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Lees Hall Roman camp

A Scheduled Monument in Haltwhistle, Northumberland

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Latitude: 54.9848 / 54°59'5"N

Longitude: -2.463 / 2°27'46"W

OS Eastings: 370469.238385

OS Northings: 565672.279484

OS Grid: NY704656

Mapcode National: GBR CB7S.KW

Mapcode Global: WH90W.4YFZ

Entry Name: Lees Hall Roman camp

Scheduled Date: 12 December 1928

Last Amended: 14 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010934

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26020

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Haltwhistle

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Haltwhistle Holy Cross

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the Roman camp known as Lees Hall and an encircling
outwork. It lies 680m south of the vallum and survives as a series of
upstanding earthworks and partly buried ditches.
The siting of this camp is unusual as the defences enclose the upper reaches
of a small stream which runs from east to west along the axis of the camp.
There are extensive views to the north overlooking the Stanegate and beyond,
and similar views to the east. However, rising ground blocks the view to the
south, and to the west the view is also restricted.
The camp is rectangular in plan and measures 203m from east-west and 140m
north-south, enclosing an area of 1.7ha. The earthen rampart averages 0.3m in
height and reaches a maximum height of 0.5m above the interior. The external
ditch, up to 0.4m deep and 3m wide, survives throughout its length except
around the south west corner. There are four gateways, each one slightly
offset from that on the opposite side and each defended by a curving internal
bank. The bank defending the northern gateway has largely been destroyed by a
drain, but the other three banks survive to a height of 0.3m. Causeways are
located across the ditch opposite each gateway, except on the south side where
it has been cut through by a modern drain.
The encircling outwork is visible as a bank averaging 0.2m in height, its
probable outer ditch being completely silted up. It lies parallel to the
ramparts of the camp at a distance of 13m outside it. There is a break in the
bank opposite the north, south and west gateways; another one probably
existing in the east but the bank in the east is eroded at this point. This
provision of an encircling outwork for a camp is unique. As such the camp is
unlikely to have been a short-lived encampment and occupation may have been
for a season or more. It is possible that the camp at Lees Hall may have been
a predecessor of the fortlet 1km to the ENE which guarded the crossing of the
Haltwhistle Burn, known not to have been occupied before AD 105.
A lynchet, 0.5m high, crosses the northern half of the camp and overlies the
east and west ramparts. The defences and interior of the camp have been
disturbed by a dense system of drains cut in 1976.
All 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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Hadrian's Wall marks one of the frontiers of the Roman Empire. The
international importance of the surviving remains has been recognised through
designation as a World Heritage Site.
The military importance of the Tyne-Solway route across the Pennines was
recognised by the Romans during their early campaigns through northern England
and into Scotland in the second half of the first century AD. At this time a
military road, the Stanegate, was constructed along with a series of forts.
Subsequently the Romans largely withdrew from Scotland and there is evidence
that the Tyne-Solway route was being recognised as a frontier by the start of
the second century AD. This position was consolidated in the early second
century by the construction of a substantial frontier work, Hadrian's Wall,
under the orders of the Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius,
subsequently attempted to establish the boundary further north, between the
Clyde and the Firth of Forth, but by c.AD 160 growing unrest amongst the
native populations of northern Britain and pressures elsewhere in the Empire
caused a retraction back to the Hadrianic line. Hadrian's Wall was then the
frontier of the Roman Empire in Britain until c.AD 400 when the Roman armies
withdrew from Britain.
Stretching over 70 miles from coast to coast, Hadrian's Wall was a continuous
barrier built of stone in the east and, initially, of turf in the west. The
stone wall was originally designed to be ten Roman feet wide and sections of
this width are termed broad wall. A change of plan shortly after construction
began led to a reduction in the width of the Wall to eight Roman feet, such
sections being termed narrow wall. Today, stretches of both wall types
survive, including some sections of narrow wall built on broad wall
foundations. For most of its length a substantial ditch on the northern side
provided additional defence. Where the Wall crossed rivers, bridges were
constructed to carry it across. Construction of the Wall was organised and
executed by legionary soldiers. From the beginning the barrier was planned to
comprise more than just a curtain wall. At regularly spaced intervals of about
a mile along its length lay small walled fortlets known as milecastles. These
were attached to the southern side of the Wall and most had a gateway through
the Wall to the north. Hence they controlled crossing points through the Wall
as well as affording space for a small stable garrison. Between the
milecastles were two equally spaced towers known as turrets. Together the
milecastles and turrets provided bases from which the curtain wall could be
watched and patrolled. Both the turrets and milecastles are thought to have
been higher than the Wall itself to provide suitable observation points. It is
often assumed that a platform existed on the Wall so that troops could
actually patrol along the wall top; it is however far from certain that this
was the case.
At the western end of the Wall a system of towers, small fortlets and palisade
fences extended the frontier system another 30 miles or so down the Cumbrian
coast and helped control shipping moving across the estuary of the Solway
As originally planned, and apart from whatever space there was in the
milecastles, provision for the accommodation of garrison troops manning the
Wall was left with the line of forts which already lay along the Stanegate. At
some point a fundamental change of plan took place and forts were constructed
along the line of the Wall itself. There are now known to have been 16 forts
either attached to the Wall or in close association with it. Some overlay
earlier features such as turrets or milecastles. At this stage another linear
element, the vallum, was also added to the defensive system to the south of
the Wall. This was a broad flat-bottomed ditch flanked by a pair of linear
banks. It shadows the course of the Wall for almost all its length, sometimes
lying very close to it but sometimes up to a kilometre away from it. The
vallum's main function was to act as a barrier to restrict access to the Wall
from the south. It also had a function in linking the forts along the Wall
with a method of lateral communication. When the forts were placed along the
wall line no provision was made for a road to link them. This situation was
clearly found impracticable and a metalled track was therefore provided in
places along the vallum between the north mound and the ditch.
Later, after the withdrawal back to the Hadrianic line from the Antonine Wall,
various refurbishments were made throughout the frontier line. At this stage a
new linear feature was added: the `Military Way'. This was a road linking all
elements of the Wall defence, running from fort to fort within the area
bounded by the Wall and the vallum.
Throughout its long history the Wall was not always well maintained. It was
often neglected and sometimes overrun, but it remained in use until the late
fourth century when a weak and divided Roman Empire finally withdrew its
armies from the Wall and Britain.
It now survives in various states of preservation. In places, especially in
the central section, the Stone Wall still remains several courses high and the
attached forts, turrets and milecastles are also clearly identifiable.
Earthwork features such as the ditch, vallum and Military Way also survive
well in places. Elsewhere the Stone Wall has been virtually robbed out and
only its foundations survive beneath the present ground surface. Similarly,
stretches of the earthwork remains, including sections of the Turf Wall, have
been levelled or infilled and now only survive as buried features. Although
some sections of the frontier system no longer survive visibly, sufficient
evidence does exist for its position to be fairly accurately identified
throughout most of its length.
Over 40 temporary camps of many different sizes, some of them still visible as
earthworks, have been recorded in the vicinity of the Wall. These generally
consisted of a rampart of earth quickly thrown up to surround a military
encampment. The rampart may have been surmounted by a timber palisade.
Occupation of these camps was generally short-lived and, while very few of
these examples have been firmly dated, it seems probable that at least some
were work camps used by troops involved in the Wall construction. Others may
have been created as practice camps during military training; temporary camps
were widely used during military campaigning to provide overnight security to
troops on the move.

The Lees Hall Roman camp despite disturbance caused by drainage work survives
well as an upstanding earthwork. The importance of this camp is enhanced by
the presence of the unique encircling earthwork. In addition the silted
ditches will contain environmental evidence which will allow the character of
the surrounding environment to be reconstructed for the Roman period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Austen, P, 'CBA Group 3 Newsbulletin' in Haltwhistle Common, Northumberland, , Vol. 2 ser.1, (1977), 6

Source: Historic England

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