to Freeman's Historic Town Series, under Sandwich and the Cinque Ports; but states that in Freeman's own book there is much nonsense about Ebbsfleet, a "name which merely implies that the channel which made Thanet an isle was tidal."
The mention of the Minster fleet as a port appears in Thorn's Chronicle, under date of 1242, which is recorded in Boys's Collections for a History of Sandwich, page 658: "The prior and chapter of Christ Church, Canterbury, entered into a composition this year with the abbot and convent of St. Augustine, respecting their respective possessions at Sandwich, Stonar, and other places in that neighbourhood. The prior and his chapter grant to the abbot and monks a free passage by Sandwich river to Menstre flete, reserving to themselves their maritime dues from such vessels
* Also Numismatic Chronicle, vol. ii., page 259.
as shall cast anchor in the said river before the fleet, whether to load or unload, or do any other business there. In the fleet itself they will not for the future claim any jurisdiction, but they reserve to themselves and their tenants to be as free from duties there as heretofore, and stipulate that the abbot, etc., shall not wantonly fill up the said fleet."
Again, in A.D. 1313, Mr. Boys transcribes from Dr. Farmer's Manuscripts the following notice of the said fleet: "A presentment was made at the same session, that the water-course called Minster flete used to run from a branch of the river to the village of Minster, to which place vessels resorted with various kinds of merchandize to the great convenience of the whole country; that the King took tonnage and his other customs in the said flete, till Roger, abbot of St. Augustine's, the predecessor of the present abbot, stopped up the water-course to the King's damage and the detriment of the whole county (we find in 1290 the monks of Christ Church had given up to King Edward their Port of Sandwich, and all their rights and customs with certain exceptions). The abbot alleged that the current of the said flete ran through his own ground, and that on account of a raging tide and an extraordinary inundation of the river over his ground, his predecessor expecting his lands in the neighbourhood below would be drowned, by which he would have lost the profit of about a thousand acres of his land, that his said. predecessor therefore had filled up the flete, as he had a right to do, it being upon his own ground, and agreeable to the custom of the country, and what was usually done in marshy and fenny places for the preservation of cultivated grounds. The jury find that the prior of Christ Church used formerly to receive custom from every vessel and boat anchoring before the mouth of the said flete in the stream, and without the soil of the abbot, in right of his manor of Sandwich, then belonging to the prior, which custom was annually worth half a mark.* That the flete is part of the King's stream running over the soil of the abbot to the abbot's town of Minster, and used to be so wide that two cogges might turn
* See Boys's Sandwich, page 666 sqq.
therein clear of one another, that before the filling up of the said flete the abbots made walls for the defence of their lands, which walls had been since neglected; and that no hazard or loss could accrue to the said abbot with respect to the lands aforesaid by opening the flete, provided the walls were made as good as they used to be. They find further, that after the flete was stopped the manor of Sandwich came into the King's hands in exchange for other tenements; after which the King never took any custom in the place mentioned without the flete; and that instead of carrying their things by water through the flete to the town of Minster, the people of the county cannot now come near it by four miles, by which they are injured to the amount of £15 a year. And lastly that the flete should be repaired and made navigable to the town of Minster."
The description of this Minster flete will serve to shew how, up to the thirteenth century, the Sandwich navigable rights over Minster had been maintained, and it must in previous times have been the usual landing-place-meantime we read of no mention of Ebbsfleet or any other fleet connected by the ocean, except through the Sandwich Haven. It is true that in the annals of Sandwich we find (in a controversy between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the monks of Christ Church on the one part, and the abbot of St. Augustine on the other, concerning the jurisdiction over the Port of Sandwich, and the maritime customs on both sides of the river) Marksfleet mentioned in the early part of the twelfth century, and also the men of Sandwich burning a water-mill belonging to the abbot of St. Augustine at Hepesflete. These two fletes were probably between Minster and Sevenscore, or where the Ebbsfleet Farm is now situate, and it shews that the fletes were small streams running through the marsh. We have not the slightest historical evidence of any great landing at any other place than the Sandwich Haven, or Lundenwic, or the Portus Rutupensis of former years. As early as the seventh century we have notices of landings in Sandwich Haven; both Danes and French came there, and the Danish landings in Thanet and Minster must have been from within the estuary. At that time a part of