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Maiden Way Roman road from B6318 to 450m south west of High House, Gillalees Beacon signal station and Beacon Pasture early post-medieval dispersed settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Kingwater, Cumbria

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Latitude: 55.021 / 55°1'15"N

Longitude: -2.6393 / 2°38'21"W

OS Eastings: 359220.84382

OS Northings: 569796.067392

OS Grid: NY592697

Mapcode National: GBR BB0C.DX

Mapcode Global: WH90S.F2D4

Entry Name: Maiden Way Roman road from B6318 to 450m SW of High House, Gillalees Beacon signal station and Beacon Pasture early post-medieval dispersed settlement

Scheduled Date: 13 February 1975

Last Amended: 18 September 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018242

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27815

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Kingwater

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Lanercostwith Kirkcambeck St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of a 6.58km length of
the Maiden Way Roman road together with the earthwork remains of Gillalees
Beacon Roman signal station, also known as Robin Hood's Butt, and Beacon
Pasture early post-medieval dispersed settlement. The Maiden Way connected the
Hadrian's Wall fort at Birdoswald with the fort at Bewcastle 9.6km to the
north. After leaving Birdoswald the road climbs gradually over Waterhead
Common and Ash Moss to its highest point on the moorland of Gillalees Beacon
where, a short distance south of the summit, remains of the Roman signal
station stand. Beacon Pasture settlement overlies the Roman road and lies on
the moorland a short distance south of the signal station.
Construction of Birdoswald and Bewcastle forts commenced during the early
120s AD and the road connecting the two forts must also have been built at
this time. Where the road survives as an earthwork it can be seen either as a
raised bank known as an agger upon the top of which the road surface was
built, or as a hollow way where erosion of the road surface may have
occurred or where the Roman engineers have taken the road through a cutting.
It is also visible as a terrace running diagonally down the steepest hillslope
in order to ease the gradient. Flanking ditches for drainage purposes ran
either side of the road; where not infilled by natural processes these ditches
survive as earthworks. Where they are infilled their location can frequently
be identified by changes in the vegetation cover where the deeper, damper soil
has encouraged a lusher growth. The finest surviving stretch of agger and
flanking ditch lies a short distance north of the B6318. Here a length of
agger approximately 200m long measures 10m wide at the base and 5m wide at the
top and survives up to 0.8m high. The western ditch at this point measures 2m
wide by 0.2m deep. Limited excavations of the road further north have shown it
to be formed of two courses of large stones laid flat over which a layer of
small stones was laid to form the road's metalled surface. The road was found
to be well cambered and has large kerbstones. These excavations also found
that the width of the road surface was not constant and varied between 3.7m
and 4.6m. In places, particularly on the higher moorland, the road and its
ditches lie buried beneath vegetation cover and no surface remains are
visible. Here the course of the road can still be followed quite clearly where
modern drainage channels have been cut through it exposing the road's stone
Gillalees Beacon signal station lies immediately west of the Roman road. It
survives as a rectangular earth and stone mound up to 2.5m high surrounded by
a shallow ditch with a causeway on the east side which gave access directly
from the road. Antiquarian investigation found the stone-built structure to
measure approximately 6m by 5.5m externally with walls standing ten courses
high. The signal station is positioned to be in full view of Birdoswald fort
6.5km to the south and its function would have been to rapidly convey
information to the fort garrison if an enemy was approaching from the north.
Beacon Pasture early post-medieval settlement consists of three rectangular
enclosures, one north of and two south of the Roman road. The house was
originally built of stone and is now visible as a turf-covered platform of
stone tumble measuring 13.5m by 6.7m. It lies alongside the road overlapping
the edge of the northern enclosure and its position adjacent to the road
indicates that this part of the Maiden Way remained in use during the early
post-medieval period. The southern enclosure measures 44m by 29m and contains
ridge and furrow, indicating that arable cultivation took place here, while
the smaller northern enclosure contains lazy-beds (raised earthen mounds)
about 1.5m wide on which crops were grown, and thus also attests to arable
cultivation. The central enclosure measures 34m by 32m and is interpreted as a
stockpen. The settlement had been abandoned by 1854.
Between NY60286811 - NY59886877 the protection follows the actual line of the
road and not that suggested by the Ordnance Survey. The road is visible as an
earthwork between NY60286811 - NY60136831 and between NY59906865 - NY59886877.
Between NY60136831 and Slittery Ford at NY59896862 the road is interpreted as
surviving as a buried feature.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern
field boundaries and all road and path surfaces, although the ground beneath
all these features is included.

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 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. Their main purpose was to serve the Cursus
Publicus, or Imperial mail service. Express messengers could travel up to 150
miles per day on the network of Roman roads throughout Britain and Europe,
changing horses at wayside 'mutationes' (posting stations set every 8 miles on
major roads) and stopping overnight at 'mansiones' (rest houses located every
20-25 miles). In addition, throughout the Roman period and later, Roman roads
acted as commercial routes and became foci for settlement and industry.
Mausolea were sometimes built flanking roads during the Roman period while, in
the Anglian and medieval periods, Roman roads often served as property
boundaries. Although a number of roads fell out of use soon after the
withdrawal of Rome from the province in the fifth century AD, many have
continued in use down to the present day and are consequently sealed beneath
modern roads.
On the basis of construction technique, two main types of Roman road are
distinguishable. The first has widely spaced boundary ditches and a broad
elaborate agger comprising several layers of graded materials. The second
usually has drainage ditches and a narrow simple agger of two or three
successive layers. In addition to ditches and construction pits flanking the
sides of the road, features of Roman roads can include central stone ribs,
kerbs and culverts, not all of which will necessarily be contemporary with the
original construction of the road. With the exception of the extreme south-
west of the country, Roman roads are widely distributed throughout England and
extend into Wales and lowland Scotland. They are highly representative of the
period of Roman administration and provide important evidence of Roman civil
engineering skills as well as the pattern of Roman conquest and settlement. A
high proportion of examples exhibiting good survival are considered to be
worthy of protection.

Roman signal stations were rectangular towers situated within ditched,
embanked, palisaded or walled enclosures and were built by the Roman army for
military observation and signalling by means of fire or smoke. They formed an
element of a wider system of defence and signalling between military sites
such as forts, camps and towns, generally as a chain of stations to cover long
distances. Fewer than 50 examples have been identified in England and 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, they are of considerable importance to our understanding of the Roman
period. All Roman signal stations with surviving archaeological remains are
considered to be nationally important.
Many medieval and early post-medieval dispersed settlements in the Borders
region are morphologically similar and in the absence of documentary sources
precise dating of these monuments is often difficult. The area comprises the
great slope of land between the high Cheviots and the Solway, where hamlets
and scattered farmsteads predominate, and where bastles and tower houses
recall the social conditions of the Anglo-Scottish borders before the mid-17th
century. The eastern part of this region, containing the wastes of the
Bewcastle Fells and Spadeadam, was occupied by shieling grounds during the
Middle Ages and the Tudor Period, and preserves the remains of associated
settlement sites.
The Maiden Way Roman road from the B6318 to a point 450m SSW of High House
survives reasonably well and is a good example of a Roman military road which
displays various engineering techniques for crossing an often difficult
landscape. It is visible for much of its course as an earthwork, either a
raised agger, hollow way, or terrace running diagonally down steep hillsides.
Where it lies buried, particularly on the moorlands, its course can be easily
plotted and followed where it has been exposed by the cutting of channels for
modern drainage. Limited antiquarian investigation of Gillalees Beacon Roman
signal station has shown it to be one of the best surviving examples of this
class of monument in the country. Together with the adjacent Roman road the
signal station played an important role in augmenting the Roman frontier
formed by Hadrian's Wall. Beacon Pasture early post-medieval dispersed
settlement survives well and retains significant archaeological deposits. It
is a good example of this class of monument and will add greatly to our
understanding of the wider border settlement and economy during the early
post-medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 47, 49
Collingwood, W G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The End of the Maiden Way, , Vol. XXIV, (1924), 110-16
Collingwood, W G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Roman Fort at Bewcastle, , Vol. XXII, (1922), 178-81
Haverfield, F, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Report On The Cumberland Excavations, , Vol. I, (1900), 82-3
Richmond, I A, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Tower At Gillalees Beacon, Called Robin Hood's Butt, , Vol. XXXIII, (1933), 241-5
SMR No. 74, Cumbria SMR, Gillalees Beacon, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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