The buried remains of a Roman fort visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs.
Reasons for Designation
The Roman fort at Hadleigh is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: despite being reduced by ploughing, the site survives in the form of buried archaeological deposits;
* Potential: it will retain significant information relating to the date of construction and the nature of occupation;
* Period and rarity: as a rare example of Roman fort providing an insight into the strategy of the Roman military occupation of the country;
* Documentary: it is well documented by aerial photography and geophysical survey;
* Group value: as one of a number of sites in the area which add valuable contribution to understanding the Roman occupation and the civil and miltary control of south-east Essex. Its close proximity to later defensive sites, including Hadleigh Castle and the Second World War heavy anti-aircraft battery on Sandpit Hill, illustrates the strategic importance of the Rayleigh Hills throughout history.
Roman forts served as permanent bases for the auxiliary troops of the Roman Army. 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 outline, they were normally straight sided rectangular enclosures with rounded corners, defined by a single rampart of turf or earth, with one or more outer ditches. Although varying in size according to the number and type of troops that they were built to accommodate, internally forts were typically laid out with a headquarters building (principia) to the centre, flanked by a house for the commander (praetorium) on one side and one or more granaries (horrea) on the other, with most of the rest of the fort's interior being taken up with ordered rows of barrack blocks with a scattering of ancillary buildings. In earlier forts these buildings, along with the gateways, towers and breastworks built to strengthen the ramparts, were constructed of timber, gradually switching to stone construction from the second century AD. Roman forts were also often provided with a bath house, although these were frequently sited 100m or more away. Many Roman forts attracted civilian settlement (vicus), typically extending along one of the approach roads to the fort. Some forts also had defended annexes. Roman forts are rare nationally and provide an important insight into Roman military strategy. Their archaeology also provides important information about the economy of Roman Britain.
The earliest known documentary reference to Hadleigh (Haeplege) is from a list of estates of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, dated to about AD 995-998 (Rippon 1999, 26). Archaeology and other evidence, however, shows that this area of south-east Essex was certainly visited and very probably occupied during much of the prehistoric period, although there is little evidence for settlement prior to the Late Bronze Age. Chance finds of flint implements include two Palaeolithic hand axes from the area to the west of Hadleigh Castle (now covered by a housing estate), a possible Mesolithic core from the same area, a Mesolithic tranchet axe found at the southern edge of Hadleigh village, a Neolithic flint knife from the vicinity of Park Farm, and a Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowhead from an unknown location. The first definitive occupation evidence comes from Hadleigh village, where excavations in the 1980s revealed a square ditched domestic enclosure dating from the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. Another Iron Age site is thought to exist in the vicinity of Sayers Farm to the west of Hadleigh Castle, where Iron Age pottery and evidence for cremation burials were found in 1936. By the Late Iron Age or Romano-British period it is believed that much of the Rayleigh Hills was settled and presumably being exploited. The Rayleigh Hills around Hadleigh has a relatively large number of Romano-British sites and finds, implying that the area was well settled (Rippon 1999,23). One site dating from this period is a double-ditched enclosure identified from aerial photographs taken in 1949 by JK St Joseph (1912-1944), an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge who pioneered the use of aerial photography as a method of archaeological research. It was subsequently interpreted as a Roman fort of the first century AD (Dunnett 1975) on account of its distinctive playing card ground-plan, namely straight sides and rounded corners, which is so typical of Roman military architecture.
Although the fort has not been subjected to archaeological excavation, a resistivity survey undertaken by AGES Archaeological and Historical Association in 2018, an Hadleigh-based archaeological and historical group, confirmed the survival of the monument’s double-ditched enclosure (see SOURCES).
Principal elements: The buried remains of a Roman fort visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs. It is situated on an outcrop of Bagshot sands and gravels at the southern end of the Rayleigh Hills, south-east Essex, immediately to the south of the rear gardens of numbers 45 to 71 (odd) Homestead Gardens, around 850m north-north-west of Hadleigh Castle (scheduled and listed Grade I).
DESCRIPTION: although no upstanding remains of the fort survive, a series of cropmarks on aerial photographs indicate a square enclosure, aligned north-north-east to south-south-west, with rounded corners, defined by two parallel ditches between 3m to 5m wide and about 8m to 10m apart. The outer ditch, which encloses an area of some 0.51 hectares, survives in its entirety on the north, east and south sides, although there are small breaks at the north-west, north-east and south-west corners, while there are a further two breaks in the north side. The inner ditch, which encloses an area of about 0.24 hectares, is complete and has an entrance on the east side. As there is no corresponding entrance in the outer ditch this suggests that the fort’s gateways were probably staggered, although the location of the outer gateway has not been identified. There is no evidence of an associated bank or rampart on aerial photographs nor any clear evidence for any internal features apart form an east-west aligned linear feature roughly dividing the enclosure in half. Its overall maximum dimensions are around 74m north-north-east to south-south-west by about 150m west-north-west to east-south east.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the area of protection is based on current evidence and understanding arising from aerial photographs and a geophysical survey of the monument undertaken in 2018. The boundary to the scheduled monument closely follows the buried remains of the fort’s defences as depicted on aerial photographs together with a 19m margin for the support and protection of the monument.