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Roman forts, marching camps and associated monuments

A Scheduled Monument in North Tawton, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7871 / 50°47'13"N

Longitude: -3.8999 / 3°53'59"W

OS Eastings: 266175.24451

OS Northings: 100330.133405

OS Grid: SS661003

Mapcode National: GBR KY.ZPW6

Mapcode Global: FRA 27Q0.GHH

Entry Name: Roman forts, marching camps and associated monuments

Scheduled Date: 18 July 1958

Last Amended: 15 July 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021151

English Heritage Legacy ID: 10384

County: Devon

Civil Parish: North Tawton

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: North Tawton St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes a complex of large Roman military enclosures
together with a series of smaller enclosures and ring-ditches in fields
around The Barton on the east bank of the River Taw. The military
enclosures have been identified as two forts and two marching camps. One
fort, immediately south of the Okehampton-Crediton railway line, survives
as low earthworks, the second is in cultivated fields north of the line
and is visible as cropmarks. The marching camps, which lie further north
apparently enclosing The Barton, are also visible as cropmarks. The
southernmost fort is limited by a low bank 0.4m high and 10m wide
enclosing an area of about 2ha. To the south and east traces of a bank are
visible. To the west is an extension or annexe of about 1ha. Immediately
north of the fort, aerial photography has revealed a Roman roadway running
east-west. The extent of the northernmost fort has been determined by
aerial photography and survey. It appears to comprise at least two
constructional phases and may reach 8-10ha in area, confirming its
identity as a vexillation fortress. Three of the ring ditches lie to the
north of The Barton, the fourth lies further south, at the north western
angle of the northernmost fort. Unusually, three of the four have double
concentric ditches, the fourth has a single ditch. They are identified as
prehistoric funerary features, although, in view of their proximity to the
military complex and their unusual double layout, they may be Roman
military works. Additional cropmarks between the northernmost fort and The
Barton are identified as prehistoric enclosures and land boundaries.

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

Roman military fortresses, forts and marching camps are of great value in
understanding the complex pattern of troop movements which accompanied the
Roman conquest of Britain, an event for which we have only the broadest
historical outline. With two marching camps a fort and probable fortress
on the same site, the North Tawton monument represents a particularly
unusual association of military enclosures. This suggests a complex
history of troop dispositions unequalled by any other in the south west
peninsula, and by only a small number of sites nationally. The
significance of the monument is considerably enhanced by the
identification of the largest enclosure as a probable vexillation
fortress. Vexillation fortresses - campaigning bases holding a mixed
detatchment of between 2500 and 4000 legionary and auxiliary troops - are
rare nationally with less then 20 identified examples, most of which are
situated in the Midlands. The above average state of preservation of the
fort south of the modern railway line further adds to the importance of
the site. Roman forts are rare nationally particularly when they survive
as earthworks.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
David, A, Geophysical Survey, (1989)
Fox, A, 25th Report on Archaeology and Early History, (1959)
Griffith, F, Roman Military Sites In Devon: Some Recent Discoveries, (1984)
St Joseph, J K S, Air reconnaisance in Britain 1955-7, (1958)
Frere, SS, Britannia, (1987)

Source: Historic England

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