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Swarthy Hill North tower 20b, 460m south west of Blue Dial, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast

A Scheduled Monument in Crosscanonby, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.7498 / 54°44'59"N

Longitude: -3.446 / 3°26'45"W

OS Eastings: 307024.062

OS Northings: 540387.628

OS Grid: NY070403

Mapcode National: GBR 4FCJ.R3

Mapcode Global: WH6Z9.1WB3

Entry Name: Swarthy Hill North tower 20b, 460m south west of Blue Dial, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1965

Last Amended: 14 February 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014810

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27716

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Crosscanonby

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Cross Canonby St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the buried remains of Swarthy Hill North tower. Within
the sequence of Roman towers along the Cumbrian coast this one has been
identified as 20b. The tower was originally of sandstone construction and is
located on the shoulder of Swarthy Hill a short distance north of the summit,
from where there are extensive views to the north and east, but particularly
out to sea westwards. Limited excavation by Bellhouse in 1962 found the south
wall of the tower to survive up to two courses high and stand on a foundation
of clay and cobbles measuring 1.4m-1.5m wide and 0.3m deep. The foundations of
the west wall were found to survive well but those of the other two walls
showed signs of plough damage. A single sherd of Roman cooking pot was also
found during the excavation. The tower is almost square and measures 6.7m by
6.4m externally. The Ordnance Survey map incorrectly locates the tower
slightly to the north of its actual position.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 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 in the second half of the first century AD when a
military road, the Stanegate, was constructed along with a series of forts.
There is evidence that the Tyne-Solway route was being recognised as a
frontier by the start of the second century AD, but the line was consolidated
in the early second century AD by the construction of a substantial frontier
work, Hadrian's Wall, in c.120 AD. Subsequent attempts to establish the
boundary further north, between Clyde and Forth, failed by c.160 AD. Hadrian's
Wall then remained the frontier of the Roman Empire in Britain until c.400 AD
when Roman armies withdrew from Britain.
For most of its course, the 70 miles of Hadrian's Wall running from coast to
coast comprised a continuous stone wall (which in places was first temporarily
built of turf) with permanent structures sited at intervals of one Roman mile
(milecastles) and at third of a mile intervals (turrets) between the
milecastles. At a later date, the Wall was strengthened by 16 full-size
garrison forts built either on, or close to, the Wall. To the north of the
Wall, for most of its length, lay a substantial defensive ditch and to the
south a complex of banks and ditches provided east-west communication and
demarcated the frontier zone from the province.
To the west of Bowness-on-Solway, where the Wall reached the sea, however, the
frontier had a different character and served a slightly different purpose. At
the western end of the Wall a system of milefortlets and towers, spaced
similarly to the milecastles and turrets along the Wall, extended the frontier
system for at least 27 miles down the Cumbrian coast and helped control
movement across the estuary of the Solway Firth. In places these milefortlets
and towers were supplemented by lengths of palisade fences.
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.
The frontier works along the Cumbrian coast survive as earthworks or buried
archaeological remains, the latter sometimes visible on aerial photographs.
They survive in this form largely as a result of the more ephemeral materials
of which they were built (timber and turf instead of the stone of Hadrian's
Wall land frontier) rather than because of poor survival of archaeological
remains. Components of the coastal frontier which have surviving
archaeological remains, whether visible or not, will generally be considered
of national importance.

Despite the lack of surface remains, limited excavation has shown that buried
remains of Swarthy Hill North tower 20b survive reasonably well. The monument
will contribute to further study of the Roman frontier defences along the
Cumbrian coast.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast, , Vol. LXIII, (1963), 141-2
RCHME Survey - Unique ID No. 9132, RCHME, Cumberland Coast Events Record - Tower 20b, (1995)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000
Source Date: 1971

Source: Historic England

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