Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Written Rock of Gelt: Roman quarry inscriptions

A Scheduled Monument in Brampton, Cumbria

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 54.9211 / 54°55'15"N

Longitude: -2.7406 / 2°44'26"W

OS Eastings: 352628.802

OS Northings: 558734.607

OS Grid: NY526587

Mapcode National: GBR 9C9J.GQ

Mapcode Global: WH7ZZ.WK4T

Entry Name: Written Rock of Gelt: Roman quarry inscriptions

Scheduled Date: 20 August 1962

Last Amended: 1 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014582

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27700

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Brampton

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Brampton St Martin

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the Written Rock of Gelt, a group of nine Roman
inscriptions, of which only six are now legible, cut into the sandstone rock
face of a Roman Quarry about 9m above the river on the north side of the River
Gelt. The quarry lies c.5.5km south of Hadrian's Wall and was used as a source
of building material during repair work to the wall in the early years of the
third century AD. Reading from left to right, that is from west to east, the
first inscription is VEX LI EG II AVG OF APR SVB AGRICOLA OPTIONE. It is 1.6m
long and is translated as `A detachment of the Second Legion Augusta; the
working face of Apr... under Agricola', the word OPTIONE indicates the rank of
Agricola; each centurion had an `optio', so called because he was originally
nominated by the centurion. Above the first letter of the inscription there is
a carved face which is slightly larger than the lettering. It consists merely
of an outline, two dots for the eyes, and a straight line for the mouth, and
is clearly a representation of Agricola, the NCO in charge of the working
party. About 0.3m beyond the end of the inscription just described is the
measuring 1.02m by 0.23m and is translated as `In the consulship of Aper and
Maximus, the working face of Mercatius'. This inscription can be dated to AD
207 and states that that part of the quarry was the working face of Mercatius,
the officer in charge. It is the earliest dated inscription from Cumbria
concerned with the repair and rebuilding of the frontier system under the
Emperor Severus in the early third century. Mercatius is mentioned again in
the next inscription which lies 0.3m further to the east. It measures 0.79m
long and reads MERCATIUS FERNI. About 0.3m further to the east the faint
inscription N I S IIV III was recorded at some time before 1867 but this is
now largely illegible. About 7.6m beyond the MERCATIUS FERNI inscription is
the inscription EPPIVSM. It measures 0.61m long and is translated as the
individual's name `Eppius M'. A short distance below the first inscription
here described, the faint inscription AVD was recorded at some time before
1867 but this also is now largely illegible. About 1.09m below the second
inscription here described is the inscription IVLIN. The text is 0.46m long
with deep cut letters 0.1m tall. It is translated as the individual's name
`Juli(a)nus'. About 0.46m below the third inscription here described is the
inscription C IVL PECVLIARIS VEXILATIO LEG XX VV. It measures 0.61m long and
is translated as `The century of Julius Peculiaris; detachment of the
Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix'. The final inscription of this group, IX X,
was recorded at some time before 1732 but is now largely illegible.

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 Written Rock of Gelt, in the Roman quarry flanking the River Gelt, is in
one of only a handful of the 50 or so Roman quarries in England to display
Roman inscriptions. Collectively the Written Rock inscriptions are the most
informative group of Roman quarry inscriptions in the north of England. The
information recorded is of particular importance because it gives the names of
men and in some instances their rank and military units, while one datable
inscription offers proof of rebuilding and repair work to the Roman frontier
in the early third century AD. 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.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 337
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 336
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 337
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 337
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 338
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 337
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 337
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 337
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 338
Collingwood, , Wright, , Romani in Britain, (1965), 337
Davies, R W, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in A Note On Some Roman Soldiers In Quarries, , Vol. LXVIII, (1968), 22-3

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.