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Greta Bridge Roman fort, vicus and section of Roman road

A Scheduled Monument in Rokeby, County Durham

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.5144 / 54°30'51"N

Longitude: -1.8691 / 1°52'8"W

OS Eastings: 408571.387146

OS Northings: 513239.445219

OS Grid: NZ085132

Mapcode National: GBR HJD7.4H

Mapcode Global: WHC5R.8S6K

Entry Name: Greta Bridge Roman fort, vicus and section of Roman road

Scheduled Date: 17 December 1929

Last Amended: 14 February 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019074

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32721

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Rokeby

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Details

The monument includes the remains of a Roman fort, an associated civilian
settlement or vicus and a section of the Roman road which linked Dere Street
at Scotch Corner to Carlisle across the Stainmore Pass. The monument is
contained within three separate areas of protection.
The Roman fort, which is situated on a raised terrace on the left bank of the
River Greta, is visible as a rectangular enclosure aligned north east to south
west. The exact date for the construction of the fort is uncertain; some
evidence suggests it was constructed during the first century AD, but it may
be as late as the late second century or the early third century. In 1793 an
inscription was found near the north gate of the fort dating to between 205
and 208 AD; this suggested that there had been major work at the fort during
the reign of the Emperor Septimus Severus. It remains uncertain whether this
work represented the original construction of the fort or a remodelling of an
earlier construction.
The fort measures a maximum of 140m by 95m within its defensive ramparts and
ditches. On the south side, where the defences are best preserved, there are
the prominent remains of a rampart and two ditches. The rampart, which is 11m
wide, stands to a maximum height of 2.4m. The medial ditch is up to 1.8m deep
and 6m wide, while the outer ditch is 3m deep and 12m wide; it has a slight
counterscarp bank on its outer edge which stands up to 0.6m high and 3m wide.
There is a causeway and a gateway through the centre of the south wall of the
fort, measuring 6m and 6.5m wide respectively. On the eastern side of the fort
which fronts the riverside, a single rampart stands to a maximum height of 3m.
Below the rampart, the steep slopes of the terrace fall to the river side. On
the western side of the fort, the rampart is visible as a scarp standing to
1.8m high; the outer ditch on this side has become infilled and is thought to
survive below ground level as a buried feature, except at the south west
corner where it is visible as a shallow depression. The northern part of the
fort lies within the grounds of the Morrit Arms Hotel and Burns Cottage, where
it survives as buried archaeological features. Archaeological excavation in
advance of developments at Burns Cottage in 1994 and 1996 revealed the
presence of Roman deposits which were dated on the evidence of Roman pottery
and coins to the second and third century. These remains which lie in the
north western corner of the fort were interpreted as part of the earthen
rampart of the fort and parts of a stone building.
Immediately to the north of the fort there are the buried remains of the Roman
road and the vicus. These remains were identified and partially excavated in
the 1970s in advance of the A66 road re-alignment at Greta Bridge. The
excavations took place to the east of the River Greta and the remains of the
Roman road, a large timber courtyard building and at least 12 rectangular
strip houses were uncovered. These remains lie largely intact sealed beneath
the carriageway of the modern A66 and in the fields immediately to the north
and south of the present road.
The Roman road survives as a cambered gravel surface 6m wide, later replaced
in stone, and flanked by stone lined drains. The road is thought to be of
first century date but it remained an important arterial route, especially in
the middle and later third century. The remains of a link road connecting the
Roman fort to the main Roman road and the buildings of the vicus are thought
to survive below ground as buried features; part of this linking road was
observed in 1928 during road works immediately to the north of the Morrit Arms
Hotel. The excavations during the early 1970s also uncovered evidence for a
large timber courtyard building situated immediately south of the Roman road;
it is thought that this building may have functioned as a mutatio or post
house. The building was burned down at the end of the third century AD and its
site was subsequently occupied by the vicus settlement.
The remains of the vicus survive as a series of timber and stone buildings,
linked together by areas of paving and cobbelling, aligned for some 600m along
the north and south sides of the Roman road. The majority of the buildings
were divided into two parts, with a large hall fronting onto the roadside and
a rear room, thought to be the domestic accommodation. Several of the
buildings also had a portico on the front, suggesting that this part of the
building was used for commercial activity.
Two areas of the vicus were uncovered and partially excavated in the 1970's.
The first lies 200m north west of the fort on the west bank of the Tutta Beck.
In this area two stone buildings, thought to form part of a larger complex,
were uncovered. The buildings had been constructed over the remains of earlier
features. The first building was 26m by 6m and the second was 6.5m wide and of
uncertain length. Roman pottery and coins recovered from the partial
excavation of this area suggests occupation in the third and early fourth
century. These buildings are thought to represent the western limit of the
vicus. The second area examined in the 1970s lies to the east of the River
Greta some 200m north east of the fort. A total of 11 stone buildings were
observed lying on both sides of the Roman road. Four lie to the north and
range in length from 9m to 22m long by 6m to 8m wide. Seven buildings were
observed lying to the south of the road, measuring from 21m to 8m long by 6m
to 7m wide. The evidence from Roman pottery and coins suggests that this part
of the vicus was occupied from the mid to late second century and during the
fourth century. Evidence of important iron working was also recovered from
this part of the vicus on an area adjacent to the road. It is thought to have
been small scale in nature and related to the production of nails and iron
fitments for buildings. A watching brief in the area immediately to the east
of this part of the vicus produced some evidence of cremation burials; the
existence of burials, which are normally located beyond the limit of the
settlement, is thought to indicate that this is the eastern limit of the vicus
at Greta Bridge. The full extent of the vicus is not yet understood and
further remains may survive beyond the area of protection. The 17th century
Greta Bridge, which stands immediately adjacent ot this monument, is the
subject of a separate scheduling.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are all walls,
including the East Entrance Screen to Rokeby Park, which is Listed Grade II,
fences, gates and posts, the tarmac surfaces of all roads and yards,
children's playthings and garden furniture, liquid petroleum and gas
installations, sheds and kennels, the swimming pool pump and tanks, Burns
Cottage, the Lodge (a Grade II Listed Building), Tutta Bridge, and the
circular swimming pool in the grounds of Burns Cottage; however, the ground
beneath all these features is included in the scheduling.

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.

Vici are extra mural civilian settlements comprising houses, roads and
other buildings attached or adjacent to a Roman military emplacement, usually
a fort or a fortress, occupied during the period in which the fort was in use.
Fort vici tend to lack the planned rectangular street grids, public buildings
and well appointed town houses which are characteristic of the public towns of
the province. Some fort vici are contained within the annexe of a fort while
others appear to have developed on open ground along the access roads of the
forts. Fort vici were civilian settlements associated with military
establishments and many are thought to have been the camps of traders and
merchants providing services and goods to troops. The most common type of
building found in a fort vicus is the long narrow strip building, which
appears to have been used both for domestic and commercial purposes. Fort vici
are situated almost exclusively in the frontier regions, or the hinterlands of
the frontiers; there is therefore a major concentration of known examples in
Northern England and the region of the Scottish Border with marked
concentrations on Hadrian's Wall. As a rare monument type with fewer than 60
recorded examples, which are highly representative of their period, all
examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are
considered of national importance.
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 roadside `mutationes'(posting stations set every eight
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 material. 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. 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.
The Roman fort, vicus and road at Greta Bridge are well preserved and contain
significant archaeological deposits. Taken together they will add to our
knowledge and understanding of the military conquest and occupation of North
Britain.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
NAA, , An Archaeological evaluation at Burns Cottage, Greta Bridge, (1997)
Casey, P J, 'Britannia' in Rescue Excavations in the Vicus of the Fort at Greta Bridge, (1998), 111-131
Casey, P J, 'Britannia' in Rescue Excavations in the Vicus of the Fort at Greta Bridge, (1998), 111-131
Other
DCC 1928,
NZ01SE 02,

Source: Historic England

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