Probable Port and Settlement
That there was some kind of port or civil settlement near Skegness is borne out by the course of the Roman road from Lincoln (Margary#27 Lincoln-Burgh-le-Marsh [36 miles]), all trace of which is unfortunately lost some 5 miles to the north-west, but its intended terminus is unmistakably the headland at Gibraltar, just south of the modern seaside town. The topography in this area is dominated by the marshes and shifting sands at the mouth of the Steeping River, the meandering course of which has erased all traces of any Roman occupation.
The suspected port here very likely communicated with the known ports across the Metaris Aestuarium (The Wash) near Hunstanton and at Branodunum (Brancaster).
The idea of a lost Roman settlement comes from a reference made by the 16th Century antiquarian John Leland. In his ‘Itinerary’ (a tour around the country noting various things he found interesting) undertaken between 1535 and 1543, he made the following observation about Skegness:
“To Skegnesse sumtyme a great haven toune a 4 or 5 miles of. Mr. Paynelle sayid onto me that he could prove that there was ons an haven and a towne waullid having also a castelle. The old toune is clene consumid, and eten up with the se, part of a chirch of it stode a late. At low waters appere yet manifest tokens of old buildinges. For old Skegnes is now buildid a pore new thing”
The old town of Skegness had been claimed by the changing coastline during Leland’s own lifetime but thankfully, via the very useful Mr Paynelle, he was able to record the existence of a ‘walled town’ and a ‘castle’. In the absence of documentary evidence of a Medieval castle cited at that point on the coast, there is a long held belief that the remains could be Roman.
References for Skegness
- Roman Roads in Britain : Volume I South of the Foss Way – Bristol Channel by Ivan D. Margary (London 1955);
- Historical Map and Guide – Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001).
Map References for Skegness
NGRef: TF5663 OSMap: LR122