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Two Roman forts and three sections of Roman road at Caermote

A Scheduled Monument in Blennerhasset and Torpenhow, Cumbria

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.7207 / 54°43'14"N

Longitude: -3.2397 / 3°14'22"W

OS Eastings: 320246.420336

OS Northings: 536891.250655

OS Grid: NY202368

Mapcode National: GBR 5FTV.FK

Mapcode Global: WH6ZL.6LKX

Entry Name: Two Roman forts and three sections of Roman road at Caermote

Scheduled Date: 23 May 1962

Last Amended: 6 September 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014285

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23794

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Blennerhasset and Torpenhow

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Binsey Team

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle

Details

The monument includes two turf and timber constructed Roman forts at Caermote;
specifically a large early fort and a smaller later fort built within the
earlier fort, and three lengths of Roman road. The site commands extensive
views southwards and is strategically positioned to control access into the
northern Lakes. The monument is crossed by the modern Torpenhow to Bewaldeth
road and this, together with the layout of the surviving earthworks and proven
below ground archaeological deposits indicating the presence of an annexe on
the north east side of the earlier fort, renders it divided into three
areas.

The earlier larger fort is rectangular in plan with rounded corners and
measures approximately 135m by 127m. Its defences consist of an earthen
rampart and a double bank and ditch originally on all sides but now partially
destroyed on the east by road building. The rampart measures up to 6m wide and
1m high and is best preserved on the south and south west sides. The ditches
measure c.3m wide and are also best preserved on the south and west sides but
particularly at the south west corner. The fort would originally have had an
entrance on each side but only the north and south gateways remain visible. On
the north eastern side of the fort limited excavation during the 1950's
located the presence of the rampart and ditch of an associated annexe which,
although not yet identified in its entirety, would have flanked much of the
north and east sides of the fort. Three Roman roads issue from the fort; that
from the south gate can be seen as an earthwork running for approximately 90m
towards the modern road, that from the largely obliterated east gate can be
seen as an earthwork running for approximately 90m before turning north
eastwards and continuing as an earthwork for a further 50m, that from the
north gate can be seen as a faint earthwork running for approximately 73m
before branching into two, one to the north west, the other to the north east.
The later smaller Roman fort was built into the north west corner of the
earlier fort. It is rectangular in plan with rounded corners and measures
approximately 73m by 65m. Its defences consist of an earthen rampart and the
double ditch system of the earlier fort on the west side, which has been
extended along parts of the north and south sides. The remainder of the fort
is defended by a rampart and single ditch. The rampart measures up to 3m wide
by 1m high and the ditches up to 3m wide.

Limited excavation at both forts in 1901 and again in 1959 found that the site
had suffered from a degree of waterlogging both in Roman times and since,
which has subsequently led to good preservation of organic materials such as
wood and leather. Other finds included pottery, nails and glass. Additionally
limited antiquarian investigation within the annexe immediately to the north
of the early fort found remains of a two roomed stone building within which
melted lead was found, suggesting that the Romans may have been involved in
lead working and that they would presumably have exploited the nearby Caldbeck
Fells for the ore.

Dating of the pottery from these excavations indicates that the early fort was
constructed during the late first/early second century AD. During this initial
period of occupation it would have been garrisoned by a unit of auxiliary
troops about 500 strong employed in policing the area, and in particular
controlling access into the northern Lakes. The garrison appears to have been
reduced in size after a short period of time hence the construction of a
smaller fort within the defences of the earlier. The present lack of evidence
for a vicus or civilian settlement outside the fort suggests that the length
of occupation was limited.

All modern field boundaries, gateposts, and field drains are excluded from the
scheduling but the ground beneath these features is included.

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

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
important.

Roman roads were the first artificially made up routes in Britain and were
introduced by the Roman army from c.AD 43. They facilitated both the conquest
of the province and its administration. Additionally Roman roads acted as
commercial routes and became foci for settlement and industry. On the basis of
construction techniques two main types are distinguishable; the first has
widely spaced boundary ditches and a broad elaborate agger comprising several
layers of graded materials, the second usually has drainage ditches and a
narrow simple agger of two or three layers. Other construction features
include central stone ribs, kerbs and culverts. Roman roads provide important
evidence of Roman civil engineering skills as well as the pattern of Roman
conquest and settlement. A high proportion of examples are considered to be
worthy of protection.

Despite being crossed by a modern road, the two Roman forts and lengths of
three Roman roads at Caermote survive well. The fort played an important
military role in the policing of the Lake District and its indigenous
population, and controlling access into the northern Lakes. Limited
antiquarian investigation suggests that another function of the garrison at
Caermote was the production of lead. Further limited excavation of the forts
and roads this century revealed prime conditions for the survival of organic
materials such as wood and leather, and indicates that despite having two
phases of occupation the monument is a rare example of turf and timber forts
which were not subsequently rebuilt in stone.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Higham, N, Jones, B, The Carvetti, (1985), 20
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Some Fieldwork At Caermote, (1958), 27-9
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Some Fieldwork At Caermote, (1958), 27-9
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Roman Road From Old Penrith To Keswick And Beyond, (1955), 22
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Roman Road From Old Penrith To Keswick And Beyond, (1955), 21-2
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Roman Forts Near Caermote, , Vol. LX, (1961), 20-3
Haverfield, F, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Report of the Cumberland Excavation Committee, (1904), 328-339
Haverfield, F, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Report of the Cumberland Excavation Committee, (1904), 328-39
Robinson, J, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. Old Ser.' in , , Vol. III, (1882), 243-5
Shotter, D C A, 'Roman North-West England' in Roman North-West England, (1984), 21-2
Shotter, D C A, 'Roman North-West England' in Roman North-West England, (1984), 21-2
Other
AP No. 2667/9 In Cumbria SMR 882, Caermote Roman Forts,
AP No. 2667/9 In Cumbria SMR 882, Caermote Roman Forts,
AP No. 2667/9 In Cumbria SMR 882, Caermote Roman Forts,
AP No. BPB4. In Cumbria SMR No.882, Caermote Roman Forts,
AP No. BPB4. In Cumbria SMR No.882, Caermote Roman Forts,
AP No. BPB4. In Cumbria SMR No.882, Caermote Roman Forts,
SMR No. 6428, Cumbria SMR, Snittlegarth Farm, (1989)
SMR no. 882, Cumbria SMR, Roman Forts at Caermote, (1984)

Source: Historic England

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