Roman camp and signal station 600m south-east of Wreay Hall


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Eden (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 44838 48282

Reasons for Designation

Roman camps are rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosures which were constructed and used by Roman soldiers either when out on campaign or as practice camps; 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 and in plan are always straight-sided with rounded corners. 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, as 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. All well-preserved examples are identified as being of national importance.

A Roman signal station is a rectangular tower of stone or wood situated within some form of enclosure, and was used for observation and to signal information back to neighbouring camps or forts; fire or smoke was used to provide signals. They were initially dated on the basis of finds, particularly pottery, and by analogy with other dated military works nearby or having a direct stratigraphic association with them. It thus became clear that there were three distinct phases of building; the earliest examples were timber built and date to between AD 50-60. These were being replaced in stone along with new stone-built signal stations by the Hadrianic period AD 117-138. The last group were constructed in the late fourth century AD. All that remains of timber features is a series of postholes, although the evidence suggests that the towers could have been substantial structures up to 6.6m high. However, in the case of masonry towers, substantial foundations may be recovered. The enclosure round the tower could take various forms and was usually marked out by a ditch. Most of the timber examples were further protected by a turf rampart inside the ditch. On analogy with examples outside England it has been suggested that many timber and early stone examples are likely to have been surrounded by a palisade. On the Yorkshire coast late fourth century examples are surrounded by a massive curtain wall. The distribution of signal stations in England lies largely in the north but examples are known or postulated in the Midlands, London, Cornwall and Kent. The exact form of the signal station changed over time but some specific types have been identified with known military campaigns. Thus most Hadrianic signal stations were built in stone; these are concentrated in the north of England, the focus of military campaigning at this time. Most late examples are found on the east coast, possibly located there in response to perceived threats of coastal invasion. This site is a rare example of a juxtaposed camp and signal station. The camp is one of many lying adjacent to the main Roman road connecting the Vale of York and Carlisle. It will contribute to any study of Roman military campaigning in northern England. Limited excavation of the signal station found late fourth century pottery indicating that the site is a rare example in Cumbria, other than Hadrian's Wall, of a military installation constructed during the campaigns of Theodosius.


The monument includes a Roman camp and signal station located on a hilltop 600m south-east of Wreay Hall and 600m west of the main Roman road which linked the Roman forts at Old Penrith (known to the Romans as Voreda), and Carlisle (known to the Romans as Luguvallium). It is visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs which clearly show some infilled ditches of the camp and the infilled ditches of the signal station. An aerial photograph shows the whole of the south-west and north-west sides of the Roman camp and part of the north-east side. On the basis of this information the size and shape of the whole camp can be reconstructed. The dimensions of the camp are approximately 55m square with rounded corners. Overlying the camp, and therefore of later date, aerial photographs show a Roman signal station revealed as a ditched enclosure c.17m square with rounded corners separated by a 6m wide strip from an outer circular ditch c.41m in diameter. Limited excavation of the signal station in 1951 confirmed the existence of the ditches as seen on the aerial photograph and found Roman pottery dating to the latter half of the fourth century AD. This pottery indicates that the signal station functioned after the 'Barbarian Conspiracy' of the AD 360's referred to in classical sources, when Picts, Saxons, Scots and Attacotti overran much of northern England, and was thus constructed during the late 360's by Theodosius, a Roman general specially dispatched to Britain to stabilise the situation. A post and wire fence crossing the monument is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath the fence is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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.

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Books and journals
Higham, N, The Northern Counties to AD 1000, (1986), 237
Marcellinus, A, Historia, (1935)
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in A Roman Post at Wreay Hall, Near Carlisle, , Vol. LIII, (1953), 49-51
St Joseph, J K, 'Journal of Roman Studies' in Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1958-60, , Vol. 51, (1961), 120-1
St Joseph, J K, 'Journal of Roman Studies' in Air Reconnaissance of North Britain, , Vol. 51, (1951), 120-1
AP No XG76, Cambridge University Collection,
Petteril Green Roman Camp, (1984)
SMR No. 715, Cumbria SMR, Roman Signal Station SE of Wreay Hall, (1987)


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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