Roman forts at Papcastle and part of the vicus


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Allerdale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 10934 31516

Reasons for Designation

Around 150 Roman forts are known to have existed in England. Construction of these began soon after the Roman invasion of AD 43 and continued into the fourth century. The distribution of these forts reflects areas where a military presence was necessary and the north of England, acting as a buffer zone between barbarian tribes of northern Britain and the heavily Romanised southern half of the country, contained a large number of these military bases. These sites provide considerable insight into the complexities of the frequently changing Roman frontier military strategy and add important detail to the historical account of the subjugation of Britain. The Roman forts of Derventio were of major strategic importance and are considerably larger than the average fort in the region. They played a major role in the defence of the northern frontier, being closely involved in the supply and administration of the coastal region and the adjacent highland zone, together with policing the native population both locally and throughout the wider northern frontier region. Limited excavation at Papcastle confirms that archaeological remains ranging in date from the late first to the late fourth centuries survive well. The site therefore retains considerable information about its origin, form and function.


The monument at Papcastle includes two superimposed Roman forts and part of the associated civilian settlement or vicus, identified as the site known to the Romans as Derventio. Part of the area of the forts has been built over and is not included in the scheduling. The full extent and nature of the survival of the vicus is not yet known and only that part immediately west of the forts is presently included in the scheduling. The forts occupy a strategic position on a hill overlooking a major crossing of the River Derwent at the interface of the highland zone with the North Cumbrian coastal plain. Aerial photography, together with limited archaeological excavations undertaken in 1912 and 1961-2, indicate the presence of two successive forts laid out on slightly different alignments and extending over an area of approximately 250m by 200m. The ramparts of the later fort can be seen as a grassy bank up to 1m high on the west, north and east sides. The excavations suggest Papcastle was occupied from the late first to the late fourth centuries with a break between c.120 and 160 AD. The second fort was the larger of the two and was constructed slightly south and west of the former. Excavation prior to construction of bungalows within the forts but outside the scheduled area located remains of the timber barracks of the first fort which were overlain by the stone barracks of the second fort. The area was subsequently subjected to a thorough levelling and the barracks were rebuilt for a third time between c.293 and 306 AD. Evidence for a fourth-century commander's house was also located during this excavation. Aerial photography has indicated the location of the west gate of the later fort flanked by guard chambers and an extension or annexe on the fort's western side. The forts lie at the junction of five major Roman roads (to Old Carlisle, Burrow Walls, Moresby, Keswick and the south-west coast) and dominate the military zone in this region which served as the military centre for the whole stretch of coastal defences running from Maryport to south of Moresby. Papcastle therefore fulfilled a major administrative role in the military network of the region, controlling and supplying an area considerably larger than its immediate hinterland. Casual finds and limited excavation south of the forts indicate the presence of a large vicus, or associated civilian settlement, containing a bath-house and a monumental stone structure amongst other buildings. All modern field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Charlesworth, D, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc' in Excavations At Papcastle 1961-2, , Vol. LXV, (1965), 102-14
Collingwood, R G, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc' in Report of the Excavations at Papcastle 1912, , Vol. XIII, (1913), 131-142
Birley, E (AP reproduced in this article), Roman Papcastle, Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc, (1963)
Olivier,A.C.H., Papcastle Vicus Excavation 1984 (Unpub), 1985, Centre for NW Regional Studies


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

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