Sussex Castles




Arrival of the Romans


Arrival of the Romans

The first appearance of the Romans in Sussex was around AD 43, when Fishbourne appears to have been used as a supply depot and Chichester (Noviomagus Reginorum) used to garrison troops during the Roman invasion of Britain. By the middle of the first century, the occupying Romans were farming the Sussex countryside. The majority of farms were small farmsteads, but some farms were on a larger scale and had grander buildings to match. These were known as villas.

Roman Villas

Villas were often built over many years and in stages, with a wing being built at a time. The villas often included luxurious features such mosaic tile floors, under floor heating (hypocaust) and bathhouses. There are numerous villa sites in Sussex, including Pulborough, Westhampnett, Arundel, Angerming, Brighton, Southwick, Eastbourne and Barcombe. Most villa sites are now just the remains of foundations at, or below ground level, but Bignor Roman villa and Fishbourne Roman palace, both have beautiful preserved mosaics and are are open to the public.

Sussex Weald

Most of the villas were concentrated on the Sussex coastal strip and along river valleys. This provided easy access to fertile farmland and grazing for sheep on the south downs. There appears to be much less evidence of farming in the interior of Sussex, this may have been due to the clay soil or the large tracts of forrest. However there was a thriving iron industry in the Sussex weald and evidence of iron working can be found from Crawley to Hastings.


The Romans made use of Arun, Adur and Ouse rivers, which were navigable further upstream than they are today. Beyond the rivers, the Romans built many roads. The best known of these road in Sussex is Stane Street which linked Chichester to London. In the west of the county there were two more roads to London originating in defended settlements of Hardham and Hassocks. In the east of the county there were roads from Northiam to Rochester and Canterbury. An east-west road connected Chichester, Hardham and Hassocks. It is not clear if this road extended further east to Pevensey, although this might be a reasonable assumption, given the presence of the Roman fort at Pevensey

Sussex Timeline