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Roman signal station and camp 270m north east of Bowes Moor Hotel

A Scheduled Monument in Bowes, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.508 / 54°30'28"N

Longitude: -2.11 / 2°6'36"W

OS Eastings: 392973.120777

OS Northings: 512530.519158

OS Grid: NY929125

Mapcode National: GBR FJP9.ZR

Mapcode Global: WHB4H.KYFF

Entry Name: Roman signal station and camp 270m north east of Bowes Moor Hotel

Scheduled Date: 18 February 1955

Last Amended: 19 March 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016463

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28596

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Bowes

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham


The monument includes the remains of a signal station and temporary camp of
Roman date, parallel to the former Roman road. The signal station is one of a
chain of towers which cross Stainmore from Bowes to Brough.
The Roman camp, situated on a level site which slopes gently to the south
east, is visible as the slight remains of a small square enclosure with
rounded corners. The enclosure measures a maximum of 56m across within a
single bank now only visible along the south side as a low scarp. Outside the
bank there is a slight ditch 0.2m deep. A small part of the eastern side of
the camp was excavated in 1990 in advance of road widening. The excavation
revealed that the ditch was 0.9m wide and 0.2m deep and that the bank, which
was revetted in turf, was 1.9m wide and 0.3m high.
The signal station, which is situated 8m to the south of the camp on the level
crest of a slight spur, is visible as a rectangular enclosure measuring 10m by
6.5m, now truncated by the A66 dual carriageway on the south. The enclosure is
bounded by a well-defined bank on average 5m wide and standing to a maximum
height of 0.3m. Limited excavation in 1933 revealed that this bank was of turf
construction. Outside the bank there is a ditch only visible on the north and
the eastern sides, where it is 2m wide and between 0.5 and 0.7m deep. An outer
bank only survives above ground on the north and eastern sides where it is
between 3m and 4m wide and stands to a maximum height of 0.4m. The signal
station underwent partial excavation in 1990 in advance of the A66 road
widening. The excavation confirmed the absence of a ditch on the south and
western sides and revealed the presence of an entrance through the south wall.
Within the interior of the signal station several large stones are thought to
have acted as padstones upon which the timber tower and stairway were
constructed. Roman pottery recovered from beneath the northern rampart suggest
that the site was constructed between 340-350 AD.
It is thought that the Roman signal station and camp are contemporary in
date and that the camp may have served as a compound for animals or as
temporary accommodation for a garrison.
The snow fences which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Roman camps are rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosures which were
constructed and used by Roman soldiers either when out on campaign or as
practice camps; most campaign camps were only temporary overnight bases and
few were used for longer periods. They were bounded by a single earthen
rampart and outer ditch and in plan are always straight-sided with rounded
corners. Normally they have between one and four entrances, although as many
as eleven have been recorded. Such entrances were usually centrally placed in
the sides of the camp and were often protected by additional defensive
outworks. Roman camps are found throughout much of England, although most
known examples lie in the midlands and north. Around 140 examples have been
identified and, as one of the various types of defensive enclosure built by
the Roman Army, particularly in hostile upland and frontier areas, they
provide an important insight into Roman military strategy and organisation.
All well-preserved examples are identified as being of national importance.

Roman signal stations were rectangular towers of stone or wood situated within
ditched, embanked, palisaded or walled enclosures. They were built by the
Roman army for military observation and signalling by means of fire or smoke.
They normally formed an element of a wider system of defence and signalling
between military sites such as forts and camps and towns, generally as part of
a chain of stations to cover long distances. Signal stations were constructed
and used in Britain during three distinct periods. The earliest examples were
built between AD 50 and AD 117 for use during earliest military campaigns
during the conquest period. Signal stations at this period took the form of a
wooden tower. After AD 117 towers were more usually built in stone, some on
the same site as earlier timber towers. The latest series, in the mid-4th
century AD, were more substantial stone signal stations built mainly along the
Yorkshire coast.
Signal stations survive as low earthworks, or their below ground remains may
be identified on aerial photographs. Fewer than 50 examples have been
identified in England. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments,
which are important in representing army strategy, government policy and the
pattern of military control, signal stations are important to our
understanding of the period. All Roman signal stations with surviving
archaeological remains are considered to be nationally important.
In spite of the fact that it has undergone partial excavation, the signal
station on Bowes Moor retains significant archaeological deposits. It is one
of a group of towers on Stainmore which are thought to have served as signal
stations. The association of a signal station with a Roman camp is uncommon in
England and this example will add greatly to our understanding of Roman
military strategy.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Vyner, et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass, (1998)
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 57
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 57
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 57

Source: Historic England

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