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Eskgrove, Roman civil settlement 40 m north of

A Scheduled Monument in Musselburgh, East Lothian

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Latitude: 55.9377 / 55°56'15"N

Longitude: -3.0469 / 3°2'48"W

OS Eastings: 334697

OS Northings: 672126

OS Grid: NT346721

Mapcode National: GBR 2F.YZC4

Mapcode Global: WH7V0.50BW

Entry Name: Eskgrove, Roman civil settlement 40 m N of

Scheduled Date: 26 December 1972

Last Amended: 21 May 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3267

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Roman: altar

Location: Inveresk

County: East Lothian

Electoral Ward: Musselburgh

Traditional County: Midlothian


The monument comprises part of the buried remains of a substantial Roman civil settlement (or vicus) associated with the Roman fort at Inveresk, which dates to the mid second century AD. The monument lies on a ridge on the N side of Inveresk village at approximately 20m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1972: the present rescheduling improves the documentation and mapping.

Aerial photographs indicate the extent of the overall settlement area, which forms the largest Roman civil settlement currently known in Scotland, and which has produced the greatest amount of evidence so far for Roman civil occupation in Scotland. This scheduled area, comprising the paddock north of Eskgrove House, formed part of the civil settlement to the east of the Roman fort, in an area that has seen little previous disturbance.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above, as marked in red on the accompanying map. The area is bounded on the north by a gravel footpath, on the east by a gravelled drive, and on the west by a retaining wall. The scheduling extends up to the retaining wall, but excludes the wall itself. In the north-west corner of the scheduled monument, the scheduled area runs up to but excludes the steps and the top 300mm of the gravel footpath, and on the south-west side it extends up to but excludes the line of trees. To allow for their maintenance, the scheduling also excludes the above-ground elements of all telegraph poles, the top 300mm of the surfaced parking area to the north-east of Eskgrove, the top 300mm of the paths along the southern and western sides of the scheduled area and the dovecot.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument consists of the buried remains of part of the Roman vicus (civil settlement) attached to the Roman fort at Inveresk. Finds from antiquity and recent archaeological excavations indicate that there is high potential for the survival of archaeological deposits. Excavation carried out in 1990 to repair the retaining wall of the paddock discovered a substantial archaeological midden and the foundations of at least one stone-built Roman building. These finds support the view that the paddock has seen little previous disturbance. The remains of the stone building (or buildings) are also noteworthy as most of the civil buildings at Inveresk were of timber construction. The building may have been a residence or a combined residence with a shop front, as was common in Roman settlement. The close proximity of the building foundation to the hypocaust in the grounds of Inveresk House suggests that it might have been part of a larger elite residence. Not only do structural elements of the settlement survive in the grounds of Eskgrove House, but the 1990 excavation also produced a significant number of finds and is especially noteworthy for the amount of midden material given the relatively small area examined. A brass mount was found in the area to the north of the paddock and fragments of Roman pottery and tile have been found over the years in the paddock. The discovery of an altar, hypocaust and possible funerary urns in the vicinity during antiquity highlight the great potential of the buried archaeology in the paddock to inform our understanding of the development sequence and use of this portion of the Roman civil settlement. While there have been multiple excavations in Inveresk, a significant proportion of this site is undisturbed and there is high potential that this area can make a substantial contribution to our understanding of the complex of Roman monuments in and around Inveresk.

Contextual characteristics

Together, the fort, civil settlement and associated field systems retain considerable potential to contribute to our understanding of Roman military and civil development, the use of the surrounding landscape, and the Roman occupation of Scotland and Britain in general. The fort lay within what is now the graveyard of St Michael's Church, while a civilian settlement to its east lay in an area now partly overlain by houses in Inveresk village. The fort and civil settlement were occupied during the mid-second century AD, during the Antonine occupation of Scotland. The monument has seen numerous recent excavations and significant discoveries in antiquity. Based on the size of the fort and the presence of stables, it has been suggested that the fort housed an auxiliary cavalry unit. The complex seems to relate to a single phase of occupation of at least 20 years duration. This is the longest duration of any single Roman occupation in southern Scotland and would give sufficient time for significant structural development and change to take place.

From around AD 140-160 Inveresk was part of the hinterland of the Antonine Wall and the fort is interpreted as a transport hub: two sizeable temporary forts to the south underline this role, and several major Roman roads converge nearby. Inveresk probably fulfilled a similar role in the second century AD to the fort at Elginhaugh in the first century AD. It is likely that a road ran from Inveresk to a major supply depot at Cramond and then on to Carriden, the fort at the eastern end of the Antonine Wall. The fort's position indicates that it may have served a role as part of the continuation of the Antonine Wall defences that ran along the S coast of the Firth of Forth and were intended to monitor any attempts to circumvent the frontier by sea. Its position was also well placed to act as a trade hub for long-distance coastal trade, with London and further afield. It is this role that may explain the substantial civil development in the vicinity, as well as the presence of the Imperial procurator (senior financial officer) for the province of Britannia, Q. Lusius Sabinianus. Two inscriptions recovered at Inveresk, both inscribed with dedications by Lusius, and the 2007 discovery of the tombstone of a bodyguard of the provincial governor who was most likely accompanying Lusius, indicate that Lusius was in Inveresk for a significant amount of time, possibly to assess the tax potential of the region.

Excavations outside the fort have revealed a developed and substantial civil settlement, of which this monument forms a part. Excavations of the civil settlement to the south-east of the fort (outside of this scheduled area) indicate that: there were at least three phases of construction; most of the buildings were of timber construction; and there was a shift in phase two to a large post-hole construction technique. All three phases respected the same layout, with the roads also being resurfaced at these times. While most buildings were long timber-built constructions of a typical vicus ribbon settlement-type, substantial stone buildings were also encountered in three of the excavations, some with internal heating. The site also has two possible bathhouses, one identified by the remains of a hypocaust which is still visible and the other by the discovery of box and flue tiles.

Excavations at Inveresk over the years have produced a substantial corpus of Roman pottery, some of which was discovered in the paddock, which allows a greater understanding of pottery supply and Roman trade to emerge. Inveresk is associated with the production of a specific type of Roman pottery known as 'Inveresk Ware'. The large quantity at Inveresk has led to the suggestion that there was a kiln in the vicinity. This suggestion, if true, would indicate that civilian potters were most likely based in the vicus and would have set up a workshop in the area. It has long been speculated that that there was a Roman port at Inveresk, which may account for the developed civil settlement at this location. Numerous long-distance trade goods have been discovered in the civil settlement and of particular interest are the three wooden barrels used to line the excavated well at Inveresk Gate. Barrels, most likely used in the transportation of wine from the Rhineland, are often attested in Roman literature and sculpture, but are fairly rare archaeological finds in Scotland. Two wells have been discovered at Inveresk within 5 m of each other, one timber-lined with barrels and the other stone-lined. The timber-lined well was completely excavated and contained numerous artefacts and ecofacts, contributing to our understanding of civilian life and diet at Inveresk. The stone-lined well was not excavated, but sealed and left in situ for future preservation. Both wells appeared to have been backfilled as a single event. Their contents appear to be rubbish from the settlement and offer a glimpse into the more mundane aspects of daily life during the Roman period. Excavations of midden material near Eskgrove House have produced a significant quantity of animal bone, mainly cattle, indicating that beef made up a large portion of the local diet.

The associated field systems have produced dating evidence that shows activity in the area in the Iron Age, Roman and medieval periods. Future investigation has the potential to confirm the long-held belief that these land divisions are associated with the Roman fort and civil settlement. The excavations undertaken on these features in recent years indicate that they are probably of this date. What is believed to be a Roman timber amphitheatre was excavated north of the field systems at Lewisvale Park. This amphitheatre is the most northerly known example in the Roman Empire. Transcriptions of aerial photographs of the field systems to the south of the civil settlement have also enabled identification of a rare, Neolithic cursus (ritual) monument, which highlights not only the longstanding importance of the area around Inveresk, but also the high quality of archaeological preservation in the area.

Inveresk has also produced evidence of interaction and exchange with the local indigenous population, in the form of a button-and-loop fastener discovered in the grounds of Eskgrove House. The fastener was manufactured possibly at Traprain Law hillfort, East Lothian, the only site yet to produce moulds for this type of button-and-loop fastener.

The monument has the inherent potential greatly to inform our understanding of the Roman occupation of Scotland. The rich midden material is of particular interest as it can contribute greatly to our understanding of daily life and social practice in the Roman period. Additionally, it provides valuable information on the development of extramural settlement. Roman military vici or civil settlements attached to Roman forts are now seen as the norm rather than the exception in England and other areas of the Roman Empire. They are still relatively unknown in Roman Scotland, but this may be down to study bias rather than actual absence. The relatively short periods of Roman occupation of Scotland mean that most buildings outside of the forts would have been of timber construction and therefore more difficult to locate. This highlights the relative importance of Inveresk, which has not only definable phases of timber construction, but also more substantial stone buildings. Not only can this site inform our understanding of extramural civil development, and relations between the fort and vicus inhabitants, but also, given the short phase and final abandonment of the site, it can contribute significantly to our understanding of the development of Roman urbanism in more general terms.

Associative characteristics

The Roman remains at Inveresk have played a significant role in the antiquarian interest of Roman Scotland. In 1565 a Roman altar to Apollo Grannus was found in the grounds of Eskgrove. Mary Queen of Scots wrote to the magistrates of Musselburgh that the stone should not be broken down. Unfortunately this was not to be the case as it was later recorded by John Napier of Merchiston that the idolatrous relic had been destroyed. This early recording of the altar at Inveresk is the first recorded archaeological discovery in Scotland. Given its importance, the inscription featured in the works of Robert Sibbald, William Camden, Janus Gunter, Alexander Gordon and John Horsley. This early interest in Inveresk focused almost exclusively on the inscription and, while it was noted that there was most likely a fort under the church, the evidence was not collated until the mid 19th century. It was the physician, poet and author, David Macbeth Moir, in his 'The Roman Antiquities of Inveresk', that highlighted the importance of the site. The exact location of the fort was not verified until the 20th century, being one of the first discoveries of J K St Joseph when he began working with O S Crawford in the early days of the use of aerial photography in archaeology. Inveresk, and specifically Inveresk House, is of historical note as it was also the residence of Oliver Cromwell during his Scottish campaign. A mound in the corner of the fort is named after him and is believed locally to have been a cannon emplacement.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the 2nd-century AD advance into Scotland by the Romans. This potential is enhanced by the large extent of the remains, the known excellent levels of preservation, the multiple phases of occupation in the civil settlement, and the known historical period of use. The midden at Eskgrove has the potential specifically to contribute to our understanding of daily activities and social practice at Inveresk in the Roman period. Inveresk is one of the most important monuments of the Roman period in Scotland and has become an identifiable monument in the national consciousness. The loss of this example would significantly affect our understanding of the Roman military presence in Scotland. It would also have far-reaching implications for our understanding of the use of forts, temporary camps and the development of civil settlements within, and at the limits of, the Roman Empire.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The RCAHMS record the site as NT37SW 8.


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Swan, V 1988, 'Comments on Inveresk Ware in Excavations at the Roman civil settlement at Inveresk, 1976-77', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 118, 167-71.

Thomas, G D 1988, 'Excavations at the Roman civil settlement at Inveresk, 1976-77', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 118, 139-76.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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