Cambodunum Roman fort and vicus, Slack
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Location Description:
- Divided into four areas by the M62 motorway and Slack Lane, extending north and east of the hamlet of Slack.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Location Description:
- Divided into four areas by the M62 motorway and Slack Lane, extending north and east of the hamlet of Slack.
- Kirklees (Metropolitan Authority)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
Roman fort established about AD80, with some stone rebuilding around AD100, the garrison reduced in the early AD120s and finally abandoned AD140-60, but with the associated vicus persisting into the C3 or even early C4. The monument survives as buried remains with some slight earthworks.
Reasons for Designation
Cambodunum Roman fort and vicus is scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Period: as a good example of a late C1 Roman fort which led to the establishment of a civilian settlement that is believed to have persisted into the C4; * Survival, potential: extensive in situ archaeological remains of both the fort and vicus are known to survive, including some areas retaining waterlogged organic material; * Documentation: the monument has a long history of archaeological investigation, the records of which considerably add to our understanding.
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 C1 and mid C2 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 C2 AD. Roman forts were also often provided with a bath house, although these were frequently sited a 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 Roman fort at Slack lies adjacent to the Roman road linking the legionary fortresses of Chester and York and is thought to have been built circa AD80, its garrison probably reduced in strength in AD122-125 with final abandonment by the Roman army perhaps around AD140-160. However occupation of the associated vicus, the civilian settlement, appears to have continued into the C3, possibly even into the C4, and has been identified as 'Cambodunum', a place name recorded in the Antonine Itineraries, official Roman documents recording distances between places on the road network.
The fort was known to antiquarians, being included in J Whitaker’s "History of Manchester" (1771). In 1824 part of the fort’s bath house was excavated, with a small section of its hypocaust being removed: this surviving as the Grade II listed hypocaust that was reconstructed in the grounds of Tolson Museum, Huddersfield in the 1930s. In 1865 the bath house was more extensively investigated by the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association, uncovering a multi-roomed stone-built structure of at least one unheated and four heated rooms. This was re-examined in 1913-15 by PM Dodd and AM Woodward who also conducted extensive excavations across the eastern side of the fort, identifying remains of buildings, showing the first phase to have been of timber construction, but with the headquarters building, a granary and one of the double barrack blocks shown to have been rebuilt in stone, perhaps in about AD100. Finds of large numbers of tiles carrying the stamp “COH IIII BRE” suggested that the fort was constructed by the Fourth Cohort of the Breuci, the tiles probably being produced at the Roman tilery at Grimscar, 4km to the east. On the basis of these excavations the fort was scheduled in 1929 under the title 'Cambodunum Roman camp'.
Small scale excavations by J Hunter, T Manby and J Spaul in 1958-63 re-investigated both the fort and bath house as well as sample excavations towards the centre of a defended annex to the north of the fort, the area now considered to represent the vicus. The small trench cut into the site of the bath house demonstrated that despite earlier excavations, extensive remains survived in situ and that these indicated that the building is multi-phased. Sample excavations across the fort’s defences also found evidence that earlier excavations left structural remains in situ, for instance re-exposing the stone footings of the turf ramparts. Although the trenches within the vicus identified little direct evidence of habitation, finds suggested occupation throughout the C2, being most intensive in circa AD125-160.
Rescue excavations by B Hartley in 1968-69, in advance of the construction of the M62 motorway, identified the Roman road along with two, possibly three phases of timber buildings fronting onto the road. Pottery finds were abundant and although originally dated AD80-140, are now known to include much material dating to well into the C3. The area beneath the M62 is believed to have been subsequently stripped of overburden before the construction of the motorway’s embankment, and thus is not included in the monument. Hartley also cut sections across the remains of the bank and external ditch outlining the vicus, dating it to after AD120. The construction of the motorway and subsequent development of the golf course is believed to have resulted in the spreading of imported earth over adjacent land (including parts of the monument), burying in situ Roman archaeology. The northern corner of the fort’s rampart, shown as an extant earthwork on the 1963 Ordnance Survey map but absent from the 1975 map, is thought to have been levelled around this time. However the clubhouse was built on a raised platform of imported material, this platform thought to overlie and preserve remains of the north western gate to the fort.
In 1995 excavation by West Yorkshire Archaeology Service in advance of a water pipeline along the southern foot of the motorway embankment identified ditches, wall lines, cobbled and paved surfaces, all part of the vicus, with finds suggesting occupation in the first and second centuries AD. This excavation also identified waterlogged deposits including timbers which were left in situ. In 2006 Bradford University conducted extensive geophysical surveys across the area, confirming the position and orientation of the fort and bath house, but suggesting that the vicus was more extensive than previously thought, especially to the north east of the fort where geophysical data was suggestive of industrial activity including possible kiln or furnace sites. The survey also identified structural remains within the unexcavated south western part of the fort interpreted as the remains of the praetorium, the commander’s house. In 2007-2010 the Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society carried out a series of excavations identifying parts of a stone-built and timber-lined aqueduct system serving the fort that was radio-carbon dated to AD210-340. Metal, ceramic and glass finds were dated to C1 to early C4, prompting a re-assessment of Hartley’s finds from 1968-69 confirming that he had been mistaken that the site had been abandoned by AD140.
In the wider area, beyond the area of the monument, there are reports of further archaeological remains including antiquarian references to Roman burials and other chance finds including inscribed stone altars. More recently the Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society has investigated an undated circular walled enclosure at the north end of Slack Lane and is also believed to have traced the source of the Roman aqueduct system to Spring Hill, about 0.5km west of the fort. These remains lie beyond the area of the monument and are not included in the scheduling.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: Roman fort with a defended annex forming a vicus (civilian settlement), surviving mainly as buried archaeological deposits but including some low earthworks.
DESCRIPTION: the fort occupies an elevated spur of land formed by the deep gully of the Longwood Brook to the west and south, with the vicus extending to the north and east. The M62 motorway, which is not included in the monument, overlies the course of the Roman road and now bisects the remains of the vicus.
The fort is square, 120m across including its rampart, and faces north east. Its south western rampart aligns approximately with the south western boundary of the car park for Outlane Golf Club, the southern corner of the fort being identifiable as a slight earthwork in the paddock to the south, the western corner being clipped by Slack Lane just east of Heath House. The infilled remains of the outer ditches on the south western side of the fort largely lie beneath the houses and associated grounds forming the eastern side of the hamlet of Slack and are not included in the scheduled area, however it will extend into a corner of a paddock to the south which is included within the monument.
The golf clubhouse sits on a raised platform thought to be clay imported to the site in circa 1970, overlying part of the north western fort rampart, its platform extending over the position of the fort’s north western gate, the porta principalis sinistra. The north eastern rampart can be seen as a very slight earthwork crossing the golf club green. Very slight earthwork rises beneath modern field boundaries indicate the course of the south east rampart. Cross section drawings from the 1913-15 excavations show that these subtle earthworks mark the course of the low remains of a turf bank built on stone footings with an infilled double outer ditch 6-8m wide, the individual ditches being V shaped and 2-4m, the full width of the defences being some 15m. The buried remains of buildings, including the stone-built headquarters building and the double barrack block (centred approximately 50m from the clubhouse to the south and east respectively) are not readily apparent as earthworks, but are considered to survive as buried remains. The car park, which appears to be built-up rather than terraced-in, overlies part of the fort interior that has not been extensively investigated archaeologically, accounting for nearly 20% of the fort’s area. This is considered to retain remains of barrack blocks built to the rear of the fort’s granary and headquarters. The two paddocks to the south east of the car park have also not been extensively excavated and are also considered to retain Roman archaeology, even though nothing was identified during an archaeological watching brief in 1994 in advance of the construction of a stable. The eastern paddock, just south of the stable, includes the expected site of the praetorium (the commander’s house), structural remains of which were suggested by the 2006 geophysical survey.
The site of the bath house is now identified by a slight hollow lying between two of the golfing greens, centred approximately 150m east of the golf clubhouse. The 2006 geophysical survey indicated that the eastern boundary of the vicus runs north west to south east, about 160m north east of the clubhouse, roughly on the same line as a field boundary removed circa 1970. The 2006 geophysical survey suggested an intensification of archaeological remains within about 50m of the vicus boundary, the 50m wide area between this and the fort’s rampart appearing to be relatively clear except for the bath house. The excavations of 1913-15 found this area immediately outside the fort to have been paved, with the paved surface lying approximately 40cm below the modern ground surface. The Longwood Beck is considered to have formed the southern boundary of the vicus.
The field to the north of Heath House, south of the motorway, retains in situ remains of the Roman aqueduct identified in 2007-10, along with evidence of the occupation of the vicus. A section of infilled ditch, interpreted as the western boundary of the vicus, has been being identified just to the north of Heath House. To the north of the motorway, the two areas divided by the cutting for Slack Lane, are known to retain the remains of the northern boundary to the vicus which survives as an infilled ditch and, in places, slight remains of a bank. Hartley’s plans indicate that the Roman road ran along the area now covered by the northern embankment of the motorway. Consequently Roman vicus buildings fronting onto the northern side of this road will have extended back into the areas of the monument on the north side of the motorway. These two areas are thus also expected to retain further buried remains related to the vicus in addition to the remains of its northern boundary.
AREA OF MONUMENT: this includes the fort and associated vicus with the southern boundary following the Longwood Brook, and the western boundary being drawn to exclude the domestic properties and gardens of Slack. The northern and eastern boundaries are drawn to include the outer bank and ditch of the vicus together with a protective margin, the line being drawn to modern boundaries or as a straight line where there is no suitable modern boundary to follow. The monument is divided into four constraint areas by excluding the M62 motorway with its embankment and Slack Lane with its cutting, following modern boundaries as mapped by the Ordnance Survey.
EXCLUSIONS: all standing structures, buildings, sheds, walls, fences, posts and other modern features such as litter bins and hand rails along with the car park, roads, paths, steps, hard standings and other modern surfaces are all excluded from the scheduling, however the ground beneath all of these features is included in the designation. Modern services (gas, water, and drainage pipes, as well as conduits for electricity and telecommunication cabling and inspection/access chambers) are also excluded from the scheduling, although the ground through which they pass remains included in the designation. Fence and wall lines used to define the extent of the designation all lie immediately outside the scheduled area.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- WY 158
- Legacy System:
- RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Hobson et al, B, The Romans in Huddersfield - A New Assessment (BAR British Series 620), (2015)
Dodd, PW and Woodward, AM "Excavations at Slack 1913-1915" (1922) in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol.26 pp1-92
Hunter, JKL et al "Recent Excavations at the Slack Roman Fort" (1971) in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal vol.42 pp74-91
Vernon, RW and Schmidt, A "Report on Geophysical Surveys at Slack Roman Fort" (2006) Bradford University report GP06-2
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