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Burwen Castle Roman forts

A Scheduled Monument in Elslack, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.941 / 53°56'27"N

Longitude: -2.1161 / 2°6'58"W

OS Eastings: 392473.218228

OS Northings: 449440.501989

OS Grid: SD924494

Mapcode National: GBR FQNW.N0

Mapcode Global: WHB7D.G6JL

Entry Name: Burwen Castle Roman forts

Scheduled Date: 17 December 1929

Last Amended: 10 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012608

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24534

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Elslack

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


The monument includes two Roman forts, one within the other and together
known as Burwen Castle. The earlier fort lies within the later one and dates
from about AD 70-80. It includes a square clay rampart, enclosing an area of
the higher ground. The larger fort, which dates from about AD 210, is roughly
oblong and has a stone rampart. The forts are bisected by a disused railway
line. The main portion of the monument is located within the field to the
The ramparts of the earlier fort rise to a height of 0.22m above ground
level. Stones project through the turf indicating a stone or rubble base
probably with turf on top. The eastern rampart is indistinct and the southern
rampart has been destroyed by the railway line. The interior is fairly level
and there are no buildings surviving visibly, although remains of them will
survive beneath the turf.
The later fort survives best on the western side where the rampart is most
distinct. It appears to have consisted of a stone wall surmounted by turf and
an embankment behind. A dip in the rampart may indicate a western gateway.
Beyond it is an outer fortification or external traverse in the form of a
slight bank running parallel to it. There also appears to be an extension of
the western rampart running down to Earby Beck. The north rampart of the later
fort survives as a ledge running along the hillside. On the eastern side the
ground falls away and what appears to be a stone step marks the outer rampart.
Part of the southern rampart has survived in the field to the south of the
disused railway track.

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

Roman forts served as permanent bases for auxiliary units of the Roman Army.
In outline they were straight sided rectangular enclosures with rounded
corners, defined by a single rampart of turf, puddled clay or earth with one
or more outer ditches. Some forts had separately defended, subsidiary
enclosures or annexes, allowing additional storage space or for the
accommodation of troops and convoys in transit. Although built and used
throughout the Roman period, the majority of forts were constructed between
the mid first and mid second centuries AD. Some were only used for short
periods of time but others were occupied for extended periods on a more or
less permanent basis. In the earlier forts, timber was used for gateways,
towers and breastworks. From the beginning of the second century AD there was
a gradual replacement of timber with stone.
Roman forts are rare nationally and are extremely rare south of the Severn
Trent line. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments, which are
important in representing army strategy and therefore government policy, forts
are of particular significance to our understanding of the period. All Roman
forts with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be nationally

Although the monuments have been bisected by the building of the railway,
much survives undisturbed. The two forts which exist on a single site
illustrate the development of construction and design of this rare monument

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
'Yorkshire Archaeological Society' in The Roman Forts at Elslack, ()
'Yorkshire Archaeological Society' in The Roman Forts at Elslack, ()
May, T, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Burwens Castle Roman Forts, , Vol. 21, (1911), 113-167
May, T, 'The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in , , Vol. 21, (1911), 113-167

Source: Historic England

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