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Cataractonium Roman forts and town

A Scheduled Monument in Brough with St. Giles, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.3854 / 54°23'7"N

Longitude: -1.6531 / 1°39'11"W

OS Eastings: 422628.629999

OS Northings: 498939.160007

OS Grid: SE226989

Mapcode National: GBR JKWQ.XQ

Mapcode Global: WHC6M.L11C

Entry Name: Cataractonium Roman forts and town

Scheduled Date: 24 March 1969

Last Amended: 9 September 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021181

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34733

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Brough with St. Giles

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Catterick St Anne

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


The monument, which is in three separate areas of protection, includes the
buried remains of a Roman military base and an associated civilian
settlement. A prehistoric henge partly surviving as an earthwork and other
pre-Roman remains are also included in the monument. In addition several
features of Anglian date, including a cemetery, have been identified
across the area of the monument and these are also included within the
scheduling. A smaller Roman settlement at Bainesse, centred nearly 3km
south east along Dere Street is the subject of separate scheduling.
Further related archaeological remains are known and suspected to survive
within the wider area, but these are currently considered to be better
managed through the local planning system.

The monument and surrounding area have been the focus of significant
archaeological investigation in the past, most notably the rescue
excavations in advance of the construction of the A1 Catterick Bypass in
1958-59. Aerial photographs and geophysical surveying have shown that less
than 20% of the remains of the town and forts have been excavated. The
results of archaeological research between 1958-1997 are detailed in the
two volume `Cataractonium: Roman Catterick and its hinterland' by P R
Wilson, published in 2002.

In circa AD 80 a Roman fort was constructed to guard the crossing point on
the River Swale for the main north/south Roman road east of the Pennines,
known as Dere Street. A civilian settlement developed immediately east of
the fort on the south side of the river. This prospered and appears to
have had a major leather working industry. The settlement continued to
develop, even after the AD 120s when the first fort was abandoned. A large
defended enclosure was constructed on the north bank of the
Swale straddling Dere Street in circar AD 140. Around twenty years later,
with the
abandonment of the Antonine Wall in Scotland, the fort was re-established.
The town also saw new building with its timber `mansio' rebuilt in stone.
The mansio was excavated in advance of the construction of the A1
Catterick bypass in 1959 and was a high status building complex designed
to provide accommodation for Roman officials travelling on business.
Roadside development along Dere Street, outside the defences both to the
north and south of the main settlement centre also flourished with earlier
timber buildings being replaced in stone. The fort was again abandoned by
AD 200 and in the following century the mansio was demolished, possibly
replaced by another elsewhere in the town. However the settlement still
appears to have flourished, becoming increasingly urban in character, with
further new timber buildings to the south of the old mansio and new stone
buildings by AD 250. By this time there is also evidence of a wide range
of industry and craft activity including pewter working and ceramic
production. By the early fourth century, the town had been provided with a
defensive stone wall with a wide outer ditch, probably at the same time as
the fort was reconstructed once more. However the settlement extended
beyond these defences, extending as ribbon developments along the road to
the north at least. Later in the century there is evidence that some
smaller properties within the town wall were amalgamated into larger,
higher status units. Settlement at Cataractonium is believed to have
continued after the ending of Roman rule as at least three sixth century
buildings have been positively identified in the area, along with a number
of Anglian style burials. The general area of the monument is also
believed to be the site of the Battle of Catraeth in circa AD 600 that is
documented in the poem `Y Gododdin'. In the seventh century Bede notes it
as one of the royal settlements of Northumbria. However it is possible
that by this time the settlement may have shifted 2km to the south east
where the modern village of Catterick is now centred.

The late first century Roman fort and later rebuildings were sited on the
high ground on the south bank of the River Swale, on the western side of
the A1. All three forts occupied the same general area, but varied
slightly in orientation and dimensions, although all appear to have been
approximately 2ha in area, with the earliest possibly up to 2.6ha. The
buildings and yards of Thornbrough farm overlie the north eastern
quadrants of the forts. Although probably mainly occupied by auxiliary
troops, artefacts show that Catterick also accommodated both legionaries
and cavalry at various times. Earthworks to the south of Thornbrough
include those of the southern defences of the last fort. A modern field
boundary may also preserve the line of a Roman wall, stones of which can
be seen on the surface, these also being included in the monument. Between
the forts and Catterick Road to the south, geophysical survey has
indicated the buried remains of a field system together with a scatter of
possible buildings and small industrial areas which are also all included
in the monument. The main civilian settlement lay to the east of the
forts, laid out either side of Dere Street. Aerial photographs and
geophysical survey suggest that the settlement had a planned layout with a
grid pattern of roads and building plots. In 1958-59 a strip about 60m
wide through the western half of this area was subjected to rescue
excavation in advance of the building of the A1 Catterick Bypass. This
uncovered substantial well-preserved remains of buildings and associated
features. In places some stone buildings survived to over 2m in height.
This high level of survival will remain on either side of the A1, for
example Roman remains can be identified within the upper 4m of the sides
of the road cutting. The sides of this road cutting are thus also included
in the monument. The defensive stone wall that surrounded the civilian
settlement on the south bank of the Swale by the early fourth century
enclosed an area nearly 250m by 230m. Part of this wall, on the eastern
side of the town and marked on the 1:10,000 map, was restored by Sir
William Lawson in the 19th century and, along with the exposed Roman
stonework, is included in the scheduling. Another exposed section of
walling can be seen running roughly parallel and 30m south of the river
between the A1 and the dismantled railway line. The Roman settlement was
not confined to within this walled area and extended beyond, mainly as a
ribbon development along Dere Street. Excavation evidence suggests that
this more extensive area of settlement was first established in the second
century but possibly abandoned in the third century. Part of this area at
least was then used as a cemetery in the fourth century. Excavation
evidence also indicates that a scatter of small industrial areas and
native British style farmsteads lay outside the main area of settlement.

Civilian settlement appears to have been established on the north side of
the River Swale from around AD 85, mainly flanking Dere Street. By circa
AD 140, a roughly rectangular defended enclosure up to 220m east-west by
nearly 100m north-south had been constructed flanking the Roman Road. The
nature of these defences suggest that this area was then under military
control, possibly protecting a set of wharves forming a transhipment point
between Dere Street and the River Swale. The full extent of this defended
enclosure is included within the monument. Possibly as early as the
mid-second century, but certainly by the fourth century, the civilian
settlement extended beyond these defences, mainly as a ribbon development
along the road, but with other activity such as industrial and cemetery
areas beyond. By the fourth century the defences appear to have been
abandoned and were at least partly built over. Much of the area of
settlement beyond the defensive enclosure is now overlain by the modern
settlement and industrial development of Brompton-on-Swale and is not
included in this scheduling. However an undeveloped area to the north
west, with an adjacent section buried beneath the A1's embankment, is
included in the monument.

Towards the southern end of the monument there are the remains of a
substantial earthwork formed by a grassed over ring-bank that mainly
consists of cobbles. The eastern and south western sections of this
earthwork have been removed by modern quarrying, but it was originally
doughnut-shaped with an external diameter of 135m-145m and an internal one
of 90m-100m, possibly with entrances through the bank to the north and
south. Initially interpreted as a Roman amphitheatre, this is now
considered to be a Neolithic or early Bronze Age henge monument. Its
western side incorporated a chambered burial cairn that was excavated in
1995. Excavations to the east and south east in advance of quarrying also
uncovered later settlement remains dated to the Iron Age as well as part
of an Anglian cemetery. These are thought to extend into the unquarried
areas where they are included in the monument.

In addition to the 44 Anglian burials excavated adjacent to the henge, a
number of other scattered Anglian style burials and other material of
around sixth century date has also been uncovered by excavation within the
area of the monument. This included a Grubenhaus, a typical Anglian style
domestic timber building with a sunken floor, that was identified on the
north side of the river. Other similar structures and other Anglian
material are expected to survive within the area of the monument and are
included in the scheduling.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are all
buildings, walls and other structures of post-medieval or later
date, including Thornbrough which is Listed Grade II, all fences, styles,
gates, water troughs, telegraph poles, sign posts and all road, path and
drainage gully surfaces. The ground beneath all these features is however
included. In addition, to the north of the river, all except the lowest
metre of the embankment supporting the A1 is also excluded, but the bottom
metre and the ground beneath is included. Fence lines defining the
boundaries of the monument lie immediately outside the protected area.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Five types of town are known to have existed in Roman Britain: coloniae,
municipia, civitas capitals, Roman provincial capitals and Roman small towns.
The first four types can be classified as `public towns' because each had an
official status within the provincial administrative system.
Roman small towns are settlements of urban character which lack the
administrative status of public towns, but which are nevertheless recognisably
urban in terms of morphology, features and function. They tend to lack the
planned rectangular street grids, public buildings and well-appointed town
houses of the public towns and instead are generally characterised by mainly
insubstantial timber or half-timbered structures. Some small towns possess an
enclosing wall, while others have masonry or earthwork defences. Additional
features include temples, bath houses, ovens, kilns and cemeteries.
Roman small towns began to emerge in the mid-first century AD. However, the
majority of examples appeared in the later first and second centuries, while
the third and fourth centuries saw the growth and development of existing
establishments, together with the emergence of a small number of new ones.
Some small towns had their origins in earlier military sites such as fort-vici
and developed into independent urban areas following the abandonment of the
forts. Others developed alongside major roads and were able to exploit a wide
range of commercial opportunities as a result of their location. There are a
total of 133 Roman small towns recorded in England. These are mainly
concentrated in the Midlands and central southern England. Some examples have
survived as undeveloped `greenfield' sites and consequently possess
particularly well-preserved archaeological remains.

Roman forts served as permanent bases for 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, 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.

Henges are ritual or ceremonial centres which typically date to the Late
Neolithic period (2800-2000 BC). They were constructed as roughly circular
or oval-shaped enclosures comprising a flat area over 20m in diameter
enclosed by a bank. One, two or four entrances provided access to the
interior of the monument, which may have contained a variety of features
including timber or stone circles, post or stone alignments, pits, burials
or central mounds. Henges occur throughout England with the exception of
south eastern counties and the Welsh Marches. They are generally situated
on low ground, often close to springs and water-courses. Henges are rare
nationally with about 80 known examples. As one of the few types of
identified Neolithic structures and in view of their comparative rarity,
all henges are considered to be of national importance.

Beginning in the fifth century AD, there is evidence for the immigration
of settlers into Britain from northern Europe, bringing new religious
beliefs. This evidence includes distinctive burial practices and new
forms of pottery, metalwork and other items. Anglian cemeteries are dated
to the early Anglo-Saxon period, from the fifth to the seventh centuries
AD. With the conversion to Christianity during the late sixth and seventh
centuries AD, these pagan cemeteries appear to have been abandoned in
favour of new sites, some of which have continued in use up to the present
day. Burial practices included both inhumation and cremation. Anglian
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.

Although Cataractonium is not thought to have been a Roman administrative
centre, by at least the fourth century it appears to have been a
significant town in Britain north of York, possibly only exceeded by
Carlisle, Corbridge and the civitas capital of Aldborough. Archaeological
investigations have demonstrated that the remains are both extensive and
substantial, and have provided important insights into Roman Britain,
whilst highlighting many more questions that are still to be answered. The
prehistoric and Anglian remains, especially the henge and Anglian
cemetery, add to the monument's importance.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Wilson, P R , 'Medieval Archaeology' in Early Anglian Catterick and Catraeth, , Vol. 60, (1996)
Wilson, P R, 'Excavations & Research 1958-97' in Cataractonium: Roman Catterick And Its Hinterland, , Vol. 128, (2002)
Moloney et al, Excavation of a multi-period landscape at Catterick Racecourse, Forthcoming

Source: Historic England

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