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Whitemoss Roman Fort, 175m south west of Rosarymount

A Scheduled Monument in Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank, Renfrewshire

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Latitude: 55.916 / 55°54'57"N

Longitude: -4.5326 / 4°31'57"W

OS Eastings: 241820

OS Northings: 672115

OS Grid: NS418721

Mapcode National: GBR 3F.08PC

Mapcode Global: WH3NR.BKWJ

Entry Name: Whitemoss Roman Fort, 175m SW of Rosarymount

Scheduled Date: 13 March 1953

Last Amended: 11 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1652

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: ritual deposit; Roman: fort

Location: Erskine

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the buried remains of a Roman fort and attached annex, visible from the air as cropmarks indicating the extent of the defensive ditches and some internal features. The area falls within three separate fields that are currently used for pasture. Excavations of the fort in the 1950s confirmed it was of Antonine date and consisted of three possible phases. The monument was originally scheduled on 2 February 1953 and rescheduled on 22 January 1993: the present rescheduling brings the documentation and mapping up to modern standards.

The fort occupies the top of a promontory that rises above the surrounding landscape; the slope falls off steeply on three sides with a more gradual slope to the SE of the fort. Cropmarks of the site, visible on aerial photographs, show the outline of the internal buildings, roads and external defences of the fort. The internal area of the fort is approximately 1.72ha, excluding the area covered by the external defences. The ditches and ramparts on the NE, NW and SW sides are 22m wide. Those on the SE side are more elaborate, with five defensive ditches totalling 33m in width, most likely to compensate for the slighter natural defences on this side. The S gate is 3.2m wide with a causeway over the ditches.

Excavations conducted in 1950-1954 and 1957 by Frank Newall and Stuart Piggott confirmed the internal layout of the timber fort. The headquarters building, measuring 30m by 36m, contained two shrines: a stone-built Aedes (shrine) that held the unit's standards; and a small shrine in the SE corner of the courtyard. A granary measuring approximately 26m by 11m was excavated east of the headquarters building. Two barrack blocks were excavated in the SE corner, indicating that the fort possibly housed a cavalry unit. Paved areas and building foundations were discovered north of the fort but not excavated, and these, together with a ditch running north from the fort's outer defences, indicate that a defended annex exists on the northern side of the fort. A large number of early quarries are visible around the fort on the aerial photographs.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to, but excludes, all modern roads and verges. To allow for their maintenance, the scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground remains of post-and-wire fences, telegraph poles, pylons and boundary walls; the top 200mm of existing paths and the above-ground elements of all street furniture and signage.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument comprises a well-preserved Roman fort with an attached ditched annex, which overlies a series of earlier Neolithic pits. The excavated pits contained remnants of domestic or industrial processing, but may also be interpreted as possible ritual deposits.

Kenneth Steer discovered the fort in 1949 when he was reviewing the RAF back catalogue of vertical aerial photographs. Excavation has confirmed the high archaeological potential of the site, with many of the internal building foundations surviving. Three possible rebuilding phases of the fort were detected during excavation; the first two phases were consecutive, while there seems to have been a longer gap between the second and the last phases. There were significant burnt deposits discovered across the site, but it is unclear if these relate to deliberate demolition of the site, accidental fire or destruction caused by enemy action. Future investigations may clarify this issue.

A drain running under the granary was partially excavated and produced significant quantities of pottery and organic material. There is a high possibility that further organic deposits remain which could provide information about the health and diet of the garrison and the supply of goods to the fort. The excavations uncovered less than a quarter of the fort and were focused on the SE corner, leaving a substantial portion of the fort still in situ. The below-ground remains of the annex to the north of the fort have considerable potential to clarify the relationship of annexes to forts. It may also contain a bathhouse, as seems to have been common in the annexes of Antonine Wall forts.

The monument offers high potential for the survival of archaeological deposits and evidence relating to the date, construction and abandonment of the Roman fort and annex, as well as to the use of the site before and after the Roman period.

Contextual characteristics

The fort sits on top of a low promontory overlooking the Clyde estuary. The site affords significant views to the north and may have watched over a Roman river crossing. All datable evidence from the fort supports occupation of the site during the Antonine period around 140 AD until around 160 AD. This site thus represents a shift of focus from the earlier Flavian (80s AD) site of Barochan fort (south of Whitemoss) to this area, indicating a change in emphasis towards the monitoring of the Clyde. The Antonine fortlets of Lurg Moor and Outerwards further to the west make up the rest of the currently known western defences of the Antonine Wall. Whitemoss has a direct line of sight with Old Kilpatrick, which is the last attached fort on the western side of the Antonine Wall. The western defences of Hadrian's Wall consist of a series of forts and fortlets running around the Cumbrian cost as far as Maryport, and it is plausible that a similar series of works exists on the Clyde coast, though currently only Whitemoss and the two fortlets have been identified. The possible presence of a cavalry unit at Whitemoss indicates that there was an emphasis on rapid response, which would support the view that the site's purpose was to monitor crossings of the Clyde estuary.

Whitemoss thus has great potential to inform our understanding of not only the Antonine occupation of Scotland and the deployment of garrisons, but also the construction and strategic layout and function of the Antonine Wall.

Little is known about the defended annexes that are a common feature of Roman forts in Scotland. The two most common interpretations are that annexes housed industrial working and storage areas or that they represent a form of defended civilian settlement attached to the fort. The annex at Whitemoss has the potential to clarify the use and function of these defended areas in Roman Scotland.

Associative characteristics

Whitemoss is the most westerly fort of the Antonine Wall defences currently known. Before the discovery of this fort in 1949, little was known about Roman defence of the coast along the Clyde estuary. This perceived lack led R G Collingwood to suggest that the Antonine Wall was not a defensive feature but was more concerned with frontier control. This perception has survived into the current literature about the function of the Antonine Wall, despite the subsequent identification of the fort at Whitemoss.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has the inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular, the dating, construction and internal layout of Roman forts. This fort can tell us not only about the distribution of and relationships between Roman monuments and the surrounding landscape, but also specifically about the Antonine period occupation and the western defences of the Antonine Wall. Excavations have confirmed the cropmark evidence and shown that the site has high potential for the preservation of further important buried remains, in particular datable artefactual material and organic remains relating to the occupation of the fort. The loss of the monument would impede our understanding of the placing of such monuments in the landscape, their position in the network of Roman remains in Scotland, and the construction, use and abandonment of this fort and its annex.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The RCAHMS record the monument as NS47SW 20: Bishopton, Whitemoss; Roman Fort (Roman). The West of Scotland Archaeology Service record the monument as 7891.

Aerial Photographs consulted: RE1043, A83294


Hanson, W S 2009, 'West of Scotland ' the Roman Period', Regional Framework for Local History and Archaeology.

Hanson, W S and Maxwell, G S 1983, Rome's north west frontier: the Antonine Wall. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Newall, F 1997, 'The Roman fort on Whitemoss Farm, Bishopton, Renfreshire, Part 1: The Excavations of 1950-1954 and 1957', The Scottish Naturalist, 109, 55-96.

Steer, K A 1951, 'The Roman fort at Whitemoss, Renfrewshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 83, 28-32.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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