A hidden historical treasure

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DYou may remember some months ago I was surprised to find a Norman castle lurking in a side street of our fair city, though you have to wonder how much longer it will be there, given its current state of neglect.

More recently I have discovered that there is an iron age hill fort within walking distance of my front door. Where are the brown road signs, out of work actors in iron age costume, and scandalously priced tea room?

Not that I would necessarily want those things, just that it seems odd a scheduled ancient monument of some historical significance remains unknown even to people who have probably passed it many times in their lives.  I’m starting to wonder if there’s a fully intact Egyptian pyramid behind Blean Village hall that nobody’s mentioned for a coupe of millennia.

“Oh yeah, the pharaoh Cant-ho-Tep popped over in about 4,000 BC and liked it so much he stuck around. Surprised you hadn’t noticed…”

The theory is that Bigbury Camp (for that is the hill in question) was the fort stormed by Julius Caesar and the 7th legion in 54 B.C. Again, Julius Caesar was hanging about in Rough Common and Harbledown, but it seems the locals are not easily impressed. Not even a blue plaque.

Although they did name a dog food after him (copyright Eddie Izzard). Julius was impressed though, famously saying in his description of the Britons that “by far the most civilized are those who dwell in Kent”. He did go on to say, “they permit their hair to grow long, shaving all parts of the body except the head and the upper lip.” He must have been to the Isle of Sheppey too.

Things went quite well for the Britons once they moved to Canterbury proper, abandoning the ill-fated hill fort. Until that was, they invited Hengist and Horsa over to help them fight the Picts, eventually paving the way for betrayal and the arrival of the Jutes, Angles and Saxons.

It seems that once they’d defeated the picts, they noticed that Kent was a much better place than their homeland, and invited half of Northern Europe to join them. An ancient chronicle cites “the manye brave ales and gastro pubbes, dwellinges moste reasonable in coste and speedie linke to Lundon”

The Jutes settled in Kent, under Hengist and his son Esc, who invented the modern computer keyboards that still bear his signature. They also claimed the Isle of Wight. Apparently, the true Kentish accent is very similar to the Isle of Wight, maintaining a sort of Danish twang, although I’m not sure I’ve heard that in either place.

The Britons finally left Kent in 457 after defeat at Crayford, losing 4,000 men and fleeing to London. It looks like the flow was very much in the other direction back then, it’s only taken 1,500 years to reverse the trend.

2 COMMENTS

  1. A quite amusing piece from Alex, but how about a little more background facts on the location and historical significance of Bigbury?

  2. No mention of the even more hidden and unknown fort on the other side of the valley, discovered in a Lidar survey; in the woods back of the Hotel on the A2 …….. As far as I know, its not known whether it was a matching Iron Age hillfort or whether it is the traces of a Roman camp, could it be from there that they launched the assault on Bigbury?

    Dfl is right on one thing, with so much to offer, Kent is seriously under-marketed as a holiday destination in the UK; we holiday across the more rural parts of the UK and Kent is as good as any of them, and yet ….. what we get are continental day-trippers, with an average spend of about a fiver!

    We’ve got castle, cathedrals, countryside, beaches, what’s not to like!

    When we moved here 29 years ago my sister in law said, “it’ll be like being on holiday all the time”, not entirely wrong although when you’re working you soon take it all for granted.

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