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London and the Saxon Shore

Harvey Sheldon

THE 1994 LAMAS PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS, DELIVERED FEBRUARY 1994


The term ‘Saxon Shore’ is known from only one contemporary source, the Notitia Dignitatum. The military stations on the Saxon Shore, popularly associated with defence against Saxon raids, appear to be distributed along the coast from the Wash to Portsmouth Harbour. Yet the antiquity of the command and indeed its precise function is unknown. The forts, probably built in the 3rd century, may have been constructed for other purposes and could have functioned for a considerable time before being incorporated within the Saxon Shore Command.

Recent archaeological work in London has produced new evidence of late Roman military installations, including a probable signal station at Shadwell and the City's Riverside Wall. Behind the Wall lies a ‘palatial’ complex of buildings erected at the end of the 3rd century. The continuing importance of London in the later Roman period suggests that there should have been a link between the coastal forts and Londinium, although little direct evidence exists.

[Transactions 46 (1995), 59 – 68; abstract as published]

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