A small Roman fort of the mid-1st to late-3rd century AD, associated annexes or enclosures, and the buried remains of a Roman temporary camp, also dating to the mid-1st century AD.
Reasons for Designation
The Roman fort, its annexes and the temporary camp situated 290m south-west of Restormel Farm are scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: despite being reduced previously by ploughing, the monument survives as low earthworks and buried archaeological deposits;
* Potential: there is significant archaeological potential for buried remains which will increase our knowledge of the occupation of the site, and also contribute to our understanding of Roman military activities in Cornwall more generally;
* Rarity: the Roman camp is one of only a small number identified nationally and the fort is one of only three examples identified within the county;
* Documentation: the monument is well-documented through geophysical survey and fieldwalking.
Documentary evidence for a possible Roman site near Lostwithiel was recorded in the late C16, and Samian ware was found in the area in the late C18 (Nicholas & Hartgroves, 2018, see Sources). The Old Series Ordnance Survey map published in 1805 depicts a square enclosure to the north of the town, close to the medieval Restormel Castle, and it is marked on the map as ‘Uzella of Ptolomy’ (sic); a settlement recorded in Ptolemy’s The Geographia from the 2nd century AD. It is visible on various aerial photographs dating from 1968 onwards and is depicted along with serval linear earthworks to the west and south-east of it on the Epoch a5 first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1974. It was initially considered to be a Late Iron Age or Romano-British settlement enclosure, but a re-examination of finds recovered from the site (Thorpe, 2007) and a programme of geophysical survey by Tamarside Archaeology Society (Nicholas, 2009) between 2007 and 2009 confirmed that it is a small Roman fort, and that the adjacent features are probably associated annexes or enclosures. Another, smaller annexe was identified beyond the fort’s north-east corner.
The Roman military presence in Britain is considered to have most likely spread out from the south-east in a complex series of campaigns and movements over decades. During the conquest phase in the 1st century AD legionary bases were moved according to strategic necessity, and a legionary fortress was established at Exeter around AD 55. The geophysics at Restormel identified the buried remains a large rectangular enclosure slightly further to the west of the fort. This is believed (Nicholas & Hartgroves, 2018) to be a Roman temporary camp that pre-dates the fort. Roman camps generally consisted of a rampart of earth, sometimes surmounted by a timber palisade, quickly thrown up to surround a military encampment. Their occupation was generally short-lived and, while very few examples have been firmly dated, it is possible that the one at Restormel may have been a construction camp used by troops involved in the construction of the adjacent fort in the mid-1st century AD. Two other forts were established in Cornwall during this period, at Calstock, close to the River Tamar, and near the River Camel at Nanstallon. The fort at Restormel is situated on a spur above the River Fowey; a location during the Roman period that was near the river’s tidal limit and where it was navigable, meaning that it could perhaps have been accessed by boat from the headquarters at Exeter; the two other forts occupy similar positions above navigable sections of river. This strategic position may also indicate that the fort at Restormel could have been associated with the exploitation of mineral resources in the area, and possibly also with a river crossing. The fortress at Exeter was abandoned around AD 75 and excavations at Nanstallon indicate that the fort here was occupied until about AD 80-85, whereas occupation continued at Restormel until the late 3rd century, as demonstrated by the large assemblage of 2nd and 3rd century finds recovered from the site. It is unclear, however, if it continued to serve a military function.
The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a small Roman fort established around the mid-1st century AD, associated annexes or enclosures, and the buried remains of a Roman temporary camp, also dating to the mid-1st century AD. It is situated on a prominent spur to the west of, and overlooking, the River Fowey.
The fort measures approximately 100m west-east by 90m north-south and is defined by two parallel ditches with rounded corners which have become infilled over the years but will survive as buried features and a rampart that is visible as a low spread earthwork and is also evident on aerial photographs and LiDAR images. Gateways have been identified on the west, north and south sides, and it is probable that there was also an east entrance, but there is no evidence to confirm this from the geophysics results. The interior of the fort measures approximately 70m by 60m and appears to be divided into quadrants. Several small areas of burning which may relate to ovens or furnaces have been identified, but no specific buildings. The buried remains, including the enclosing ditches and some internal features, of the two annexes on the west side of the fort and the annexe beyond its north-east corner were identified from the geophysics. The camp is situated only 40m west of the fort and is orientated north-west to south-east. The geophysics indicate that it is a rectilinear enclosure with rounded corners, measuring 160m by 110m. It is defined by a single ditch, though some sections appear to have comprised a palisade or timber revetment (Nicholas, 2009), as evinced by short sections of post holes. Gaps in the south-west and north-east sides of the camp represent possible entrances, and although not identified from the geophysics, it is likely that there are also entrances within the other two sides. The eastern third of the camp appears to be overlain by the fort’s western annexe.
Artefacts recovered from the site include Roman coins dating from the 1st to the 3rd century AD; also, one pre-conquest Roman coin, fragments of glass and small finds such as a finger ring and a brooch, both of copper alloy, and several possible gaming counters. There were also fragments of iron slag and a quantity of burnt clay. As well as local Cornish wares, a large assemblage of high quality pottery imported from the Continent and elsewhere in Britain has been found during fieldwalking. Some prehistoric flints and medieval and post-medieval pottery sherds have also been recovered.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING
The area of protection is based on available evidence about the current known extent of earthworks and buried archaeological remains of the fort and its annexes and the buried remains of the temporary camp as identified from the geophysical surveys and on aerial photographs, together with a margin of some 10m for the support and protection of the monument. It therefore forms a roughly-rectangular shaped parcel with maximum dimensions of 418m from west to east and 225m north to south at its widest point. At the present time there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate the survival of nationally important archaeology to the west and south of the scheduled area, and it is not possible to justify including these areas in the scheduling.