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Carriden House, Roman fort, annexe and settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Bo'ness and Blackness, Falkirk

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Latitude: 56.0094 / 56°0'33"N

Longitude: -3.5601 / 3°33'36"W

OS Eastings: 302825

OS Northings: 680707

OS Grid: NT028807

Mapcode National: GBR 1T.TJ4F

Mapcode Global: WH5R3.86ZY

Entry Name: Carriden House, Roman fort, annexe and settlement

Scheduled Date: 2 September 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12653

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Roman: fort

Location: Bo'Ness and Carriden

County: Falkirk

Electoral Ward: Bo'ness and Blackness

Traditional County: West Lothian


The monument comprises a Roman fort associated with the Antonine Wall, its annexe and an associated extramural settlement with evidence of field systems. The complex survives entirely as buried remains, partially visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs. Further remains have been located through excavation and geophysical survey. Enclosing an area of approximately 1.4 ha, the fort lies within the grounds of Carriden House and The Steadings, while the extramural settlement lies within an arable field immediately to the east of Carriden House. The fort was first scheduled in 1969, while the extramural settlement and field-systems were first scheduled in 1981. However an inadequate area was included to protect the full extent of the archaeological remains and the existing schedulings do not meet modern standards. The present rescheduling corrects this.

The monument survives as the cropmarked triple ditches of the fort's E side, running 170m in length on an N-S alignment. At the SE corner, cropmarks of the innermost ditch clearly turn to the west and continue for around 50m. The other ditches lie beneath a modern road. The cropmarks were first identified in 1945 by Prof J K St Joseph and were interpreted as being evidence of a fort that had long been suspected at Carriden because of numerous chance discoveries of pottery, coins and sculptured stone from the immediate vicinity of Carriden House, as well as reports of structural remains located during building work. St Joseph suggested that an annexe probably extended to the west of the fort, towards the Carriden burn. Cropmarks visible on aerial photographs of the fort represent negative or buried archaeological features that retain different levels of moisture than the surrounding subsoil resulting in the variant growth of the crops above. Cropmark evidence, supported by geophysical survey and excavation results, reveals that the fort extends beneath the landscaped grounds of Carriden House and The Steading. To the east of the fort lies an extensive network of field systems. These appear to reveal several periods of activity but are likely to include evidence of farming around the fort during its occupation, lending further weight to some form of civilian settlement attached to the fort; in 1956 an altar was found near Carriden whose dedication refers to the occupants of an officially recognised village or settlement (vicani) named Velaunia or Velauniate. While this area does not produce cropmarks, geophysical survey in this area has yielded information about the fort's defences.

The fort has been excavated on several occasions. Following the discovery of the cropmarks in 1945, a trial excavation revealed two ditches, but located no trace of a rampart. Pottery of the Antonine period provided firm dating evidence for the fort. In 1994 archaeologists located two V-shaped ditches on the alignment of the fort's S ditches. A third, outer ditch was located during the 2006 geophysical survey of Carriden fort. These ditches, along with a gateway and a road, were interpreted as being part of an annexe adjoining the W side of the fort. Further excavations on the W side of the complex located a single large ditch in 2002, likely to be the fort's W boundary, facing the steeper ground of Carriden Glen and the Carriden burn. The triple ditches of the S defence, facing open ground, are thought to have merged at the SW corner and become a single broad ditch exploiting the natural topography.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the enclosed plan. To allow for their maintenance, the scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of post-and-wire and timber fences, boundary walls and walls with railings, and the upper 300mm of all paths, driveways and hard standings. It also excludes a gas storage tank and its associated pipework and all buried service pipes, as well as the ground immediately above them.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is a well-preserved archaeological site that has been partially excavated in the past. Carriden is the site of the E terminal fort of the Antonine Wall, although there is, as yet, no evidence to demonstrate that it was physically part of the frontier. Estimated at 1.4 ha, Carriden is among the largest forts on the frontier and one of the most important. Although there are no surviving earthworks, aerial photography, geophysical survey and excavation results have demonstrated that the buried remains of the fort and the associated field systems are likely to be particularly well preserved. In 2008, the discovery of the fort's external bathhouse suggests that high levels of preservation are likely to extend throughout the fort complex. Situated to the east of the fort, the field system provides evidence for a contemporary civilian settlement and is one of the largest examples of contemporary farming in the immediate vicinity of any of the Antonine Wall forts.

The monument possesses excellent potential to provide high-quality archaeological evidence relating to the function of the Antonine Wall, its garrisons and Roman frontier systems in general. It offers excellent potential to enhance our understanding of the construction, maintenance and subsequent abandonment of the Antonine Wall. There is good potential for the recovery of environmental samples where the remains of the rampart may seal ancient ground surfaces or from the fills of the ditch that can improve our knowledge of the local landscape when the Antonine Wall was built and in use.

Contextual characteristics

The Antonine Wall, established in the early 140s AD, represents Scotland's most significant Roman antiquity. Measuring 60km in length, the Wall spans the narrow neck of land between Bo'ness on the River Forth and Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde. Incorporating a continuous system of wall and ditch, the Antonine Wall is accompanied at regular intervals by forts and fortlets linked by a road system. Archaeologists believe the layout of the frontier underwent alteration either during or immediately after construction with more forts being added, reducing the distance between garrisons. The Antonine Wall is one of only three linear barriers to be found along the 2000km European frontier of the Roman Empire, the other examples being Hadrian's Wall and the Rhine limes, and these are unique to Germany and Britain. However, the Antonine Wall is unique in the disposition of its forts at such close intervals and in the use of a turf superstructure on a stone foundation, an adaptation unparalleled elsewhere in the Roman Empire.

Like other Roman frontiers, the Antonine Wall was intended to control and monitor cross-border movement into Roman-controlled territory rather than acting as a fortification to halt massed attack. However, it is likely that the frontier's physical presence in the landscape, a continuous barrier spanning central Scotland, discouraged small-scale local raiding.

Associative characteristics

The Antonine Wall formed part of the wider Roman reoccupation of Scotland. This comprises a web of roads interconnecting the forts and fortlets controlling the areas to the west, south and east of the Antonine Wall. To the north of the frontier a chain of outpost forts, linked by a road, extended from Camelon on the outskirts of Falkirk to Bertha on the outskirts of Perth. From Carriden it is likely that the Military Way continued to the east, forming a land connection with the important supply base at Cramond, although it is more likely that ships transported supplies and communications between these two forts. To the east of Cramond was a fort at Inveresk, commanding the meeting of two major roads, leading into SW and SE Scotland.

The Antonine Wall has a close relationship with the topography of central Scotland. Much of the frontier occupies the southern edge of the valley formed by the Rivers Kelvin and Carron, a position that offered the Antonine Wall wide-ranging views over the Kilsyth Hill, the Campsie Fells and Kilpatrick Hills, and meant that it was widely visible in the landscape. The route of the Antonine Wall also has commanding views over natural communication routes. Carriden fort probably relied upon the River Forth for links to Cramond and, possibly, the fort at Camelon.

Discoveries of coins, pottery, sculptured stonework and inscribed stones from Carriden are described by several antiquaries. Writing in 1697, the antiquarian Robert Sibbald noted the discovery of a gold coin of the Emperor Vespasian, pottery and a sculptured stone built into the fabric of Carriden House. Alexander Gordon, writing in the early 18th century, noted altars, inscriptions and coins as having been found at Carriden. None of the altars or inscribed stones reported is known to have survived, although drawings give some idea of their appearance and the content of their inscriptions. Some stones appear to have been built into Carriden House and then subsequently weathered away. In 1911, Sir George Macdonald's The Roman Wall in Scotland placed the terminus of the frontier at Bridgeness, where a sizeable and finely carved Roman distance slab had been discovered. Although attempts to locate evidence for the Antonine Wall approaching Carriden have been made, no conclusive evidence has emerged.

Carriden is one of a handful of Roman forts in Scotland where there is good evidence for the development of an associated civilian settlement outside the fort. An inscription on an altar discovered in 1956 names the settlement as Veluniate and notes that it was a vicus, an officially recognised village, the only one known in Scotland. Several vici are recorded on Hadrian's Wall, including Old Carlisle, Chesterholm and Housesteads. It is possible that Veluniate was the Roman name for the fort at Carriden as a very similar name (Velunia) is given in the British section of the Ravenna Cosmography. Composed in 8th century AD, the Cosmography lists the names of all the known towns, forts and other settlements that had existed within the Roman Empire.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular Antonine Wall forts, the character and development of civilian settlements attached to forts on the frontier, and the character of Roman frontier systems more generally. The monument has high potential to add to our understanding of the construction, maintenance and subsequent abandonment of Antonine Wall forts and the lifestyle of the soldiers garrisoned within them. The civilian settlement at Carriden is particularly significant and has excellent potential to help us better understand their character more generally and can provide further information about everyday life on the Antonine frontier. There is good potential for the recovery of dateable remains and environmental samples that would enhance our understanding of the character of the local landscape when the fort was occupied from the fills of the fort ditches, from ancient ground surfaces sealed by its ramparts, from structures within the fort and from the civilian settlement and its environs. A combination of aerial photography, geophysical survey and excavation has demonstrated that well-preserved remains of the fort's defences, internal features and associated civil settlement survive as buried deposits beneath the topsoil. The loss of the monument would impede our ability to understand the frontier and the role of its forts, and would erode the overall importance of the Antonine Wall as a single linear monument spanning central Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Bailey, G B 1987, 'The eastern terminus of the Antonine Wall: a review', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 117, 90-104.

Bailey, G B 1997, 'Excavation of Roman, medieval, and later features at Carriden Roman fort annexe in 1994', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 127, 577-94.

Bailey, G B forthcoming, 'Excavation of an Extramural Bathhouse at Carriden'.

Breeze, D J 2006, The Antonine Wall, London: John Donald.

Gater J, Jones R, and Stephens, C 2008, 'Geophysical Survey on the Antonine Wall' in D J Breeze and S Jilek (eds), Frontiers of the Roman Empire, Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, 79-81, 88-9, 91-3.

Hanson, W S and Maxwell, G S 1986, The Antonine Wall: Rome's North West Frontier, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 86-7, 111-12, 153-4, 183-4, 188-9.

Keppie, L J F 1984, Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani: Great Britain, vol 1 fasicule 4: Scotland, London: The British Academy.

Richmond, I A and Steer, K A 1957, 'Castellum Velauniate and civilians on a Roman frontier', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 90 (1956-7), 1-6.

Robertson, A S and Keppie, L J F 2001, The Antonine Wall: A Handbook to the Surviving Remains, Glasgow: Glasgow Archaeological Society, 36-8, 49-51.

St Joseph, J K 1951, 'Air Reconnaissance of North Britain', Journal of Roman Studies, 41, 190.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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