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Eight Roman inscriptions in the Roman quarry in Combcrag Wood, 350m south of Hadrian's Wall

A Scheduled Monument in Nether Denton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.9781 / 54°58'41"N

Longitude: -2.6407 / 2°38'26"W

OS Eastings: 359086.281408

OS Northings: 565025.358446

OS Grid: NY590650

Mapcode National: GBR BB0W.28

Mapcode Global: WH90Z.D4QJ

Entry Name: Eight Roman inscriptions in the Roman quarry in Combcrag Wood, 350m south of Hadrian's Wall

Scheduled Date: 16 March 1972

Last Amended: 7 August 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014581

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27699

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Nether Denton

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Lanercostwith Kirkcambeck St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes eight inscriptions carved into the east facing side of a
sandstone cliff in the Roman quarry in Combcrag Wood. The quarry lies c.350m
south of Hadrian's Wall and was used as a source of building material by the
troops employed in constructing the wall during the years AD 122-138 and
subsequently by troops stationed in the wall forts. The inscriptions are
located on the upper part of the cliff and seven of the eight are Roman, with
the eighth being interpreted as a post-Roman forgery. Reading from left to
right, that is from south to north, the first inscription is MATHRAIVS, which
is translated as the individual's name, `Maternus'. It is 0.61m long and is
situated near to a grassy ledge. Situated 4.8m to the north of the initial
letter of the inscription just described, and 1.22m above the grassy ledge, is
the inscription MATIIRAIVS. It measures 0.53m long and is also translated as
the individual's name, `Maternus'. At 0.38m below this inscription is the
inscription SECVRVS AP IVSTVS. This is 0.48m long and is translated as an
individual's name, the military century to which he belonged, and another
individual's name; `Securus; the century of AP...; Justus'. At 9.01m north of
the initial letter of the first inscription described is the inscription
IULIUS. It measures 0.3m long and is translated as the individual's name,
`Julius'. At 9.94m north of the initial letter of the first inscription
described is the inscription STADVS F. It measures 0.46m long and is
translated as `Stadus did this'. About halfway down the lower rock face, and
almost directly below the inscription just described, is the inscription
POLONIUS DAMINIVS NOLVI DOS S. This was found in 1936 and is translated as
`Apollonius; I, Daminius, did not want (to do it)'. At 10.26m north of the
first inscription described are traces of the virtually eroded inscription DE.
The final inscription is located near the bottom of the crag beneath the Roman
inscriptions. It has been interpreted as a forgery but nevertheless gives an
interesting insight into the rival 19th century antiquarian debates concerning
the construction of Hadrian's Wall. The inscription was found in 1859 and the
text runs: FAVST ET RVF COSS, which in translation reads `M.Acilius Faustinus
and A.Triarius Rufinus consuls'. Faustinus and Rufinus were Roman consuls in
AD 210. At the time of the discovery of the inscriptions there was controversy
between Northumberland based antiquarians who believed that Hadrian built the
wall, and Cumberland based antiquarians who ascribed its construction to the
Emperor Severus (AD 197-211). The discovery of this inscription was a godsend
to the Cumberland `school' as it appeared to offer proof of stone quarrying
during the period of Severus's reign and thus vindicate their claim of a late
second/early third century date for the construction of the wall. However, a
careful examination of the letters forming the inscription by Collingwood in
1930, together with a study of the different lichen growing inside the grooves
which form the letters compared to the lichen growing outside the grooves,
indicated that the inscription was one of at least three known forgeries of
Roman inscriptions in the area.

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

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 indentifiable.
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.

Roman inscriptions were introduced into England by the Roman army who brought
with them a long established practice of setting up inscribed stones as
religious dedications and tombstones, as records of building work, and as
milestones, and also a tradition of inscribing weapons, tools or domestic
utensils, ingots of metal and so forth, with the names of the owner. Many
kinds of utensils, and also bricks and tiles, were often stamped with the name
of the manufacturer. Roman inscriptions are usually cut in capital letters,
either monumental or rustic, but some are in cursive or graffiti form and
others take the form of pictures or `doodles'. They are extremely common in
the first and second centuries AD and are not uncommon later, but become rare
after AD 350. After AD 400 inscriptions cease, with the exception of
tombstones. The value of Roman inscriptions as historical material is immense.
They are contemporary and authoritative documents, whose text is a first hand
record, free from subsequent corruption by copyists. They are the most
important single source for the history and organisation of the Roman Empire,
and their cumulative and comparative value is astonishingly great.
The Roman quarry in Combcrag Wood is one of only a handful of the 50 or so
Roman quarries in England to display Roman inscriptions. The information
recorded is of particular importance because it contains personal remarks,
gives the names of men, and in one example part of the name of the military
unit involved in quarrying stone for the construction and/or repair of
Hadrian's Wall and its forts. The inscriptions are also a good example of
rough and unskilled work cut by poorly trained masons, and thus illuminate the
contrast between this type of inscription and that produced on many public
buildings, tombstones and milestones by the finest masons who used better
quality tools and materials. The inscription near the base of the crag is an
excellent example of a post-Roman forgery of a Roman inscription. It has
parallels locally with other examples at Banksburn and Lanercost, and a study
of the lettering techniques used in these forgeries is a valuable aid to
recognising the authenticity or otherwise of inscriptions deemed to be of
Roman origin.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 599
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Five Notes: Another Forged Rock-Inscription, , Vol. XXX, (1930), 120-22

Source: Historic England

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