Roman Vexillation Fortress, two Roman Marching Camps, and a Royal Observer Corps monitoring post, Newton on Trent

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1003608
Date first listed:
01-Nov-1966
Date of most recent amendment:
04-Nov-2020
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
Land south of the A57 and east of the River Trent, Newton on Trent, Lincolnshire, LN1 2JR

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
Land south of the A57 and east of the River Trent, Newton on Trent, Lincolnshire, LN1 2JR

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
County:
Lincolnshire
District:
West Lindsey (District Authority)
Parish:
Newton on Trent
National Grid Reference:
SK8237673723, SK8249373335

Summary

A 1st century Roman vexillation fortress sits on a ridge above the River Trent. To the south lie the remains of two Roman marching camps. A Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Post lies immediately to the north.

Reasons for Designation

The Roman Vexillation Fortress, two associated Roman Marching Camps, and the later Royal Observer Corps monitoring post, Newton on Trent are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

Period: The fortress and camps date from the 1st century AD, during the military conquest of Britannia by the Roman Army, and are highly representative of this initial phase of the Roman conquest and occupation of Britain;

Rarity: Vexillation fortresses form a rare subset of Roman defensive sites;

Survival: Three sides of the fortress survive, complete with outworks and internal features. The two camps survive as the northern arm of the defensive circuit;

Potential: The fortress and camps remain unexcavated and contain considerable potential to inform on the nature and lives of the Roman Army in the early days of the occupation of Britannia.

History

A vexillation fortress is a temporary camp built by the Roman army to house a subdivision of a legion or a composite military unit of between 2000 and 3000 men, called a vexillation. Vexillation fortresses are poorly defined, but are generally classified by size (between 6.5 and 12 hectares) as the size of a camp is proportional to the number of troops housed. Vexillation fortresses are generally considered to be mid- to late 1st century in date, as the movement of large numbers of troops was linked to the conquest of Britannia. They could be used as a temporary base for manoeuvres into adjacent, unconquered territories, or as winter bases for a force to move into adjacent territory in the spring.

The fortress at Newton on Trent lies on a ridge above the River Trent, adjacent to a river crossing on the boundary of territory controlled by the Corieltauvi. Its location suggests that in addition to guarding the river crossing, it was built as part of a line of vexillation fortresses along the Trent designed to intimidate the Brigantes to the north, while providing a line of forward bases for operations in Brigantian territory. If so, the date of construction would be around AD 70.

The fortress occupies a strong position at the highest point along the ridge. Two marching camps to the south respect the position of the fortress rather than occupying the strategically more important ground of the fortress itself, indicating that they were built while the fortress was still occupied. The two camps are clearly not contemporary, as one sits within another. The presence of a defensive clavicula in the one visible gate suggests a 1st century date, so they may represent marching camps for units travelling from Lindum (Lincoln) into Brigantian territory.

The vexillation fortress was first detected on aerial photographs in 1962. A further campaign of aerial photography discovered one camp to the south in 1969, and a second camp to the south in 1977. An earth resistance survey in 1984 detected twin ditches in the north west corner of the fortress, with a single ditch running inside the fortress at right angles to the defensive circuit. Subsequent excavation of the single ditch suggested it was Roman in date, and may have represented a reduction in the size of the fortress at some point during its life. Excavations to the north of the fortress uncovered a number of 2nd century Romano-British kilns.

Existing aerial photographs of the fortress and surrounding area were reinterpreted in 2010, providing an accurate description of the known cropmarks. An archaeological investigation to the south east of the known crop marks failed to find any further direct evidence of the Roman camps, although evidence of Roman activity was recorded.

In 1961, a Royal Observer Corps post was constructed between the double ditch and outworks of the fort in the north west corner. The Royal Observer Corps (ROC) was a civilian service, mainly staffed by volunteers. Its original role was to visually spot enemy aircraft, but in 1957 it became part of the newly formed United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO), charged with the task of reporting nuclear explosions and the monitoring of the resultant spread of radioactive fallout in the event of nuclear attack. This was facilitated by the construction of a national network of 1,518 monitoring posts, 1,026 of which were in England. The post at Newton on Trent was known as the Dunham on Trent ROC post, and continued to be operational until September 1991. It was surveyed in 1998 and subsequently in 2011 and 2016.

Details

PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: A 1st century Roman vexillation fortress sits on a ridge above the river Trent. To the south lie the remains of two Roman marching camps. A Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Post lies immediately to the north.

DESCRIPTION: The fortress is visible as a series of cropmarks and comprises three sides of a double ditched enclosure with rounded corners. The western edge has been lost due to erosion, although the possibility remains that the fourth side may have been provided by the break of slope of the ridge. The fortress measures 350m from north to south, and between 300 and 390m west to east, enclosing an area of just under 12 hectares. Gaps in the north and south sides probably represent entrances. The fortress is surrounded on three sides by a series of staggered and overlapping ditches that formed an additional set of outworks. A small section of internal ditch is visible near the centre of the enclosure. An area of ridge and furrow is visible in the north west corner of the fortress.

Two Roman camps are situated 200m south of the vexillation fortress. The northernmost of the two camps comprises a 280m long cropmark with an entrance in the middle. The entrance has a clavicula (a curved extension of the rampart and ditch extending within the defences in lieu of a gate) mid-way along. To the south is another 170m long cropmark with a rounded corner to the south, showing the presence of a second camp probably lying within the first.

The Royal Observer Corps post was built to a standard design, and measures 5.5m by 2.3m internally, including the entrance. Most of the post is underground, but the entrance hatch, Ground Zero Indicator mount (on top of the entrance ventilator) and Fixed Survey Meter mount survive above ground. The hatch is welded shut, but the 1998 survey reported some surviving fittings internally.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
LI 174
Legacy System:
RSM - OCN

Sources

Books and journals
Dalton, M, The Royal Observer Corps Underground Monitoring Posts, (2011), 21
Jones, B, Mattingly, D, An Atlas of Roman Britain, (1990), 88-99
Mattingley, D, An Imperial Possession Britain in the Roman Empire, (2007), 136-142
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Archaeology, (1995), 1-25, 67-69
St Joseph, JK, 'Air Reconnaissance in Britain 1961-64' in The Journal of Roman Studies, , Vol. LV, (1965), 74-76
St Joseph, JK, 'Air Reconnaissance in Britain 1965-68' in The Journal of Roman Studies, , Vol. LIX, (1969), 104
St Joseph, JK, 'Air Reconnaissance in Britain 1969-72' in The Journal of Roman Studies, , Vol. LXIII, (1973), 214
St Joseph, JK, 'Air Reconnaissance in Roman Britain 1973-76' in The Journal of Roman Studies, , Vol. LXVII, (1977), 128
Bishop, MC, Freeman, PWM, 'Geophysical Survey and Trial Excavation of the Roman Castra at Newton-on-Trent, Lincs' in Britannia, , Vol. 24, (1993), 187-189
Websites
Aerial photograph of site dated 11 July 1979, accessed 29 June 2020 from https://www.cambridgeairphotos.com/location/cji36/
Aerial photograph of site dated 20 July 1974, accessed 29 June 2020 from https://www.cambridgeairphotos.com/location/bqm16/
Aerial photograph of site dated 22 June 1970, accessed 29 June 2020 from https://www.cambridgeairphotos.com/location/bce77/
Aerial photograph of site dated 28 July 1977, accessed 29 June 2020 from https://www.cambridgeairphotos.com/location/cdn65/
Aerial photograph of site dated 6 August 1974, accessed 29 June 2020 from https://www.cambridgeairphotos.com/location/k17ah001/
Subterranea Britannica Report on Dunham on Trent ROC post, accessed 17 August 2020 from https://www.subbrit.org.uk/sites/dunham-on-trent-roc-post/
Other
Deegan, A ‘Air Photo Mapping and Interpretation for Land at Newton on Trent, Lincolnshire’ Unpublished Alison Deegan Air Photo Mapping, Interpretation and Analysis Report 1011007 (2010)
Gilmour, N, Dickson, A, Fosberry, R and Wadeson, S ‘Lincoln Water Treatment Works, Newton on Trent, Lincolnshire Archaeological Field Walking Survey, Geophysical Survey, Contour Survey, Trench Evaluation and Watching Brief Archaeological Fieldwork Report’ Unpublished Oxford Archaeology East Report 1259 (2012)

Legal

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing