Exploring the Past in Kent

The Medway Megaliths: Kent’s Neolithic Jewels

The Medway Megaliths are a series of at least six chambered long barrows located on either side of the River Medway in rural Kent. They can be found on the North Downs, a beautiful area where woodland continues to dominate the high ground but where most lowland areas have given way to crop-fields and hedgerows. Perhaps these megalithic sites are not be as well-known as others in south-west England, they nevertheless provide a rewarding visit for all those with a love of prehistory and archaeology … Continue Reading >>

Ethan Doyle White

Archaeology Travel

One of the Medway Megalith sites, Kit Coty's House.

Archaeology & History Sites in Kent

Roman Sites in Kent

Lullingstone Roman Villa
A 4th century AD mosaic at Lullingston Roman Villa depicting Bellerophon on horseback.

Lullingstone Villa is one of the best preserved Roman villas in England. The wall paintings provide some of the earliest evidence for Christianity in Roman Britain. Construction began around 100 AD, but the villa was at its most luxurious during the mid 4th century AD. Besides the exquisite wall paintings, the villa is also known for its well preserved mosaics. The ruins have been preserved in situ and covered, making this a great all-weather site to visit. A light show is used to bring the villa back to life.

Richborough Roman Fort and Amphitheatre
Earthen ramparts surrounding a Roman fort at Richborough, Kent.

The Roman archaeological site at Richborough consists of the ruins of a once extensive Saxon Shore fort, built by the Romans as protection against Saxon raiders, and the earthworks of an amphitheatre. Excavations and geophysical survey show this unique site was used throughout the Roman occupation of Britain (from 43 to 410 AD) and that the amphitheatre had sloping rows of clay and mortar seats. A small on-site museum displays artefacts found here. Arrive by boat from nearby Sandwich to experience approaching the site as the Romans would.

Medieval Sites in Kent

Dover Castle
A view of the imposing Dover Castle from a distance.

Dover Castle, the ‘gateway to the realm’, is one of Britain’s best-surviving Norman castles. Excavations suggest the site was in 800 BC an Iron Age hillfort. Over the last 1,000 years it has been a royal palace, a Napoleonic fortress, a military base for ‘Operation Dynamo’ during the Battle of Dunkirk and a Cold War communications office. Walk the battlements to enjoy views over the White Cliffs, get lost in secret underground wartime passages and imagine life as the king from the palace in the Great Tower.

Maison Dieu
The 16th century building of Maison Dieu in Faversham, Kent.

Maison Dieu and the adjacent Hospital of St Mary was a Medieval hospital and hostel for kings, from the 13th century. It served the local community as well as travellers and pilgrims who passed through the small town of Faversham on their way to Canterbury, Dover and even onto the continent. Dissolved by Henry VIII in 1519, what we see today was rebuilt in the 16th century. Two buildings remain, one a private residence and the other a museum housing the artefacts excavated from a nearby Roman cemetery. Photograph © Ron Strutt/Wikimedia

Old Soar Manor
Old Soar Manor in Kent. Photograph © National Trust

A Medieval manor house built around 1290 AD from Kentish ragstone. The manor provides a rare insight to the domestic and professional lives of a wealthy English Medieval noble family – the Culpeppers. The timber-framed great hall that once accompanied the private residence was demolished during the 18th century and was replaced by the present red brick farmhouse, which is privately owned. Free to enter, the manor is nestled in the beautiful Kentish North Downs countryside.

Reculver Towers and Roman Fort
Reculver Towers now stand on what was once a Roman Fort.

Herne Bay is dominated by the twin towers of Reculver Medieval church. This complex site started out as a Roman fort dating to the early years of the Roman’s invasion of Britain. By the 1st and 2nd centuries AD a settlement had developed. In the 7th century, materials from the fort were used to construct an Anglo-Saxon monastery and a church was built at the centre of the fort. Much of the site has been lost to coastal erosion, but the twin towers at Reculver were used to guide ships to shore until quite recently.

Temple Manor
The 13th century Temple Manor, built by the Knights Templar.

The Medieval stone hall of Temple Manor was built in the 13th century by the Knights Templar, a religious order founded during the Crusades to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. The building is a good example of Medieval architecture, which excavations show was adapted throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. The ornate interior design and evidence of a variety of archaic building techniques contrast with the surprisingly urban location of the manor (within an industrial estate), making Temple Manor a free-to-visit hidden gem.

St. Augustine’s Abbey
The ruined remains of St. Augustine Abbey in Kent.

One of the city’s three historic monuments that make up the Canterbury UNESCO World Heritage Site, St. Augustine’s Abbey stands today as the ruins of a majestic landmark of the Christian church. With foundations documented in as early as 579 AD, the abbey was initially built as a burial ground for Anglo-Saxon kings before it became a Norman church. Many of the site’s relics were seized by the Crown during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but plenty of finds from excavations and the abbey’s archive can be seen in the museum.

Early Modern Sites in Kent

Upnor Castle
View of Upnor Castle on the banks of the Medway River in Kent.

Upnor Castle is a rare surviving example of an Elizabethan artillery fort built to protect Queen Elizabeth I’s warships at Chatham Docks. During the 17th century Civil War the castle was captured by Kentish royalists, was poorly maintained, and failed to defend against Dutch invaders in 1667 who burned British ships at their moorings. Upnor remained in military use until WWII and has since been managed by English Heritage. The castle’s attractive turrets, curtain wall and picturesque village setting make it the perfect destination for a family day out.

Walmer Castle
The Tudor fortress now set in beautiful gardens of Walmer Castle.

With a circular keep and low profile, Walmer Castle was an impressive feat of Tudor engineering designed to be invisible from the sea and to deflect gunfire. During the 17th century it became the official residence of the Lord Warden of The Cinque Ports (the five main Kentish ports) with famous residents including William Pitt and the Duke of Wellington. Impressive gardens were later designed to accompany Walmer as it became a country residence, which can be seen today to contrast with the imposing military-style architecture of the keep and bastion.

Dymchurch Martello Tower
The defensive Dymchurch Martello Tower on the Kent coast.

Part of a chain of fortifications constructed along the South and East English coasts during the 19th century, Dymchurch Martello Tower (no. 24) is an unusual seaside site with an intriguing past. It was built to withstand bomb blasts and equipped with a cannon deck, today complete with original cannon. Explore Kent’s smuggling past and see how England’s coastal defences evolved from nearby Norman Dover Castle into Dymchurch’s complex 19th century engineering operation. Free to enter, Dymchurch’s interior can be enjoyed on summer weekends.