Ancient Monuments

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Roman signal station 190m north west of Vale House Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Bowes, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.5104 / 54°30'37"N

Longitude: -2.0832 / 2°4'59"W

OS Eastings: 394709.96267

OS Northings: 512785.764822

OS Grid: NY947127

Mapcode National: GBR FJW8.SY

Mapcode Global: WHB4H.ZW5N

Entry Name: Roman signal station 190m north west of Vale House Farm

Scheduled Date: 11 February 1977

Last Amended: 19 March 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016464

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28597

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Bowes

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham


The monument includes the remains of a tower of Roman date, situated on the
top of a small spur above the Stainmore Pass adjacent and parallel to the
Roman road. The tower commands extensive views in all directions except to the
north where the ground rises. The tower is one of a chain of similar monuments
which cross Stainmoor between the Roman forts of Bowes and Brough thought to
have functioned as signal stations. It is visible as a roughly round mound of
earth which measures 10m across. It is bounded by a slight bank which, where
it is best defined on the western side, is 4m wide and stands to a maximum of
0.4m. There are gaps through the centre of the north and the south banks, and
the latter, which is 1.5m wide, is thought to have been the site of an
original entrance.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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. In northern England stations were
used in particular to augment the main frontier formed by Hadrian's Wall, but
elsewhere stations were constructed along the coast to keep lookout over the
sea and to signal information both along the coast and to inland sites.
Signal stations were constructed and used in Britain mainly during three
distinct periods. The earliest examples were built between AD 50 and AD 117
for use during the earliest military campaigns during the conquest period.
Signal stations at this period took the form of a wooden tower surrounded by a
ditch and bank and possibly a slight timber palisade. 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. These had a tower up
to 30m high which was surrounded by a curtain wall and external ditch.
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 of importance to our
understanding of the period. All Roman signal stations with surviving
archaeological remains are considered to be nationally important.

The signal station near Vale House Farm is reasonably well preserved and
retains significant archaeological deposits. It is one of a group of towers
thought to have been used for signalling purposes across Stainmore. Taken as a
group, they will add to our knowledge and understanding of the Roman
occupation of the area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Vyner, et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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