Reculver, Isle of Thanet

8 Apr

Reculver towers

 

 

Reculver, the Isle of Thanet, Kent

If you were to further describe the rich and diverse history of the Isle of Thanet, you could maybe say that it has a creative and resilient culture. The identity of a place and its people, as the EnglaID researchers all agree, is difficult and slippery to define; yet as I visited the Isle of Thanet, the words creative, diverse, resilient, kept emerging in my mind.

An immediate and obvious example of this, can be seen when you visit Turner Contemporary in Margate, and look at art works by windows looking out to sea. If you were to dig directly down from where you stood, you might arrive at the exact spot where Turner spent time gazing and painting, from the boarding house on the harbor, which he came to live in.

Six miles away to the west, in the coastal village of Reculver are two towers from a medieval church that can also be seen from Turner Contemporary and perch on a cliff protected by sea defenses.

Green Creswell 1

Christopher Green annotated map, Miranda Creswell photograph and drawing

Reculver by the window

If you were to make a simple list of the uses of several historically interesting sites, without any analysis, it could make you question why some sites seem so ‘active’, while others stay ‘still’, in that they remain (to some degree) what they were originally created to be.

Reculver, it seems, would be the former:

1.    A Roman fort AD43.

2.    A Roman settlement, 1st and 2nd centuries AD.

3.     A larger Roman Fort, built against Saxon raids, 3rd Century AD

4.    An Anglo- Saxon monastery 669 AD.

5.    A parish church, 10th century.

6.    New modeling of the church with twin towers 12th century.

7.    An Air Defense look out and reporting station, 1934.

8.    A testing sight for the bouncing bombs 1943, (watched by Barnes Wallis in the nearby Mill house where he lived).

9.    An English Heritage site.

10.       Part of a country Park with visitors center, Kent Wildlife Trust.

11.       Possible future plans: to be incorporated in a coastal Kent walk.

This is a rough list and does not touch on other uses such as a sea marker for sailors (named the Twin Sisters) or as a defense for the Wantsum Channel, which has only been silted up since the Middle Ages, invaded by the Vikings in 839AD; or uses in the pre Roman Era.

Reculver Letty Ten Harkel

Letty Ten Harkel and Reculver Towers

 

Having made this list, I spent five days observing Reculver, in January, on the coastal path. Despite the wild weather, producing what a writer friend of mine described as ‘running’ seas and skies, I recognized and tried to respond to the intense beauty of this landscape, and the depth of its culture.

IMG_7594

Drawing by Miranda Creswell , Reculver coastal path and Letty Ten Harkel in the background.

Talking to people who walked passed me on the coastal path; I felt that Kent has, a wide and plentiful admiring audience. They recognize that part of the identity of this region is the energy and creativity, which makes its cultural sites spin in different directions, according to the times that they are in.

 

(1), (2), (3) National Library of Scotland , online map collection.

http://maps.nls.uk

www.english-heritage.org.uk

www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk

www.bbc.co.uk kent

www.turnercontemporary.org

OS One Inch 1885 1900 outline

(1) OS one inch 1885 1900

OS 1 25000 1937 61

(2) OS 1 25000 1937 61

reculver os 6 inch 1888 1913

(3) Reculver OS 6 inch 1888 1913

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