Castlesteads Roman fort and the vallum between the track to the east of Castlesteads fort and the Cam Beck in the west


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

Carlisle (District Authority)
Carlisle (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 51229 63431

Reasons for Designation

Hadrian's Wall marks one of the frontiers of the Roman Empire. The international importance of the surviving remains has been recognised through designation as a World Heritage Site. The military importance of the Tyne-Solway route across the Pennines was recognised by the Romans during their early campaigns through northern England and into Scotland in the second half of the first century AD. At this time a military road, the Stanegate, was constructed along with a series of forts. Subsequently the Romans largely withdrew from Scotland and there is evidence that the Tyne-Solway route was being recognised as a frontier by the start of the second century AD. This position was consolidated in the early second century by the construction of a substantial frontier work, Hadrian's Wall, under the orders of the Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius, subsequently attempted to establish the boundary further north, between the Clyde and the Firth of Forth, but by c.AD 160 growing unrest amongst the native populations of northern Britain and pressures elsewhere in the Empire caused a retraction back to the Hadrianic line. Hadrian's Wall was then the frontier of the Roman Empire in Britain until c.AD 400 when the Roman armies withdrew from Britain. Stretching over 70 miles from coast to coast, Hadrian's Wall was a continuous barrier built of stone in the east and, initially, of turf in the west. The stone wall was originally designed to be ten Roman feet wide and sections of this width are termed broad wall. A change of plan shortly after construction began led to a reduction in the width of the Wall to eight Roman feet, such sections being termed narrow wall. Today, stretches of both wall types survive, including some sections of narrow wall built on broad wall foundations. For most of its length a substantial ditch on the northern side provided additional defence. Where the Wall crossed rivers, bridges were constructed to carry it across. Construction of the Wall was organised and executed by legionary soldiers. From the beginning the barrier was planned to comprise more than just a curtain wall. At regularly spaced intervals of about a mile along its length lay small walled fortlets known as milecastles. These were attached to the southern side of the Wall and most had a gateway through the Wall to the north. Hence they controlled crossing points through the Wall as well as affording space for a small stable garrison. Between the milecastles were two equally spaced towers known as turrets. Together the milecastles and turrets provided bases from which the curtain wall could be watched and patrolled. Both the turrets and milecastles are thought to have been higher than the Wall itself to provide suitable observation points. It is often assumed that a platform existed on the Wall so that troops could actually patrol along the wall top; it is however far from certain that this was the case. At the western end of the Wall a system of towers, small fortlets and palisade fences extended the frontier system another 30 miles or so down the Cumbrian coast and helped control shipping moving across the estuary of the Solway Firth. As originally planned, and apart from whatever space there was in the milecastles, provision for the accommodation of garrison troops manning the Wall was left with the line of forts which already lay along the Stanegate. At some point a fundamental change of plan took place and forts were constructed along the line of the Wall itself. There are now known to have been 16 forts either attached to the Wall or in close association with it. Some overlay earlier features such as turrets or milecastles. At this stage another linear element, the vallum, was also added to the defensive system to the south of the Wall. This was a broad flat-bottomed ditch flanked by a pair of linear banks. It shadows the course of the Wall for almost all its length, sometimes lying very close to it but sometimes up to a kilometre away from it. The vallum's main function was to act as a barrier to restrict access to the Wall from the south. It also had a function in linking the forts along the Wall with a method of lateral communication. When the forts were placed along the wall line no provision was made for a road to link them. This situation was clearly found impracticable and a metalled track was therefore provided in places along the vallum between the north mound and the ditch. Later, after the withdrawal back to the Hadrianic line from the Antonine Wall, various refurbishments were made throughout the frontier line. At this stage a new linear feature was added: the `Military Way'. This was a road linking all elements of the Wall defence, running from fort to fort within the area bounded by the Wall and the vallum. Throughout its long history the Wall was not always well maintained. It was often neglected and sometimes overrun, but it remained in use until the late fourth century when a weak and divided Roman Empire finally withdrew its armies from the Wall and Britain. It now survives in various states of preservation. In places, especially in the central section, the Stone Wall still remains several courses high and the attached forts, turrets and milecastles are also clearly identifiable. Earthwork features such as the ditch, vallum and Military Way also survive well in places. Elsewhere the Stone Wall has been virtually robbed out and only its foundations survive beneath the present ground surface. Similarly, stretches of the earthwork remains, including sections of the Turf Wall, have been levelled or infilled and now only survive as buried features. Although some sections of the frontier system no longer survive visibly, sufficient evidence does exist for its position to be fairly accurately identified throughout most of its length. Whilst all the forts added to the Wall are broadly similar in size, no two are exactly alike and there is no standard internal layout. However, when originally built, all forts enclosed a fairly standard range of buildings including a headquarters building, commandant's house, hospital, barracks, stables, granaries and workshops. The size and number of barracks blocks has, in the past, been used to determine the size and type of military unit stationed there. This is a difficult exercise which remains the subject of much debate. The area outside the fort was put to a variety of uses. There was usually a bath house and normally a number of temples, burial grounds and other official establishments such as lodging houses for official visitors. Over time sprawling external settlements known as vici grew up around many forts. These housed a range of people and activities attracted by the military presence. Some of the inhabitants may have been families of troops stationed on the Wall, although it was not until the third century that soldiers on active duty were officially permitted to marry. Others may have been retired soldiers and their families. Traders and merchants are also thought to have set up workshops and shops in the vici. The most common type of building found here, as well as in other areas around forts, was the long narrow strip building. These appear to have been used for both domestic and commercial purposes.

Castlesteads Roman fort and its associated features and the section of vallum between the track to the east of Castlesteads and the Cam Beck survive well as a series of upstanding and buried remains. Significant information on the development of the frontier system over time will be preserved. This information will be enhanced by the large assemblage of inscribed stones from the fort. The silted ditches will contain environmental evidence which will allow the character of the surrounding area in the Roman period to be better understood.


The monument includes the Roman fort and its associated remains at Castlesteads and the section of vallum between the track to the east of Castlesteads and the Cam Beck in the west. Castlesteads fort, known to the Romans as `Camboglanna', is detached from the Wall line, being located 350m to the south of the Wall. This is accounted for by the strength of the position the fort occupies and also the need for the Wall line to take a more gentle descent of the gorge to cross the Cam Beck. The fort is situated on a high bluff and was built here to command the Cam Beck valley. The fort survives as a low platform with most of its remains surviving as buried features. The surface remains of the fort were damaged by landscaping for Castlesteads house in 1791. The fort is now overlain by ornamental gardens. The stone fort measures about 114m square internally and encloses an area of at least 1.3ha. The north west side of the fort has been eroded by the Cam Beck so that the east and west gateways was now lie just 15m from the lip of the gorge. Limited excavations were carried out by Richmond and Hodgson in 1934 who were able to locate the ramparts and east and west gateways and establish the existence of a berm, 3m wide, and an outer ditch 4.8m wide. Trenching at the south east angle revealed the remains of a turf rampart, at least 3m wide, resting on flagging and stones set in clay to the rear of the Stone Wall. This rampart base is probably the remains of an earlier turf and timber fort which occupied the site. An east facing scarp, 0.4m high, parallel to the east rampart was discovered during a survey by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England in 1991. This scarp may be the remains of the edge of the platform of this earlier and therefore larger fort, especially as a right-angled return to the south west can be traced for 10m before fading. A section of ditch thought to be associated with an annexe was also discovered during Richmond and Hodgson's excavations. Inscriptions from the site show that the fort was garrisoned by the fourth cohort of Gauls in the second century AD and by the mounted second cohort of Tungrians in the third century AD. Large quantities of inscribed and sculptured stones have been found during the landscaping and stone robbing, many of which are housed in the summer house at the west side of the rose garden. These sculptured stones which are not included in the scheduling, include three altars dedicated to the Persian god Mithras and ten dedicated to the worship of official state gods. The bath house associated with the fort lies to the north east of the fort platform in dense woodland. It is the subject of a separate scheduling (SM 26081). The remains of the civil settlement, or vicus, which is usually associated with Roman forts, are not visible as upstanding features at Castlesteads. However, a letter from a certain Richard Goodman writing to Gale in 1727 mentions traces of an extensive settlement on the slope at the south east front of the fort. He noted the existence of foundations of walls and streets which were being removed to construct new buildings and to allow the land to be ploughed. The remains of the vicus will survive as buried features below the ploughed field to the south and east of Castlesteads. The vallum survives as a buried feature throughout this section with no remains visible above ground. Its course has been confirmed by Haverfield who cut trenches in 1898, 1901 and 1902 to determine its course. It was found to make a sweeping diversion to the south to encompass the fort at Castlesteads within the Wall-vallum zone. However, it makes the turn well before the stone fort implying that it was constructed to respect the earlier and larger turf and timber fort. All field boundaries, road and track surfaces and buildings including the Grade II Listed Gardener's Cottage and walls, 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.


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

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Books and journals
Birley, E, Research on Hadrian's Wall, (1961), 203-205
Haverfield, F, 'TCWAAS' in Report of the Cumberland Excavation Committee 1902, , Vol. 2 ser,3, (1903), 328-349
Haverfield, F, 'TCWAAS' in Report of the Cumberland Excavation Committee 1901, , Vol. 2 ser, 2, (1902), 22
Richmond, , Hodgson, , 'TCWAAS' in Excavations at Castlesteads, , Vol. 2 ser,34, (1934), 159-165
Archive text to accompany 1991 survey, Blood, K, Castlesteads Roman Fort, (1991)


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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