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Part of the Rhee Wall, a medieval canal, at Snargate

A Scheduled Monument in Snargate, Kent

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.0289 / 51°1'43"N

Longitude: 0.8267 / 0°49'36"E

OS Eastings: 598309.298211

OS Northings: 129302.434519

OS Grid: TQ983293

Mapcode National: GBR RY5.KSB

Mapcode Global: FRA D6MD.FWQ

Entry Name: Part of the Rhee Wall, a medieval canal, at Snargate

Scheduled Date: 10 January 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010699

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27008

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Snargate

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Details

The monument includes the best surviving stretch of the medieval canal known
as the Rhee Wall, situated along the interface between the lower lying ground
of Walland Marsh to the south west and Romney Marsh to the north east. The
canal originally ran for a total length of 7.5 miles between New Romney, then
one of the Cinque Ports, and the inland town of Appledore. It was constructed
during the mid-13th century in order to help flush out the rapidly silting
harbour at Romney Creek by redirecting sea water towards the port from further
up the River Rother estuary, and to provide a shipping channel between the two
settlements.
The monument lies towards the north western end of the canal and survives in
the form of earthworks and buried remains. The central feature is a
substantial water channel up to c.50m wide, the meandering course of which
indicates that the canal's engineers utilised a natural watercourse at this
point. This channel has become infilled over the years, and has also been
partially disturbed by the construction of a modern bungalow, outbuildings,
land drains and pond, but survives in buried form between two retaining banks.
The south westerly of these is up to 17m wide and survives to a height of up
to 2m above the lower ground to the south west. A slight berm c.7m wide runs
alongside the south western edge of the bank. Subsequent drain digging and
agricultural activity has breached the bank in several places. The course of
the north easterly retaining bank is followed by the modern B2080, which runs
along a raised causeway, and partial excavation around 3km to the south east
of the monument at Brenzett has indicated that the bank may survive within the
causeway in partially disturbed, residual form. The excavations showed the
canal banks to be constructed of dumped local silty clays and sand.
During the great storms of 1287-8, the Rhee Wall helped protect the reclaimed
marshes to the north from the flooding which devasted much of Walland Marsh,
and the ports of Romney, to the south. The canal, which was always prone to
silting, fell into disuse as a shipping route during the 15th century,
although its dry, raised banks continued to be used as an overland trade route
across the marshes. The section of the canal between Appledore and Snargate,
of which the monument forms a part, acted as the main drain for the south
westerly marshes until 1544, when a new gutt was made at Arrowhead.
The modern bungalow, all modern outbuildings, sheds, fences and gates, and the
modern surfaces of all roads, yards, tracks and paths are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The use of inland water routes, along with coastal navigation, formed the main
means of transport and long distance internal trade during the medieval
period, prior to the building of an adequate road network. However, the
construction of canals to supplement river transport was an uncommon practice,
demanding a high expenditure of time and labour. Very few examples of this
monument type are known to have survived to the present day.
The section of the Rhee Wall at Snargate survives relatively well and will
contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the
canal and the landscape in which it was constructed and used. Conditions
within the infilled water channel can be expected to preserve organic
material. The construction and subsequent history of the monument is
comparatively well documented by surviving contemporary records, supplemented
by recent partial excavation. Its construction illustrates the struggle for
existence by the channel ports against natural coastal processes during the
later medieval period, and the substantial nature and dual purpose of the
monument as a harbour-flushing device and transport route reflects the
importance of trade and inland water transport to this area of Kent during the
later medieval period.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
The Trust for Wessex Archaeology, , Archaeological Investigations at Brenzett Roundabout, Kent, (1993)
Tatton-Brown, T, 'Romney Marsh: Evolution, Occupation, Reclamation' in The Topog. of Walland Marsh Area between 11th and 13th centuries, (1988), 105-111
Vollans, E, 'Romney Marsh: Evolution, Occupation, Reclamation' in New Romney and 'The River of Newenden' in the Later Middle Ages, (1988), 128-141
Other
South Eastern Archaeological Services, An Archaeological Watching Brief at the Rhee Wall, Brenzett Kent, 1993,
Tatton-Brown, T, The Rhee: Its Construction And Use, 1992, conference abstract

Source: Historic England

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