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Rey Cross Roman temporary camp and signal station, and prehistoric stone circle

A Scheduled Monument in Bowes, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.5067 / 54°30'24"N

Longitude: -2.155 / 2°9'18"W

OS Eastings: 390057.723992

OS Northings: 512390.687415

OS Grid: NY900123

Mapcode National: GBR FJDB.77

Mapcode Global: WHB4G.VZZG

Entry Name: Rey Cross Roman temporary camp and signal station, and prehistoric stone circle

Scheduled Date: 5 August 1933

Last Amended: 19 March 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016929

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28595

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Bowes

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham


The monument includes the remains of a temporary camp and signal station of
Roman date and a stone circle of prehistoric date, situated at the highest
point of the Stainmore Pass and commanding extensive views to the east, west
and south. The Roman camp is also situated astride the main Roman road from
York to Carlisle which, locally, linked the forts of Brough and Bowes. The
camp is placed mid-way between the two forts, each of which is some 19km
distant. The camp is thought to have been constructed during the first century
AD as excavation has shown that it pre-dates the Roman road. The monument is
divided into two separate areas of protection by the modern dual carriage way
which bisects it.
The Roman camp, which is roughly rectangular in shape, encloses an area of
8.1ha. It has maximum dimensions of 296m east to west by 144m north to south
within a substantial rampart and an external ditch. The rampart, of stone and
earth, stands to a maximum height of 1.8m at the centre of the south side and
is a maximum of 11m wide at its base. On the north side, the rampart is
intermittent and, where visible, less substantial than elsewhere; it has been
suggested that the northern side of the camp was thought to have been
sufficiently protected by an extensive boggy area. Slight traces of an
external ditch 0.4m deep are visible along the north side of the camp and
probing at the north west angle in 1990 suggested the existence of a ditch
0.8m deep. Excavation at the monument in 1990 in advance of road widening
confirmed the existence of an outer ditch on the east and west sides of the
camp; here the ditch was up to 2m wide and 0.8m deep, separated from the
rampart by a berm 1m wide. There are now nine gates visible through the
ramparts of the camp; three through the north side and two through each of the
other three sides. Each gate is approximately 10m wide and is defended by an
oval shaped traverse, a detached length of rampart placed 19m outside the
entrance varying in height from 0.4m to 1.6m. It is thought that there was a
further gateway through the east and west sides through which the original
Roman road across Stainmore passed. Excavation in 1990 uncovered what is
thought to be the cobbled surface of a road running through each of these
gates, but it is uncertain as to whether this represented the surface of the
Roman road or a later phase in its history. At each of the gateways the camp
ramparts are interned and these features are thought to belong exclusively to
camps which were constructed during the first century AD.
Use of the camp clearly continued after the its initial first century
construction as late third or fourth century pottery was found during
excavation of the ditch and in the interior, the latter associated with stake
holes, and there is evidence for the subsequent blocking of some of the gates.

Within the south western part of the interior of the camp, immediately north
of the A66, there are the remains of what is thought to be a later Roman
signal station. This is visible as a square mound measuring 15m across and
standing to a maximum height of 0.8m high. The area surrounding the mound has
been subject to surface quarrying and there are no visible traces of a
surrounding ditch. The signal station may have formed part of a chain of
signal stations which cross Stainmore between the Roman forts of Bowes and
Some 30m south of the most easterly entrance through the north wall of the
Roman camp there is a roughly circular stone setting, occupying a commanding
position at the head of the Stainmore Pass. This is interpreted as a stone
circle of Bronze Age date. The stone circle is 20m in diameter and is bounded
by up to 28 stones and boulders, the tallest of which stands to only 0.5m
high. Several of the stones are earth-fast boulders. Within the stone circle
there is a roughly circular, slightly raised area offset from the centre in
the south eastern quadrant; this mound is 0.4m high and up to 9m across.
The map extract does not show the widened A66. Rey Cross was moved to a new
location in advance of the road widening.
The snow fences 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
ditches, 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 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.
Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of
upright or recumbent stones. They are found throughout England, although they
are concentrated in western areas. This distribution may be more a reflection
of present survival rather than an original pattern. Where excavated they have
been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (2400-1000
BC). It is clear that they were designed and laid out carefully, frequently
exhibiting regularly spaced stones, the heights of which also appear to have
been of some importance. We do not fully understand the uses for which these
stones were originally constructed but it is clear that they had considerable
ritual importance for the societies that used them. In many instances
excavation has indicated that they provided a focus for burials and the
rituals that accompanied internment of the dead. Some circles appear to have
had a calendrical function, helping mark the passage of time and seasons, this
being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to mark important solar or
lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at midsummer or midwinter. At other
sites the spacing of individual circles throughout the landscape has led to a
suggestion that each one provided some form of tribal gathering point for a
specific social group. Large irregular stone circles comprise a ring of at
least 20 stone uprights. The diameters of surviving examples range between 20m
and 40m, although it is known that larger examples, now destroyed, formerly
existed. The stone uprights of this type of circle tend to be more closely
spaced than in other types of circle and the height and positioning of
uprights also appears not to have been as important. Of the 250 or so stone
circles identified in England, only 45 examples of large irregular circles are
known. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into
prehistoric ritual activity, all surviving examples are worthy of
The Roman temporary camp at Rey Cross is very well preserved and retains
significant archaeological deposits. It is a good example of an early marching
camp and will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the first
century conquest of the North. The survival of a later Roman signal station
within the camp is important as it is one of a chain of similar towers which
cross Stainmore. The stone circle is well preserved and will add to our
understanding of prehistoric settlement and activity in the area.

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), 58
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 60
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 57-60

Source: Historic England

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