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Palisade ditches, part of Roman frontier defences along Cumbrian coast, Roman camp & road and part of Romano-British field system,250m north of Silloth Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Silloth-on-Solway, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.8738 / 54°52'25"N

Longitude: -3.3834 / 3°23'0"W

OS Eastings: 311326.855758

OS Northings: 554105.141695

OS Grid: NY113541

Mapcode National: GBR 4DT2.9N

Mapcode Global: WH6YR.0R4J

Entry Name: Palisade ditches, part of Roman frontier defences along Cumbrian coast, Roman camp & road and part of Romano-British field system,250m north of Silloth Farm

Scheduled Date: 1 June 1979

Last Amended: 21 February 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015250

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27735

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 a 250m length of the linear
defensive system forming part of the Roman frontier defences along the
Cumbrian coast and here comprising two ditches which originally held palisade
fences. This defensive system has been identified in part by a combination of
aerial photography, excavation and geophysical survey along the Cumbrian
coast. The monument also includes the buried remains of most of a Roman camp
and an associated Roman road, and a 115m length of buried ditch which formed
part of a field system associated with Silloth Farm Romano-British settlement.
The monument is located on Solway Community School playing field and it was
first identified on aerial photographs taken in 1975. These showed the crop
marks of two ditches running parallel to, and 70m from the present tidal
limit. Behind these ditches the photographs show the crop mark of a Roman road
which runs to the gateway of a square enclosure interpreted as a Roman camp,
and crossing this camp there is the crop mark of a broad ditch which formed
part of the extensive field system of Silloth Farm Romano-British settlement,
the nucleus of which lay 300m to the south east and was excavated in 1977
prior to the construction of new housing. Limited excavation of the western of
the two ditches running parallel to the coast found that it consisted of a
clay-filled bedding trench measuring some 40cm wide by 50cm deep. At intervals
of approximately 50cm-60cm there occurred in the centre of the ditch evidence
for stakes having been rammed into the clay. Where this evidence was clearest
it could be seen that two stakes had been inserted alongside each other and in
places Roman nails were found in the stake sumps. The excavator concluded that
the ditch had been designed to hold a timber palisade fence. Limited
excavation of the eastern ditch found that it too consisted of a clay-filled
bedding trench measuring some 55cm wide by 40cm deep. It contained a central
slot 27cm wide by 15cm deep in which stake impressions identifiable in pairs
and again serving to hold up a palisade fence could be seen. A difference in
the clay fill of the east and west trenches suggested to the excavator that
they were not in use contemporaneously. Limited excavation of the Roman road
found that it measures between 3.8m-4.2m wide and is flanked by side ditches.
The road runs behind the palisade ditches for some distance then turns SSE to
run to the north west gateway of the Roman camp which is visible on the aerial
photographs as a three-sided enclosure with rounded corners measuring
approximately 50m square.
Limited excavation of the camp's defensive ditch revealed a typically military
sump-profile. Crossing the north eastern side of the camp is the buried ditch
associated with the Romano-British farmstead.
All post and wire fences, property boundaries, football goalposts and a sanded
jumping pit are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath all these
features is included.

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.

Roman camps are rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosures constructed and used
by Roman soldiers either when out on campaign or as practice camps. They were
bounded by a single earthen rampart and outer ditch, in plan are
straight-sided with rounded corners, and normally have between one and four
entrances. Roman camps predominate in hostile upland and frontier areas and
provide an important insight into Roman military strategy and organisation.
Roman roads were artificially made-up routes introduced to Britain by the
Roman army from c.AD 43. They facilitated both the conquest of the province
and its subsequent administration and additionally became commercial routes
and foci for settlement and industry.
Two main types of Roman road are distinguishable; the first has widely spaced
boundary ditches and a broad agger comprising several layers of graded
materials, the second usually has drainage ditches and a narrow simple agger
of two or three successive layers. Roman roads provide important evidence of
Roman civil engineering skills as well as the pattern of Roman conquest and
Romano-British field systems are associated with contemporary settlements and
provide important evidence of a carefully planned reorganisation of landscape
and a definition of landholding. Their articulation with other contemporary
archaeological features such as land boundaries, settlements, farmsteads and
enclosures, makes them worthy of protection.
A combination of aerial photography and limited excavation have shown that
buried remains of two palisade ditches which formed part of the Roman frontier
defences along the Cumbrian coast survive reasonably well, together with the
buried remains of an adjacent Roman camp, a length of Roman road and a length
of ditch associated with a Romano-British field system. The monument will
contribute to any further study of the Roman frontier defences along the
Cumbrian coast and in addition will facilitate any study of the
contemporaneity of its integral features.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Goodburn, R, 'Britannia' in Roman Britain In 1977, (1978), 424
Goodburn, R, 'Britannia' in Roman Britain In 1977, (1978), 424
Higham, N J, Jones, G D B, 'Britannia' in Excavation Of Two RB Farm Sites In North Cumbria, (1983), 56-65
Higham, N J, Jones, G D B, 'Britannia' in Excavation Of Two RB Farm Sites In North Cumbria, (1983), 56-65
Jones, G D B, 'Britannia' in The Solway Frontier: Interim Report, (1982), 292-5
Jones, G D B, 'Britannia' in The Solway Frontier: Interim Report, (1982), 292-5
AP No. RB 110,16, Bewley, B, Silloth School Playing Field,
AP No. RB 110,16, Bewley, B, Silloth School Playing Field, (1983)
Woolliscroft,D., Excavations on The Cumberland Coast at Silloth 1994, 1994, Unpublished excavation report

Source: Historic England

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