From my diary

The hunt for a copy of a 1969 survey report, detailing sub-aqua dives on the ruins of the Roman fort offshore at Felixstowe, continues!  I had a nice email back from the local sub-aqua club, who no longer have a copy.  But it seems that the report’s author, a “J. Errington”, is in fact “Jeff” who has a business interest in “Diveline” in the St Johns Road in Ipswich.  So … another email.  Mr E. must have been a rather young man back in 1969.  Let’s hope that he still has a copy!

From my diary

I’ve had rather a busy week, ending with a rather splendid college reunion.  But of course everything else has gone out of the window, and I also have rather a large sleep debt to pay off.

Today brings another chunk of translation of an early Latin Vita of St George.  Chapters 9 and 11 are in my inbox now.  The version is a very rough draft. The only difficulty is that the translator doesn’t read my emails with feedback, so makes the same mistakes every time.  This means that I shall have to correct and finish it myself.  I hope to do the job on these chunks this week.  The translation is going forward nicely, tho; some 8 chapters still to do.

Today also brought a welcome email from the Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service with unwelcome news.  In 1969 a team of divers surveyed the ruins of a Roman fort in the sea off Felixstowe, known locally as Walton Castle.  A report was filed with the museum, and was accessible a decade ago.  The email today tells me that they cannot locate it now.  I have written therefore to the sub-aqua club, who may have it in their files.  Another email went to the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, who published the article mentioning the survey, to see if I can get in contact with the author in case he has a copy.  We tend to think of museums and archives as safe repositories.  But the truth is that history is vanishing before our eyes.  So it has always been.

Last week I was working industriously on the new QuickLatin.  This is going well, and crude errors are disappearing.  I must get a version released online, as a base version for further work.

My backlog of interesting topics to blog about continues to increase.  So much to do!

From my diary

It is Saturday evening here.  I’m just starting to wind down, in preparation for Sunday and a complete day away from the computer, from all the chores and all my hobbies and interests.  I shall go and walk along the seafront instead, and rest and relax and recharge.

Sometimes it is very hard to do these things.  But this custom of always keeping Sunday free from everything has been a lifesaver over the last twenty years.  Most of my interests are quite compelling.  Without this boundary, I would have burned out.

Phase 2 of the QuickLatin conversion from VB6 to VB.Net is complete.  Phase 1 was the process of getting the code converted, so that it compiled.  With Phase 2, I now have some simple phrases being recognised correctly and all the obvious broken bits fixed.  The only exception to this is the copy protection, which I will leave until later.

Phase 3 now lies ahead.  This will consist of creating automated tests for all the combinations of test words and phrases that I have used in the past.  Code like QuickLatin has any number of special cases, which I have yet to exercise.  No doubt some will fail, and I will need to do some fixes.  But when this is done then the stability of the code will be much more certain.   But I am trying to resist the insidious temptation to rewrite bits of the code.  That isn’t the objective here.

I began to do a little of this testing over the last few hours.  Something that I missed is code coverage – a tool that tells me visually how much of the code is covered by the tests.  It’s an excellent way to spot edge-cases that you haven’t thought about.

It is quite revealing that Microsoft only include their coverage tool in the Enterprise, maximum-price editions of Visual Studio.  For Microsoft, plainly, it’s a luxury.  But to Java developers like myself, it’s something you use every day.

Of course I can’t afford the expensive corporate editions.  But I think there is a relatively cheap tool that I could use.  I will look.

Once the code is working, then I can set about adding the syntactical stuff that caused me to undertake this in the first place!  I have a small pile of grammars on the floor by my desk which have sat there for a fortnight!

I’m still thinking a bit about the ruins of the Roman fort which lies under the waves at Felixstowe in Suffolk.  This evening I found another article exists, estimating how far the coast extended and how big the fort was.[1]  It’s not online, but I think a nearby (25 miles away) university will have it.  I’ve sent them a message on twitter, and we’ll see.*

I’ve also continued to monitor archaeological feeds on twitter for items of interest.  I’m starting to build up quite a backlog of things to post about!  I’ll get to them sometime.

* They did not respond.

  1. [1]J. Hagar, “A new plan for Walton Castle Suffolk”, Archaeology Today vol 8.1 (1987), pp. 22-25.  It seems to be a popular publication, once known as Minerva, but there’s little enough in the literature that it’s worth tracking down.

From my diary: looking for the Roman fort of “Walton Castle”

In late antiquity the Saxons started to make raids into the Roman province of Britannia.  This they did by sailing across the North Sea – the Narrow Seas, as it is also known – in open boats.  In response to this the Romans built a chain of impressive forts along the British coast, under the command of a “Count of the Saxon Shore”.  A couple of these still exist in significant form, at Pevensey where a Norman keep was added, and at Burgh Castle in Suffolk.  Others have disappeared.

One of the vanished forts was located on the Suffolk coast somewhere, at “Walton”.  There is more than one place of that name available.  There is Walton, which was a medieval village near a small fishing hamlet named Felixstowe.  But at the start of the 20th century Felixstowe became a seaside resort and has since swallowed up the whole area.  There is also Walton-on-the-Naze.  At neither place is there anything to be seen.  General publications on the area often cast doubt on whether there was any such fort.

At the weekend I came across an article published in 2000 on “Walton Castle”.  It seems that, far from being unknown, the fort stood on the cliffs at Felixstowe, to the south of a valley called “The Dip”.  There are 18th century sketches of the walls, which stand almost full-height.  The coast-line is sand, and is eroding, and so the whole structure progressively fell into the sea around 1800.

But there is more.  Great masses of Roman brick, stone and concrete do not just disappear, just because they have fallen down thirty feet and been covered by water.  They should still be there.  The article sadly suggests that a lot of it was hauled up and used for hardcore at Harwich port at the same time.

However, it seems that in 1969 the local sub-aqua club went out and surveyed the area, and a report was filed with the local museum in Ipswich.  The article refers to this as the “Errington manuscript”.  No doubt this is typescript and hand-drawn diagrams.

Even more interestingly, I came across a webpage with a photograph of the area, taken by a Dr Sam Newton at very low tides (the sea is very shallow):

Note the dark mass in the sea, right in the centre of the photograph.  This, the site says, is a bit of wall poking above the waves.

Last night the low tide was at 16:50, so I went down there and had a look.  There was nothing to be seen.  Probably it requires an unusually low tide.  But it was hard to see exactly from where the photograph was taken.  I went again this morning and just scouted the area.  But I need to go again.

Also this morning I contacted the Ipswich Museum, and I have written an enquiry to their collections team to see if I can get hold of a copy of the Errington manuscript.  This ought to specify precisely where the ruins are, and what is to be seen.

It is fifty years since the original dives were made.  I wonder if the local sub-aqua club (which still exists) might be interested in going out there again?  I wonder how much there is there?  What can be seen?  If the ruins are that close to the surface, what might a drone be able to photograph on a still day?

All very interesting anyway.  I’m still working on QuickLatin, but I will look into this further and write more!