Portus Adurni

View of the interior of the Roman fort of Portus Adurni.

View of the interior of the Roman fort of Portus Adurni.

Portchester

A substantial Roman fort exists here, and is associated with the network of fortifications known collectively as the Saxon Shore Forts. These forts are listed in the Notitia Dignitatum, a Roman document that gives an overview of the military organisation of Britain around AD 400.  The forts mentioned in this document are:

Branodonum (Brancaster, Norfolk)

Gariannonum (Burgh Castle, Norfolk)

Othona (Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex)

Regulbium (Reculver, Kent)

Rutupiae (Richborough, Kent)

Dubris (Dover, Kent)

Portus Lemanis (Lympne, Kent)

Anderitum (Pevensey, East Sussex)

Portus Adurni (Portchester, Hampshire)

Therefore the westernmost fort in the network is Portchester. The name of Portchester is from the Latin for harbour (port), with the suffix ‘ceaster’ – the old English term for a Roman fortification (1).  It is said by some to be the finest surviving fort north of the Alps.

Connection to the Road System

The fort would have been connected to the British Roman road system: all forts were connected in some way. Supplies to the fort would have needed a good well-maintained road connecting from the nearest trunk road.  Checking Margary, Roman road 420 went from Winchester to Wickham.  If the orientation of this road is continued past Wickham, where it crosses road 421 (the road from Chichester to Bitterne) then it connects to the Roman fort.

I suggest a possible route as follows.

Extending the orientation of Margary 421 from the final point recorded on the Ordnance Survey map at Cold Harbour (just outside Wickham), extend the line past Mayles Farm (Wickham), on to the the junction at Albany Farm, then continue it across M27 then across the Wallington River to Fort Wallington.  Extend it to Downend, then after the school, we run out of land: the estuary has been reached.  It is possible that the coast line has changed slightly here, and the here was once dry land in Roman times. At Wicor Lake  the road would then need to turn to the east.  Wicor Path follows this route, and it terminates at the West (main) gate of Portus Adurni after going through some housing.

This proposed route is simply an extension of an already known route, 421.  It has one turn, at a point in the region of ‘Wicor’.  Gelling (2) has suggested that place-names with the root of ‘Wick’ will coincide with actual Roman remains.  The name stems from the Latin ‘Vicus’ which meant Station.  In reality a ‘Vicus’ or ‘Wick’ could be a state – owned farm, an extra-mural settlement  (next to a military establishment), or simply a market or trading place.  It would seem Wicor could be either of the latter two, as it is on the edge of the estuary, at a river mouth (the Wallington) and it is also only 2000 yards away from the Roman fort.  It will be interesting to see if any remains of the surface of the road can be seen in the area of Wicor Hard.

(1) Maragaret Gelling, Signposts to the Past, BCA London, 1976,  p.78.

(2) Op. cit., pp.67-74.

Leave a Reply