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Roman camp and signal station 600m south-east of Wreay Hall

A Scheduled Monument in Hesket, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.8263 / 54°49'34"N

Longitude: -2.8601 / 2°51'36"W

OS Eastings: 344837.086092

OS Northings: 548282.831321

OS Grid: NY448482

Mapcode National: GBR 8DGM.LP

Mapcode Global: WH80B.1Y9F

Entry Name: Roman camp and signal station 600m south-east of Wreay Hall

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 20 May 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007871

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23669

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Hesket

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Wreay St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes a Roman camp and signal station located on a hilltop
600m south-east of Wreay Hall and 600m west of the main Roman road which
linked the Roman forts at Old Penrith (known to the Romans as Voreda), and
Carlisle (known to the Romans as Luguvallium). It is visible as cropmarks on
aerial photographs which clearly show some infilled ditches of the camp and
the infilled ditches of the signal station. An aerial photograph shows the
whole of the south-west and north-west sides of the Roman camp and part of the
north-east side. On the basis of this information the size and shape of the
whole camp can be reconstructed. The dimensions of the camp are approximately
55m square with rounded corners. Overlying the camp, and therefore of later
date, aerial photographs show a Roman signal station revealed as a ditched
enclosure c.17m square with rounded corners separated by a 6m wide strip from
an outer circular ditch c.41m in diameter. Limited excavation of the signal
station in 1951 confirmed the existence of the ditches as seen on the aerial
photograph and found Roman pottery dating to the latter half of the fourth
century AD. This pottery indicates that the signal station functioned after
the 'Barbarian Conspiracy' of the AD 360's referred to in classical sources,
when Picts, Saxons, Scots and Attacotti overran much of northern England, and
was thus constructed during the late 360's by Theodosius, a Roman general
specially dispatched to Britain to stabilise the situation.
A post and wire fence crossing the monument is excluded from the scheduling
although the ground beneath the fence is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Roman camps are rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosures which were
constructed and used by Roman soldiers either when out on campaign or as
practice camps; most campaign camps were only temporary overnight bases and
few were used for longer periods. They were bounded by a single earthen
rampart and outer ditch and in plan are always straight-sided with rounded
corners. Normally they have between one and four entrances, although as many
as eleven have been recorded. Such entrances were usually centrally placed in
the sides of the camp and were often protected by additional defensive
outworks. Roman camps are found throughout much of England, although most
known examples lie in the midlands and north. Around 140 examples have been
identified and, as one of the various types of defensive enclosure built by
the Roman Army, particularly in hostile upland and frontier areas, they
provide an important insight into Roman military strategy and organisation.
All well-preserved examples are identified as being of national importance.

A Roman signal station is a rectangular tower of stone or wood situated within
some form of enclosure, and was used for observation and to signal information
back to neighbouring camps or forts; fire or smoke was used to provide
signals. They were initially dated on the basis of finds, particularly
pottery, and by analogy with other dated military works nearby or having a
direct stratigraphic association with them. It thus became clear that there
were three distinct phases of building; the earliest examples were timber
built and date to between AD 50-60. These were being replaced in stone along
with new stone-built signal stations by the Hadrianic period AD 117-138. The
last group were constructed in the late fourth century AD. All that remains of
timber features is a series of postholes, although the evidence suggests that
the towers could have been substantial structures up to 6.6m high. However, in
the case of masonry towers, substantial foundations may be recovered. The
enclosure round the tower could take various forms and was usually marked out
by a ditch. Most of the timber examples were further protected by a turf
rampart inside the ditch. On analogy with examples outside England it has been
suggested that many timber and early stone examples are likely to have been
surrounded by a palisade. On the Yorkshire coast late fourth century examples
are surrounded by a massive curtain wall. The distribution of signal stations
in England lies largely in the north but examples are known or postulated in
the Midlands, London, Cornwall and Kent. The exact form of the signal station
changed over time but some specific types have been identified with known
military campaigns. Thus most Hadrianic signal stations were built in stone;
these are concentrated in the north of England, the focus of military
campaigning at this time. Most late examples are found on the east coast,
possibly located there in response to perceived threats of coastal invasion.
This site is a rare example of a juxtaposed camp and signal station. The camp
is one of many lying adjacent to the main Roman road connecting the Vale of
York and Carlisle. It will contribute to any study of Roman military
campaigning in northern England. Limited excavation of the signal station
found late fourth century pottery indicating that the site is a rare example
in Cumbria, other than Hadrian's Wall, of a military installation constructed
during the campaigns of Theodosius.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Higham, N, The Northern Counties to AD 1000, (1986), 237
Marcellinus, A, Historia, (1935)
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in A Roman Post at Wreay Hall, Near Carlisle, , Vol. LIII, (1953), 49-51
St Joseph, J K, 'Journal of Roman Studies' in Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1958-60, , Vol. 51, (1961), 120-1
St Joseph, J K, 'Journal of Roman Studies' in Air Reconnaissance of North Britain, , Vol. 51, (1951), 120-1
AP No XG76, Cambridge University Collection,
Petteril Green Roman Camp, (1984)
SMR No. 715, Cumbria SMR, Roman Signal Station SE of Wreay Hall, (1987)

Source: Historic England

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