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Okehampton Roman fort, fortlet and associated enclosures

A Scheduled Monument in Okehampton, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.747 / 50°44'49"N

Longitude: -3.9909 / 3°59'27"W

OS Eastings: 259635.668088

OS Northings: 96045.253074

OS Grid: SX596960

Mapcode National: GBR Q3.N6N7

Mapcode Global: FRA 27J3.H0Y

Entry Name: Okehampton Roman fort, fortlet and associated enclosures

Scheduled Date: 14 February 1978

Last Amended: 13 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015829

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28620

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Okehampton

Built-Up Area: Okehampton

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Okehampton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Details

This monument includes a Roman fort and a series of five associated enclosures
on a hilltop location overlooking the valley of the River Okement to the north
west and Okehampton town to the south west. The central feature of the
monument is the fort itself, which is a rectangular enclosure with rounded
corners. The fort's interior measures 133m long from north east to south west
and 108m wide from east to west. The ramparts of the fort survive as banks.
The western rampart measures 13.8m wide and 0.6m high. The eastern rampart is
6.9m wide and 0.5m high. To the north it measures 5.7m wide and 0.2m high and
to the south it measures 6.15m wide by 0.4m high. The double ditches revealed
by aerial reconnaissance survive as buried features. Excavations have
confirmed the military origin of the fort and suggested occupation in the
period AD 50-80. The ditches are V-shaped with a cleaning slot at the base,
and there is a revetment behind the rampart and an intervallum. In 1984 three
ovens and a small part of the northern rampart were revealed and recorded, and
aerial photographs have indicated the existence of metalled internal streets
within the fort.
To the south west of the fort lies a second enclosure of Roman military type
which has also been identified by aerial photographs. This feature is
interpreted as a fortlet. It is square in shape with rounded corners and
measures 50m square. It survives as a buried ditched feature and has been cut
on its eastern side by an electricity substation and to the south east by a
field boundary.
Ten metres to the north west of the fortlet and 32m WSW of the fort is a small
L-shaped enclosure which was also identified from aerial photographs and
survives as a buried ditched feature. It lies on the same alignment as the
fort itself. It measures 22m from east to west and 22m from south west to
north east. Twenty eight metres to the north east of the fort is a series of
three enclosures. Two of these overlap each other. The westernmost two of the
three partly underlie a field boundary, whilst the easternmost one lies in the
same field as the fort. The westernmost and largest of the three survives as a
small earthwork in the form of a slightly raised platform with a maximum
height of 0.4m to the south of the field boundary, although to the north it is
preserved as a buried ditch. This enclosure measures 65m from north east to
south west and 62m from east to west and has rounded corners. The central
enclosure is rectangular and survives only as a buried ditched feature. It
measures 46m from east to west and 38m from north to south. The easternmost
enclosure is subcircular in shape, and measures 30m from east to west and 28m
from north to south and is also preserved only as a buried ditched feature.
All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is
included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Roman forts served as permanent bases for auxiliary units of the Roman Army.
In outline they were straight sided rectangular enclosures with rounded
corners, defined by a single rampart of turf, puddled clay or earth with one
or more outer ditches. Some forts had separately defended, subsidiary
enclosures or annexes, allowing additional storage space or for the
accommodation of troops and convoys in transit. Although built and used
throughout the Roman period, the majority of forts were constructed between
the mid first and mid second centuries AD. Some were only used for short
periods of time but others were occupied for extended periods on a more or
less permanent basis. In the earlier forts, timber was used for gateways,
towers and breastworks. From the beginning of the second century AD there was
a gradual replacement of timber with stone.
Roman forts are rare nationally and are extremely rare south of the Severn
Trent line. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments, which are
important in representing army strategy and therefore government policy, forts
are of particular significance to our understanding of the period. All Roman
forts with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be nationally
important.

Lying immediately next to the Okehampton Roman fort is a fortlet. Roman
fortlets are small rectangular enclosures with rounded corners defined by a
fortified rampart of turf and earth with one or more outer ditches. The
ramparts were originally revetted at the front and rear by timber uprights in
shallow trenches and were almost certainly crowned with timber wall walks and
parapets.
Fortlets were constructed from the first century AD to at least the later
fourth century AD to provide accommodation for a small detachment of troops
generally deployed on a temporary basis between one to two years and supplied
by a fort in the same area. The function of fortlets varies from place to
place; some were positioned to guard river crossings or roads, particularly at
vulnerable points such as crossroads, whilst others acted as supply bases for
signal towers. Roman fortlets are rare nationally with approximately 50
examples known in Britain, half of which are located in Scotland. As such,
and as one of a small group of Roman military monuments which are important in
representing army strategy and therefore government policy, fortlets are of
particular significance to our understanding of the period and all surviving
examples are considered nationally important.
The enclosures north of the fort are in close association with the Roman
features, and they may be the remains of an extra-mural settlement. They are
of national importance by virtue of their close association with the other
Roman structures.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Griffith, F, Roman Military Sites In Devon: Some Recent Discoveries, (1984), 11-13
Balkwill, C J, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in A Roman Site At Okehampton, , Vol. 34, (1976), 89-92
Bidwell, P T, Silvester, R, 'Britannia' in The Roman Fort at Okehampton, Devon, , Vol. 10, (1979), 255-8
Other
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX59NE2, (1993)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX59NE72, (1990)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX59NE73, (1989)
MPP fieldwork by H. Gerrard, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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