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Kirkby Thore Roman Fort and Associated Vicus

A Scheduled Monument in Kirkby Thore, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.6238 / 54°37'25"N

Longitude: -2.5641 / 2°33'50"W

OS Eastings: 363672.526074

OS Northings: 525549.024164

OS Grid: NY636255

Mapcode National: GBR BGJZ.N9

Mapcode Global: WH92R.L16P

Entry Name: Kirkby Thore Roman Fort and Associated Vicus

Scheduled Date: 7 March 1961

Last Amended: 4 December 1990

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012183

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13450

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Kirkby Thore

Built-Up Area: Kirkby Thore

Traditional County: Westmorland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Kirkby Thore St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the Roman fort identified as Bravoniacum and its
associated civilian settlement or vicus. The fort is located in fields
immediately N and E of the Town End of Kirkby Thore and is bisected by
the modern Main Street. Whilst the site of the fort has been somewhat
denuded by ploughing in the past, the rampart remains visible as a low
but distinct terrace. The line of main street, where it crosses the
fort, deviates from its generally straight course to form a slight arc.
This is a strong suggestion that at an early stage of village
development a substantial building, perhaps the headquarters building,
still stood within the fort and that the road was diverted around its
ruins. The fort is some 2.2 hectares in extent and is believed to have
accommodated a cavalry unit. Numismatic evidence and limited excavation
suggests that occupation commenced in the Flavian period with the
construction of a turf and timber fort. This was destroyed c.AD 125 and
replaced by a masonry-built fort. Occupation appears to have continued
into the late 4th century AD.
The vicus extends to the W, S and E of the fort. Evidence for its
existence consists of observations from as early as the late 17th
century of structures and artefacts over a wide area. Recent
reassessment of early antiquarian accounts of the site, especially that
of Nicolson and Burn (1777), suggests that the densest concentration of
remains noted then lay in the area between Main Street and the
Troutbeck. The remains noted included stone buildings, some with
underground conduits and some with floors paved with stone and tile. The
existence of such substantial buildings indicates that the settlement
was of some importance and was built with permanence in mind. This
evidence has been taken to indicate that the main focus of the Vicus
therefore lay in this area, perhaps with buildings fronting onto the
precursor of Main Street which would have been the main road leading
into the SW gate of the fort. The view that the vicus clustered around
main access roads into the fort is supported by evidence from the
majority of other comparable sites, particularly those associated with
the northern frontier line. Whilst post Roman developments along this
road, culminating in construction of the modern houses along the
roadside, will have disturbed the Roman period remains here such that
their present condition is uncertain, it is clear that significant
remains do still survive in the fields to north and south of the road.
Recently, for example, finds from, and geophysical survey of, the area
to the S of the modern village and N of the Troutbeck confirm that the
vicus extended into this area. Additionally excavations in the 1960's
produced evidence which has been interpreted as indicating that,
unusually, the Vicus was enclosed by earthwork defences. To the NW of
the village these defences were suggested to run parallel and close to
the present line of the A66 before turning NW along the line of Piper
Lane finally turning to align with the NE rampart of the fort.
The extent of the vicus indicated by these various finds demonstrates
that while the origins of the settlement probably began as a cluster of
buildings immediately outside the fort grouped around an access road, it
must have expanded considerably to occupy a much greater area.
Excluded from the scheduled area are all field boundaries and telegraph
poles; the recreation field changing room, a nearby hut and the
children's play equipment, two farm outbuildings close to Piper Lane; an
approximately 250m length of Piper Lane; the British Telecom exchange
adjacent to the A66; a pumping station close to the Trout Beck; and all
tracks and public footpaths. The ground beneath all these features,
however, is included.
The monument falls into three seperate constraint areas, these covering
those areas where remains are known to survive and are reasonably well
It should be noted that archaeological remains are known to extend
beyond the areas defined above, especially in the area to the S of the
Troutbeck. However the precise character of these remains is not yet
fully understood.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Around 150 Roman forts are known to have existed in England of which 60
have produced evidence of associated civilian settlements or vici. Sites
like the Kirkby Thore example are thus rare nationally. Roman forts
provide considerable insight into the complexities of troop dispositions
and add important detail to the historical account of the Roman
subjugation of Britain. Bravoniacum is located on one of the main roads
leading to the Hadrianic frontier to the north and must have been
closely involved in maintenance of this major frontier line. The
identification of the fort as a cavalry base is of particular note as
such units are considerably rarer than other types.
The attached vicus would have comprised a cluster of buildings -
domestic residences, workshops and shops, located immediately adjacent
to the fort. Such vici were similar to contemporary small towns
although they lacked the public buildings and planned street grid
normally evident in the latter. Normally they also lacked the defences
surrounding the small towns. Unusually, however, the possibility that
the vicus at this site was defended does exist. Unlike other towns vici
were probably administered by the military authorities rather than being
self-governing. The close juxtaposition of fort and vicus allows the
civilian communities to be investigated. In this instance the close
proximity of the site to the Hadrianic frontier was probably of
considerable contemporary importance and activities in the vicus are
thought to have been closely linked with wider activity along the
military frontier.
Limited excavation and other techniques employed here demonstrate the
extent of this site and confirm that archaeological deposits survive
well and extensively. The size of the vicus and the high quality of
building remains noted by antiquarian accounts and discovered in more
recent excavations confirm that this was a settlement of considerable
importance. Whilst Main Street and its associated settlement have cut a
swath through both the fort and the Vicus it is clear that significant
remains survive in the fields to North and South. The site therefore,
retains considerable information about its original form and use.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Charlesworth, D, Recent Work At Kirkby Thore, (1964)
Gibbons, P, Excavations and Observations at Kirkby Thore, (1989)
Machell, T, MSS.VI
Birley, E, 'Trans.Cumb. And West. Antiq. And Arch Soc.' in Trans.Cumb. And West. Antiq. And Arch Soc., , Vol. XLIX, (1949)
Gater, J, Gaffney, C, 'Kirkby Thore An Archaeological Appreciation' in Kirkby Thore Bypass, Cumbria, (1990)
Richardson, C. Carlisle Museum Service,

Source: Historic England

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