Situated out beyond the marshes amongst the golden countryside, and shaded by the ruins of the Roman Fort. Still it sits there, elegant as ever, after centuries of decay and destruction.
For as long as the Roman Empire ruled this land of ours. Burgh Castle towered as an impregnable fort, which formed part of the Saxon Shore System, stretching from North Norfolk along the coast to Suffolk – Essex – Sussex and round to Hampshire. Built by the Romans, during the 3rd Century, to guard against Saxon marauders.
The remnants of this fine old fortress with its imposing flint walls bonded together with narrow layers of brick; covers six acres. Where once a legion of 1,000 fully trained troops were based here, to seek out and destroy the enemy forces, so the sword has yielded to the plough. The blood of those who built and manned these walls, is buried deep in the soil of this land, as the corn ripens above, and spreads a mantle of oblivion over much, that they built.
Where once Caesar’s Roman legions occupied this fort, these old walls constructed of rubble, flint, brick and concrete, now fifteen feet high and ten feet thick in places, is a tremendous monument to their building design. The east wall, along with most of the north and south walls, the colossal gateway and round defences along with external bastions, remain to this day. These bastions are fourteen feet in diameter with hollow tops, and at one time housed their beacons or catapults, from which they hurled boulders at their aggressors.
The Fort now more than three miles inland, would have at the time of its construction, commanded access by water, and excavations over the years have discovered flint and oak piles by the outer walls, suggesting there was once, a quay used by the Romans for landing horses, stores and troops.
The mighty fortress once thought to be impregnable was manned by Roman Legionnaires and Cavalry recruited from Russia, Balkands, Pelusium and beyond.
When the Barbarians were thundering at the gates of Rome, they sailed off to her rescue, leaving their British wives and children mourning their departure. They had expected to return after a brief campaign, but alas, they came no more this way.
Like so many other citadel’s built by a pagan Empire, this Roman Castle’s history came to an end, when in the 7th century, an Irish saint; St. Fursey founded a monastery within its walls, and its monks sang matins, vespers and songs of Zion for many a year.
The fine old church of St.Peter & St.Paul, built close to the castle is of Norman design, and much of the building has been built out of Roman bricks, tiles and flints. During the 15th century the church underwent a restoration, but since that time little has changed. Found within the church is a classic 14th century hand carved font adorned with lions, shields and emblems. The altar table is Jacobean and located close by are richly carved benches.
One of the features of this medieval church has to be the rood screen with its ornate frieze, which was used to separate the chancel from the nave. They tended to be elaborately painted and carved, causing iconoclastic fury at the time of the Reformation. Located above the screen is the rood loft, where certain parts of the ceremony were performed. Here the old stairs can be located, behind a richly carved door hanging on its 17th century hinges.
One of the ornate windows, shows St.Fursey the 7th century evangelist who founded a monastery within the castle walls, another is dedicated to Herbert Laws killed in a volcanic eruption on the island of Martinque, along with Elijah in his chariot of fire. Here, we also have a window with portraits of King Alfred and Queen Victoria, as a gentle reminder to us, of what this historic place means.
This fine old castle has for many centuries been a quarry for the locals; stones have been removed and used in the construction of roads, farmhouses and cottages. Part of the church’s walls and the round tower, came from the castle ruins.
As one wanders round this castle and church at Burgh, you can’t help but admire, and pay tribute to the grandeur of Rome. This building feat by the Romans has lasted to this present day. Much remains hidden beneath the ground, but that which survives above ground, is the finest example of the genius of the master builders of the ancient world.
Burgh Castle Church Image: Photographed in black & white and hand tinted by using old tea bags to create a natural sepia effect.
All other images: Wikipedia