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Roman forts at Papcastle and part of the vicus

A Scheduled Monument in Papcastle, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.6709 / 54°40'15"N

Longitude: -3.3825 / 3°22'57"W

OS Eastings: 310936.966647

OS Northings: 531530.435171

OS Grid: NY109315

Mapcode National: GBR 4GTF.HC

Mapcode Global: WH6ZQ.0VKK

Entry Name: Roman forts at Papcastle and part of the vicus

Scheduled Date: 14 February 1962

Last Amended: 16 October 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007760

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22499

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Papcastle

Built-Up Area: Cockermouth

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Cockermouth Area Team

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument at Papcastle includes two superimposed Roman forts and part of
the associated civilian settlement or vicus, identified as the site known to
the Romans as Derventio. Part of the area of the forts has been built over and
is not included in the scheduling. The full extent and nature of the survival
of the vicus is not yet known and only that part immediately west of the forts
is presently included in the scheduling. The forts occupy a strategic position
on a hill overlooking a major crossing of the River Derwent at the interface
of the highland zone with the North Cumbrian coastal plain. Aerial
photography, together with limited archaeological excavations undertaken in
1912 and 1961-2, indicate the presence of two successive forts laid out on
slightly different alignments and extending over an area of approximately 250m
by 200m. The ramparts of the later fort can be seen as a grassy bank up to 1m
high on the west, north and east sides. The excavations suggest Papcastle was
occupied from the late first to the late fourth centuries with a break between
c.120 and 160 AD. The second fort was the larger of the two and was
constructed slightly south and west of the former. Excavation prior to
construction of bungalows within the forts but outside the scheduled area
located remains of the timber barracks of the first fort which were overlain
by the stone barracks of the second fort. The area was subsequently subjected
to a thorough levelling and the barracks were rebuilt for a third time between
c.293 and 306 AD. Evidence for a fourth-century commander's house was also
located during this excavation. Aerial photography has indicated the location
of the west gate of the later fort flanked by guard chambers and an extension
or annexe on the fort's western side.
The forts lie at the junction of five major Roman roads (to Old Carlisle,
Burrow Walls, Moresby, Keswick and the south-west coast) and dominate the
military zone in this region which served as the military centre for the whole
stretch of coastal defences running from Maryport to south of Moresby.
Papcastle therefore fulfilled a major administrative role in the military
network of the region, controlling and supplying an area considerably larger
than its immediate hinterland.
Casual finds and limited excavation south of the forts indicate the presence
of a large vicus, or associated civilian settlement, containing a bath-house
and a monumental stone structure amongst other buildings.
All modern field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling but the ground
beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Around 150 Roman forts are known to have existed in England. Construction of
these began soon after the Roman invasion of AD 43 and continued into the
fourth century. The distribution of these forts reflects areas where a
military presence was necessary and the north of England, acting as a buffer
zone between barbarian tribes of northern Britain and the heavily Romanised
southern half of the country, contained a large number of these military
bases. These sites provide considerable insight into the complexities of the
frequently changing Roman frontier military strategy and add important detail
to the historical account of the subjugation of Britain.
The Roman forts of Derventio were of major strategic importance and are
considerably larger than the average fort in the region. They played a major
role in the defence of the northern frontier, being closely involved in the
supply and administration of the coastal region and the adjacent highland
zone, together with policing the native population both locally and throughout
the wider northern frontier region. Limited excavation at Papcastle confirms
that archaeological remains ranging in date from the late first to the late
fourth centuries survive well. The site therefore retains considerable
information about its origin, form and function.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Charlesworth, D, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc' in Excavations At Papcastle 1961-2, , Vol. LXV, (1965), 102-14
Collingwood, R G, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc' in Report of the Excavations at Papcastle 1912, , Vol. XIII, (1913), 131-142
Birley, E (AP reproduced in this article), Roman Papcastle, Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc, (1963)
Olivier,A.C.H., Papcastle Vicus Excavation 1984 (Unpub), 1985, Centre for NW Regional Studies

Source: Historic England

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