"The Raiders"

Coastal Plunder, Pillage & Piracy

During the Roman occupation of Britain, the Classis Britannica shore establishments and vessels main role as the British fleet of Rome, was to support and supply the Roman Army of occupation.

These Coastal maritime bases were established, the Roman war ships also had the role to stop raiders from their rape and pillage or attacking the Roman forces in Britain by intercepting and preventing the pirate’s ships from landing.

A system of defence was based on the bottleneck of the straits forts and maritime defences were established on both sides of the Channel and Boulogne was seemly the principle base for these operations, signal stations were set up along the coast such as at Dvbris, where the remains of a Roman Lighthouse (Pharos) can still be seen by the Church of St Mary De Castro at Dover Castle. Until the sixteenth-century a Roman lighthouse could be seen at Boulogne. From Dover Castle another Pharos, was on Dover’s Western Heights, and so on, it has been claimed that the next in line was two lighthouses in the area which is now called Folkestone.

It would seem that Folkestone was a major element with the Roman defence of the Channel, as it is situated equal-distance between the Roman forts of Dvbris, (Dover) and Portus Lemanis, (Lympne). Signals needed to be made to the Roman headquarters at Boulogne and Folkestone was the ideally situated in sight of Boulogne, also commanding a view of the whole Channel, and as Mr S.E.Winbolt, who excavated the Roman Villa complex in 1920's on Folkestone East Cliff, suggested in his book, - the Admiral could see the vessels berthed along the Mole.

The Romano-British Trail >

In the third century the pirate menace was a problem in the North Sea (Belgico) and the English Channel (Armorica). A Menapin mercenary, Carausius, a Belgic sailor possibly from Holland or the lower Rhine stationed at Roman headquarters, was given the task to take on the pirates. If the raiders landed and plundered, even though they had slipped through the straits unnoticed, word via the signal stations would be brought back that there had been a raid. It was claimed that it was not long before Carausius, who was appointed commander of Rome's Channel fleet in 284 A.D., adopted the channel trap of allowing pirates to pass through the Channel defence scheme, to land and raid, so that he could then seize their booty. It was thought, that although his fleet caught many barbarians, they did not give back their spoils back intact either did they go into the imperial treasury. Carausius became rich, and being under sentence of death from Maximian, he assumed the imperial power and seized Britain.
In 288-9 A.D, Maximian carried out attacks on Britain to oust the usurper Carausius, but the Carausis sailors were more practised in the art of naval warfare. The Romans eventually captured Boulogne and a vital element of the defence of Britain was lost. Carausius was forced to flee to Britain, in that year was his death at the hands of his officer for finance, Allectus in 293 A.D.
In 296.A.D. the Roman fleet made a forced landing near the Isle of Wight and headed for London, - a pincer movement aimed to bring a second force up the Thames and into London. Allectus was trapped caught and killed, his mercenary troops slaughtered in a battle near, Silchester.
The shore forts were being maintained by the Roman until the Fourth Century. In 367 came the barbarians Picts, Scots, Franks & Saxons made devastating raids on Britain. The strength of the Romans was weakened, the province of Britain laid waste by the incursion of the Saxons, the shore forts became part of the Saxon Shore.

367-9 A.D. the 'Barbarian Conspiracy', recovery and restoration of Britian by the elder Theodosius, By 383 A,D, Magnus Maximus proclaimed in Britian: victory over Picts. 398-400 Victories over Picts, Scots, Saxons.

Britain revolts from Honorius (395-423). two emperors proclamed. Constantine III.., proclaimed in Britian, in 409 Britain revolts from Constantine III., and teh end of Roman rule in Britain.


In 441, the provinces were brought under Saxon domination. Southern Britain was absorbed by Germanic culture, in the 420’s the British tyrant Vortigern, was under constant attack by Picts & Scots, brought over Germanic mercenaries to be based at key points along the coast. Bede mentions two commanders of mercenaries who settled in Kent, Hengist & Horsa who settle in Kent around c.450. Hengist and Horsa were sons of Wihtgils, fierce warriors and the legendary leaders of the first Anglo-Saxon-Jutish settlers in Britain. Originating from Jutland, Denmark, they fought for Vortigern, the high king of Britain, in his struggle against the Picts from Scotland, between AD 449 and AD 454.

Initially they served their masters well but as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reveals, they soon turned against him, they 'first of all ... killed and drove away the king's enemies; then, later, they turned on the king and the British, destroying through fire and the sword's edge'. Horsa was killed in battle, in AD 455. Hengist and his son, Aesc, however, continued their war in Britain for another 18 years, killing, among others, four companies of Britons and twelve Welsh ealdormen. The Germanic tribes, of Saxons, Angles and Jutes which raided and harassed Britain began to establish settlements.
The drawing is part of the Stapleton Collection of the Bridgeman Art Library. Seemly the illustration is based on Folkestone shore as it shows on the cliff is one of Dover’s Roman Lighthouse (Pharos)

In Edward Hasted's History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent … first published in 1778 - 1799, he writes of Folkestone.
FOLKESTONE appears to have been known to the Romans, from several of their coins and bricks having been from time to time found in it; but what name it had then is uncertain. It had in it a strong castle or fort, which was probably, says Camden, one of those towers which the Romans under Theodosius the younger, as Gildas tells us, built upon the south coast of Britain, at certain distances, to guard it against the Saxons… This Roman fort, or watch tower, was built more than a mile and an half distant from the sea shore, on a very high hill, to discover the approach of those pirates; … and it is supposed, that this watchtower, with its surrounding fort, was situated on the summit of that high eminence, called Castle-hill, about a mile and an half northward from the present church of Folke-stone. … After the departure of the Romans it was taken possession of by the Britons first, and by the Saxons afterwards, on their settlement in this country, by whom Lambarde says, it was called Folcestane, id est, populi lapis, which signi-fies a rocke coasse, or slaw of stone, being a name purely of Saxon etymology. …After which this fort was made use of by the several princes of it, to keep the distressed Britons in subjection, and king Ethelbert [died 616] is reported to have rebuilt it; but his son and successor, Eadbald [616 - 640], seems to have totally neglected it, and in lieu of it to have built a castle (with a nunnery within the pre-cinct of it) on the high cliff, close to the sea shore, at no great distance southward from the present church of Folkestone, where it had an extensive command, es-pecially towards the sea; but this being afterwards, partly by the fury of the Danes, and partly by earl Godwin, when he ravaged this coast in the year 1052, reduced to a heap of ruins, continued in that state till William de Albrincis, or Averenches, on his becoming lord of this place after the Norman conquest, re-built the castle, near, if not wholly on the foundation of the former one, and made it the chief seat of his barony, which it continued to be to his successors, lords of it, for several ages afterwards, and till at length, by degrees, it was wholly destroyed, with the cliff on which it stood, by the incroachments of the sea. …

AEhelberht, becomes King of Kent, later over-king
616- 624
Raedwald of East Anglia, later over-king, makes Edwin king of Northumbria
Battle of Heavenfield; Oswald of Northumbria becomes over-king
Oswald is killed at Oswestry by King Penda of Mercia
Penda is defeated and killed at the Winwaed by Oswy of Northumbia, who become over-king
Synod of Hertford: battle of the Trent, marking the beginnings of the rise of Mercia
Expansion of Wessex under Caedwalla to include Kent, Surrey and Sussex
AEthelbald becomes king of Mercia
Bede completes his Ecclesiastical History
Death of AEthelbald; Offa becomes king of Merica
Legatine Council held under Offa
Danish raids on Lindisfarne, Jarrow, and Iona
Death of Offa
Egbert of Wessex defeats Merica and annexes Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex
Big Danish raid on Kent
The Danish 'Great Army' lands
Northumbria falls to the Danes

East Anglia falls to the Danes; murder of St. Edmund.

The Danes attack Wessex; Alfred becomes king
Merica falls to the Danes
March 878
The Danes drive Alfred into the Somerset marshes
May 878
Alfred defeats the Danes at Edington, becomes king of Wessex
Death of Alfred; Edward 'the Elder' becomes king of Wessex
Edward and AEthelflaed reconquer most of Danelaw
Norse kingdom of York is founded by Raegnald
Death of Edward; Athelstan becomes king
Death of Athelstan; Edmund becomes king
Death of Edmund
Edgar beoomes king
Edgar is crowned and consecrated, and receives the submission of British princes
Death of Edgar; Edward 'the Martyr' becomes king
Murder of Edward; AEthelred 'the Unreaday' becomes king
Treaty beween England and Normandy
In 991 AD, Olaf Tryggvason King of Norway and Swein Forkbeard from Demark with a Viking force of 93 ships comprising of two to three thousand men worked its way around the South East defeating the British at the Battle of Maldon, 10 or 11th August 991, receiving a payment of 10,000 pounds ‘because of the great terror they were causing along the coast' the force seemed to have remained along the coast in the south east in 991-2, then sails north to Northumberland in 993.
AEthelred orders the massacre of all Danes in England
Danish invasion led by King Swein
Swein returns with a new army; the Danelaw accepts him as King
Swein dies; the Danish army in England elect Cnut as their king
April 1016
AEthelred dies; Edmund 'Ironside' becomes king
Autum 1016
Cunt defeats Edmund at Ashingdon: Edmund dies and Cunt becomes King of all England
Cnut divides England into four earldoms
Death of Cnut
Harold becomes king
Death of Harold; Harthacnut becomes king
Death of Harthacnut; Edward 'the Confessor' becomes king
Conflict between King Edward and Godwin earl of Wessex
Death of Godwin; his son Harold becomes earl of Wessex
Earl Harold visits Duke William in Normandy
January 1066
Death of King Edward: Earl Harold becomes king
September 1066
King Harold of England defeats and kills King Harald Hardrada of Norway at Stamford Bridge
October 1066
Duke William of Norway defeats and kills King Harold of England at Hastings

Chronology is based on dates from ‘The Oxford History of Britain’, Volume I

The Saxon Shore Trail>

Among the many raiders was the ‘Men of the North’, plundering the other side of the channel was ‘Rollo, the Viking’, a rough Northman from Norway. Rollo first took to landing in Britain but was defeated in a battle with Alfred, took his fleet to the sea to France. Where he took a number of French cities and outside the gates of Rouen the Norseman built a huge camp. In 911 Rollo forced Charles the Simple, to sign the Treaty of Saint Clair-sur-Epte, in it Charles gave Rouen and the area of modern Haute-Normandie to Rollo, who vowed to guard the estates of the Seine from further Viking attacks.

The Vikings colonised Normandy, the Viking influence and customs remained strong building strongholds and training Vikings to fight on horseback. Rollo’s successors were called ‘Dukes of Normandy’, in 1066 a Duke of Normandy conquered the Kingdom of England.