The Romans–always ones with an eye for strategy– built one of their Saxon Shore forts here and it became an important lookout point over the mouths to the Thames and the Medway rivers.
Later, the Anglo-Saxon kings took it as a seat of power: Aethelberht of Kent was said to have moved his court here from Canterbury, taking over the abandoned Roman site. A large church–St Mary’s–was later constructed, and along with it a wealthy monastery. A 7th Century cross, most likely a high cross, was discovered by archeologists outside the church and is now kept at Canterbury cathedral.
The church, and the village it served, was perilously close to the sea by the 17th Century, and by the 18th, the village was largely abandoned and a new church built further inland. St Mary’s was suddenly surplus to requirements.
As the buildings around it (including the vicarage and the original village inn) were claimed by the sea, the majority of the church was demolished. Its imposing towers, the Twin Sisters, were allowed to remain as a navigational aid, and the ruins were protected from further sea-attacks by the construction of a series of groynes.
Illustrious–and complicated–as its history is, it comes with an even more interesting and particularly gruesome legend–that if you listen carefully, you will hear the sound of a crying baby in the ruins of the church. And that’s fair enough, you know. Ruined churches. They’re spooky, right? But in the 1960s, archeologists working on the site discovered a number of children’s skeletons buried deep beneath the walls of the Roman fort. The legend tells that they were buried alive as a sacrifice to protect the fort and its inhabitants….
Is it me, or did it suddenly get a bit chilly in here? Brrr.