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Blitterlees (milefortlet 12), part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast

A Scheduled Monument in Silloth-on-Solway, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.8598 / 54°51'35"N

Longitude: -3.3971 / 3°23'49"W

OS Eastings: 310414.788

OS Northings: 552563.408

OS Grid: NY104525

Mapcode National: GBR 4DQ7.BP

Mapcode Global: WH6YX.S3JQ

Entry Name: Blitterlees (milefortlet 12), part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast

Scheduled Date: 21 February 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014913

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27726

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Silloth-on-Solway

Built-Up Area: Silloth

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Silloth Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the buried remains of Blitterlees milefortlet. Within
the sequence of milefortlets along the Cumbrian coast this one has been
identified as number 12. The milefortlet was originally of turf and timber
construction and is located on a high consolidated sand dune on Silloth Golf
Course. The only surface evidence for the milefortlet are some shallow
depressions indicating the site of limited excavations by Bellhouse in 1963
and 1967. These excavations found the milefortlet to have been partly damaged
by a combination of wind erosion and quarrying, however, where no damage had
occurred the turf rampart was found to survive up to 2.4m high and lie beneath
a similar thickness of blown sand which had accumulated since the fortlet was
abandoned. The base of the rampart measured 8.5m wide and stood on a
combination of clean sand and made up ground which indicated that the area had
been levelled prior to construction of the milefortlet. Other finds included a
large corroded nail, Roman pottery of Hadrianic-Antonine date (AD 117-161), a
sherd of Roman pottery dated c.AD 270-340, and a piece of slate considered to
have come from the roof of one of the milefortlet's internal buildings. After
examining the matrix of the rampart the excavator considered the milefortlet
to have had two periods of occupation; the Period I rampart consisted of brown
sandy turf containing lumps of grey clay; it was later rebuilt and it is the
Period II rampart which survives up to 2.4m high in places.

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 some damage to the milefortlet by a combination of wind erosion and
quarrying, limited excavations have shown that buried remains of Blitterlees
milefortlet 12 survive reasonably well. The monument will contribute to any
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 1962-3, , Vol. LXVI, (1966), 38-40
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast, , Vol. LXXXI, (1981), 11
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast 1966-67, , Vol. LXIX, (1969), 60-4
RCHME, Cumberland Coast Events Record, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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