Reasons for Designation
Roman vexillation fortresses are rectangular enclosures with rounded corners which were occupied on a temporary basis by a campaigning army of between 2500 to 4000 men comprised of varying proportions of legionary and auxiliary troops. They were constructed as part of Roman military strategy immediately after the conquest in AD 43, when the army had not yet established the boundaries of its occupation, and continued to be involved in campaigns to increase and establish its control. All sites were probably abandoned by about AD 90. Vexillation fortresses are defined by a single rampart of earth or turf, usually revetted at the front and rear with turf or timber and surrounded by one or more outer ditches. Originally a breastwork and a wall walk of timber would have crowned the rampart, possibly with corner and interval towers. Only 14 examples of vexillation fortresses have been recorded in England. As one of a small group or Roman military monuments which are important in representing army strategy, vexillation fortresses are of particular significance to our understanding of the period and all examples with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be of importance. Roman camps are of similar shape and were constructed and used by Roman soldiers either when out on campaign or as practice camps and most campaign camps were only temporary overnight bases and few were used for longer periods. They were bounded by a single earthen rampart and outer ditch. Normally they have between one and four entrances, although as many as eleven have been recorded. Such entrances were usually centrally placed in the sides of the camp and were often protected by additional defensive outworks. Roman camps are found throughout much of England, although most known examples lie in the midlands and north. Around 140 examples have been identified and are one of the various types of defensive enclosure built by the Roman Army, particularly in hostile upland and frontier areas they provide an important insight into Roman military strategy and organisation.
Roman forts served as permanent bases for auxiliary units of the Roman Army. 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 and are extremely rare south of the Severn Trent line. 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.
The Roman camp, forts and a vexillation fortress 240m north of Lake Farm will contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to their construction, development and longevity, social, political, military and strategic significance, internal arrangements, occupational phases, eventual abandonment and overall landscape context.
The monument, which falls into two separate areas of protection, includes successive Roman military features, situated on level and relatively low-lying land which forms the floodplain of and is bisected by several braided channels of the River Stour. It straddles the current administrative boundary between Dorset and Poole. The military remains of up to four successive military enclosures take the form of a camp, forts and a vexillation fortress and other associated features of varying date including Iron Age and Neolithic pits and medieval buildings and ovens. These are all preserved as entirely buried structures, deposits and features, with no visible surface remains.
The area has been excavated and surveyed in various degrees from 1959 onwards, and the results have revealed development on the site of considerable complexity. Work in 1972-3 suggested there had been four successive forts or camps ranging in date from 44-65 AD. The earliest was a temporary camp; the second or third phase was represented by a legionary fort or vexillation fortress. This excavation also located other military features such as ditches, ramparts and timber defences which did not appear to correspond well to any particular phase of occupation. Pits and gullies were discovered which, according to magnetic surveys, were all aligned in a NNW-SSE direction.
In 1978-9 further excavations revealed additional ramparts around the encampment with external industrial activity. Within the interior roads, rubbish pits, timber-built barracks, the centurion's quarters and possible administrative buildings were located. Further fieldwork in 1980 revealed an additional building, a cess pit, wells and dumps which included tiles from a previously unknown bath house. A fluxgate magnetometer survey defined the south and south east defences and showed the fort was internally approximately 11.7ha in extent. Another small excavation revealed the external ditches to be V-shaped in profile and up to 1m deep and 1m wide. Further excavations in 1980 produced a well which contained early Roman material including an amphora. A leat which approached the fortress from the south was also found to divide into two and it has been speculated one branch served an industrial area whilst the other fed the suspected bath house. It is believed that the fortress was occupied by the Legio II Augusta and finds included pottery, tiles, hooks, buckles and fragments of armour.
Sources: PastScape 457187