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Roman fort, Anglo-Saxon cemetery, motte and bailey castle and tower keep castle

A Scheduled Monument in Westgate, Newcastle upon Tyne

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Latitude: 54.9689 / 54°58'7"N

Longitude: -1.61 / 1°36'36"W

OS Eastings: 425063.431792

OS Northings: 563876.462235

OS Grid: NZ250638

Mapcode National: GBR SPS.1S

Mapcode Global: WHC3R.7CKM

Entry Name: Roman fort, Anglo-Saxon cemetery, motte and bailey castle and tower keep castle

Scheduled Date: 11 February 1915

Last Amended: 6 December 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020126

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32753

County: Newcastle upon Tyne

Electoral Ward/Division: Westgate

Built-Up Area: Newcastle upon Tyne

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Tyne and Wear

Church of England Parish: St Nicholas Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the known extent of the buried remains of part of a
Roman fort, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, a motte and bailey castle, the
upstanding and buried remains of a stone building associated with the
graveyard, and a tower keep castle of medieval and post-medieval date,
including a 17th century bastion. It is situated on a promontory defended
by steep escarpments on the south, east and west. It is bounded by the
River Tyne to the south and originally on the east and north by the Lort
Burn and one of its tributaries. This area became enclosed by the town's
medieval defences during the 14th century; the town defences are the
subjects of separate schedulings.

A series of excavations on the promontory between 1973 and 1992 revealed
important information about all aspects of its occupation. Several
prehistoric flint tools and a stone axe represented the earliest activity;
there was also evidence of agriculture of an early but uncertain date. The
discovery of mid- second century construction debris and a series of
ditches and gullies indicate subsequent Roman activity. These features, of
uncertain nature, were filled in and levelled before a stone built Roman
fort was constructed over them. They are included in the scheduling.

The buried remains of the Roman fort are the earliest surviving structures
on the promontory, and pottery associated with them show that it was built
by the Emperor Antoninus Pius in the second century. As the exact location
of Hadrian's Wall in this part of the city has not yet been determined, it
is uncertain whether the fort is attached to the wall or lies between it
and the river. The fort was named as `Pons Aelius' in an early fifth
century Roman document taken from the adjacent Roman river crossing which
the fort was intended to guard. Documents record that the First Cohort of
Cornovii, a British tribe with its base at Wroxeter on the River Severn,
garrisoned the fort in the early fourth century. The incidence of a native
unit serving in its own province is rare. The fort was occupied until the
early fifth century when it was abandoned as part of the Roman withdrawal
from the province.

The fort is thought to be irregular in plan in order to utilise the
triangular shape of the promontory. Its northern defences lie along the
steep slopes which define the northern edge of the promontory, near the
present site of the later Black Gate. A short section of this wall,
uncovered by excavation in 1985 immediately east of the Black Gate,
followed the contours of the promontory. The southern defences are
considered to lie on the edge of a steep river cliff, which define the
southern edge of the promontory while its east and west walls lie beyond
the area examined by excavation.

Within the fort, excavation has revealed the remains of several buildings,
including the central range comprising part of the headquarters building
(principia), part of what is thought to be the commanding officers house
(pratorium) to the west, and further buildings to the south. The outlines
of some of these buildings are laid out in stone cobbles to the north and
west of the castle keep. Partial excavation to the south of the principia
in 1929 revealed the remains of further well-preserved Roman buildings,
some retaining the sills of doors and windows. Immediately north of the
central range of the fort, two granaries were uncovered lying on opposite
sides of the main north-south road, the via Pretoria. Traces of a loading
bay were found at the east end of the eastern granary, a feature which was
re-modelled during the third century. Considerably later in the life of
the fort, the granaries were adapted to a different and uncertain use. To
the north and east of the eastern granary a pair of stone buildings,
interpreted as workshops, were also uncovered. Small scale excavation in
1995 at the southern end of the promontory, near the present Bridge Hotel,
revealed a metalled surface. This was interpreted as part of one of the
main roads though the fort. Immediately outside the north wall of the
Roman fort, excavation also uncovered evidence of activity, including post
holes, metal working hearths and the fragmentary remains of a stone

After the fort was abandoned in the early fifth century, there is evidence
that it was re-occupied for a period which involved the construction of
structures associated with non-Roman native pottery. Overlying and
extending beyond the excavated areas of the Roman fort, there are the
remains of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. First discovered during 19th century
railway construction, it was partially excavated between 1977 and 1992.
Its use spanned the eighth to the middle of the 12th century and
approximately 660 inhumations were uncovered, all aligned east-west. The
earliest inhumations, dated by coin evidence to the eighth century, were
buried without coffins. Later burials were placed in wooden coffins and
later still, in stone coffins with grave covers, head, and footstones. The
burials included skeletons of men, women and children in addition to many
displaced bones. Within the cemetery the remains of a building was
uncovered by excavation and thought to be associated with the graveyard.
This building, situated beneath the second railway arch from the west, is
visible as the lower courses of a square structure 6.25m across. It is
thought to be the remains of a church or chapel associated with the

Documents record that in 1080 a motte and bailey castle was constructed on
the site of the Roman fort. The eldest son of William the Conqueror,
Robert, Duke of Normandy built this earthen castle, the buried remains of
which are thought to survive below ground level beneath the later stone
castle. A boundary is thought to have run across the relatively level
north western side of the promontory forming a bailey to the rear. Part of
this boundary, uncovered by excavation, was visible as a broad ditch with
a bank to the south. The bank was constructed of upcast from the ditch and
composed largely of clay with Roman remains and bones from the Saxon
cemetery. The excavated length had been disturbed in post-medieval times
and its original height and profile could not be determined. The ditch was
flat-bottomed and 2m wide. The exact location of the motte is uncertain,
but it is thought to lie beneath the Moot Hall at the south eastern corner
of the monument.

A stone built tower keep castle replaced the motte and bailey castle
between 1168 and 1178 during the reign of Henry II. The castle encloses a
roughly triangular area 128m north to south by 103m, which was divided by
a wall into a north and a south bailey. Much of the curtain wall and the
full extent of the wall which divided the courtyard into two baileys have
been levelled, although their lower courses survive below ground level.
Part of the east curtain wall remains upstanding and is visible as two
lengths of masonry. The first, at the north eastern corner of the castle,
runs south from the North Gate for a distance of 8m; it is visible as
three chamfered off-set courses with up to four courses of masonry above.
The second length of wall, which includes the southern part of the east
postern, is visible beneath the first railway arch from the east; it is
13m long and visible as a length of rubble core retaining some of the
ashlar facing stones, ranging from one to six courses high. A length of
the south curtain wall also remains upstanding, including a small postern.
This section of wall is 53m long and has a series of chamfered plinths on
its south side. At its west end it incorporates the lower courses of the
east side of a square tower. A postern, situated at the eastern end, is
visible as a vaulted passage 1.5m wide. Part of the north gateway also
remains upstanding, visible as the lower courses of the eastern gatehouse
which flanked the gate passage. Excavation in 1974 showed that this gate
had been inserted into the clay bank of the motte and bailey castle.
Attached to the east side of the north entrance, a mound of masonry
represents a thickening of the east curtain wall and this is thought to be
an adjunct of uncertain purpose to the North Gate.

The tower keep was constructed in an elevated position within the defences
at the south west corner of the north bailey between 1168 and 1178. A new
roof and battlements were added to the structure in about 1811 and the
whole was restored in 1848. It is visible as a rectangular structure 19m
by 17m which stands about 25m high. It has square towers at three of its
corners and a larger polygonal tower at the fourth. It is constructed of
sandstone laid in irregular courses with ashlar dressing. There is a
forebuilding attached to its eastern side, containing a straight stone
staircase giving access to its main entrance on the second floor. The keep
has three storeys, each of which contains a large centrally placed
principal room with small rooms, garderobes, stairs and galleries set
around it within the thickness of the walls. On the ground floor there is
a chapel, visible as a small nave at right angles to a chancel.

During the mid-13th century there were several additions to the castle,
including the construction of an aisled hall set against the internal face
of the east curtain wall. In addition, a barbican was constructed,
comprising a new gatehouse, the Black Gate, and a narrow passage to the
rear which connected it to the original north gate. The Black Gate,
situated at the northern end of the castle, is set at an angle to the
north west curtain. It is oval in plan and comprises a central passage
flanked by semi-circular towers measuring 15.25m across. The original
height of the Black Gate is uncertain as its upper parts were remodelled
in 1611, but in its original form, it is thought to have comprised a
basement with two floors above. The Black Gate was also modified during
the 18th and 19th centuries when several additions were made, including a
brick wing attached to its eastern side, which formed part of an 18th
century house. The basement is pierced by an entrance passage 6.4m by
3.3m, covered by a barrel vault. The entrance was clearly well-defended,
and the remains of several defensive features, including a portcullis
groove, are visible. Within the passage there is a gate visible as a
pointed arch to the exterior, and beyond this there are arched entrances
into each of the semicircular towers which served as guard chambers. The
inner portal of the entrance passage contains an arch but there is no
evidence of a gate. The passage to the rear is formed by two parallel
walls; the more northerly is visible as a length of masonry up to 15
courses high with a chamfered base. The southern wall stands to its full
height in places and is of squared coursed sandstone. There are several
structures within the passage including the Heron prison pit set against
the north wall, visible as a large square pit with no window or door
openings. There is a garderobe above with a chamfered round-headed
doorway. The inner drawbridge pit is also visible at the west side of the

Immediately in front of the Black Gate to the west, excavation uncovered
the remains of a ditch with a drawbridge abutment on its west side. The
stone work of the abutment is visible as upstanding masonry, and the site
of the medieval drawbridge is occupied today by a wooden footbridge. The
ditch, which had been cleaned out at the time the Black Gate was built,
was subsequently allowed to fill with silt and by the 15th century it had
become an official rubbish dump. After excavation in 1987, the area of
ditch which had been excavated was landscaped and is visible today as a
prominent feature of the castle. It is known from documents that the
castle was re-fortified at the time of the English Civil War. The castle
served as a base for the Royalist garrison during the siege of Newcastle
in 1644 and was equipped with a series of earthwork defences including
breastworks and redoubts. The majority of these defences, most of which
are thought to lie on the western side of the castle, had been levelled by
the 18th century. Immediately north west of the keep, excavation in 1976
uncovered the remains of part of a stone built bastion. The
bastion,`V'-shaped in plan and facing north east across the front of the
Black Gate, was visible as ditch between 5m to 7m wide whose inner face
was revetted by a stone wall 1.2 to 1.4m wide. One short length of walling
stood to a height of 2m. A large pit which also dates to the time of the
Civil War is visible in the North Gate as a rectangular stone lined pit
about 6m long and 4m wide.

The Black Gate, the barbican walls between North Gate and Black Gate, the
Heron pit, drawbridge pit and other under buildings in the barbican, the
tower keep, south postern and adjoining curtain wall are Listed Buildings
Grade I.

All 17th century and later modifications to the Black Gate including its
upper storeys and the brick wing of the attached 18th century house and
the 19th century masonry situated upon the south postern are excluded from
the scheduling, although the structures to which they are attached are
included. The Moot Hall including the Judges tunnel, the Bridge Hotel,
the railway bridge arch piers, all signs, modern brick walls, wooden
footbridges and fences, metal railings and gates, the metalled surfaces of
all roads, pavements and carparks and all street furniture are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is

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

Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries consist predominantly of inhumation
burials which were placed in rectangular pits in the ground, occasionally
within coffins. The bodies were normally accompanied by a range of grave
goods, including jewellery and weaponry. The cemeteries vary in size, the
largest containing several hundred burials. Around 1000 inhumation
cemeteries have been recorded in England. They represent one of our
principal sources of archaeological evidence about the Early Anglo-Saxon
period, providing information on population, social structure and
ideology. All surviving examples, other than those which have been heavily
disturbed, are considered worthy of protection.

An early Christian chapel is a purpose-built structure, usually
rectangular and often comprising a single undivided room, which contained
a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in
the early medieval period (c.AD 400-1100). Until the seventh century, such
chapels were mostly constructed of wood, often being replaced in stone at
a later date. The remains of early Christian chapels, where they can be
positively identified, will contain important archaeological information
relating to the development of Christianity, and all examples with
significant surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of
national importance.

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into
Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or
rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower.
In the majority of examples a bailey, an embanked enclosure containing
additional buildings, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte and
bailey castles acted as garrisons for forts during offensive military
operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences
and as centres of local or royal administration. As one of a restricted
range of recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly
important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the
feudal system.

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is
the principle defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or
surrounded by a defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape,
although other shapes are known. Internally they have several floors
providing accommodation of various types. If the keep has an attached
enclosure this will normally be defined by a defensive wall, frequently
with an external ditch. Access into the enclosure was provided by a bridge
across the ditch, allowing entry via a gatehouse. Additional buildings,
including stabling for animals and workshops, may be found within the
enclosure. They are rare nationally with only 104 recorded examples. With
other castle types, they are a major medieval monument type which,
belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major
administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement
patterns. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are
considered to be nationally important.

English Civil War fieldworks are earthworks which were raised during
military operations between 1642 and 1645 to provide temporary protection
for infantry or to act as gun emplacements. The earthworks, which may have
been reinforced with revetting and palisades, consisted of banks and
ditches and varied in complexity from simple breastworks to complex
systems of banks and inter- connected trenches. Those with a defensive
function were often sited to protect settlements or their approaches.
Those with an offensive function were designed to dominate defensive
positions and to contain the besieged areas. Despite having been
partially excavated, the multi-period remains at Newcastle upon Tyne
survive reasonably well. They represent some of the major events of
English history from the Roman occupation to the English Civil War. The
Roman fort, which preserves beneath it traces of earlier activity, is of
unusual plan making it of particular significance for Roman fort studies.
The fact that the fort was re-occupied for a time during the early
post-Roman period will contribute to our knowledge of the nature of
society at this time. The Anglo-Saxon cemetery will provide important
information on burial practices while study of the skeletal remains will
provide a valuable insight into the early medieval population of the area.
The association of the graveyard with a contemporary building thought to
be the remains of an associated church or chapel enhances the importance
of the monument. The motte and bailey castle, which is documented and
dated, represents the advance of Norman control and will add to our
understanding of Norman society. The tower keep castle, from which the
town took its name, was one of the major Royal castles built in England at
this time. It is a symbol of Royal supremacy, enhanced by the fact that it
was constructed on a site with a long established use. The fact that it
was re-defended in the middle of the 17th century adds to its importance;
taken together with similar re-fortification of the encircling town
defences, it will contribute to our knowledge of the English Civil War,
and in particular to the Siege of Newcastle in 1644. As a monument which
is accessible to the public, the tower keep castle also serves as a
valuable educational and recreational resource.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xviii, (1974), 196
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxii, (1978), 169
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xviiii, (1975), 241
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, (1979), 196
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, (1979)
Clark, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxvi, (1982), 211
Clark, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxvii, (1983), 206
Clark, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxx, (1986)
Clark, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxix, (1985), 202-3
Ellison, M, Finch, M, Harbottle, B, 'Post-Medieval Archaeology' in The Excavation of a 17th Century Pit at the Black Gate, , Vol. 13, (1979), 153-181
Ellison, M, Harbottle, B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Excavation of a 17th Century Bastion in the Castle, (1983), 135-264
Ellison, M, Harbottle, B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Excavation of a 17th Century Bastion in the Castle, (1983), 135-263
Frere, S, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. XVIIII, (1988), 433
Frere, S, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. XVIII, (1987), 315
Frere, S, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. XV, (1984), 278
Frere, S, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. XVII, (1986), 376-8
Goodburn, R, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. X, (1979), 279-80
Goodburn, R, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. IX, (1978), 419
Harbottle, B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Excavations at the South Curtain Wall of the Castle, , Vol. xliv, (1966), 79-146
Harbottle, B, Ellison, M, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in An Excavation in the Castle Ditch, , Vol. ix, (1981), 75-250
Knowles, W H, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Castle, Newcastle upon Tyne, , Vol. ii, (1926), 1-51
Nolan, John , (2000)
Snape, M, (2000)

Source: Historic England

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