Kirkby Thore Roman Fort and Associated Vicus


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012183

Date first listed: 07-Mar-1961

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Dec-1990


Ordnance survey map of Kirkby Thore Roman Fort and Associated Vicus
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Eden (District Authority)

Parish: Kirkby Thore

County: Cumbria

District: Eden (District Authority)

Parish: Long Marton

National Grid Reference: NY 63343 25396, NY 63565 25649, NY 63874 25462

Reasons for Designation

Around 150 Roman forts are known to have existed in England of which 60 have produced evidence of associated civilian settlements or vici. Sites like the Kirkby Thore example are thus rare nationally. Roman forts provide considerable insight into the complexities of troop dispositions and add important detail to the historical account of the Roman subjugation of Britain. Bravoniacum is located on one of the main roads leading to the Hadrianic frontier to the north and must have been closely involved in maintenance of this major frontier line. The identification of the fort as a cavalry base is of particular note as such units are considerably rarer than other types. The attached vicus would have comprised a cluster of buildings - domestic residences, workshops and shops, located immediately adjacent to the fort. Such vici were similar to contemporary small towns although they lacked the public buildings and planned street grid normally evident in the latter. Normally they also lacked the defences surrounding the small towns. Unusually, however, the possibility that the vicus at this site was defended does exist. Unlike other towns vici were probably administered by the military authorities rather than being self-governing. The close juxtaposition of fort and vicus allows the civilian communities to be investigated. In this instance the close proximity of the site to the Hadrianic frontier was probably of considerable contemporary importance and activities in the vicus are thought to have been closely linked with wider activity along the military frontier. Limited excavation and other techniques employed here demonstrate the extent of this site and confirm that archaeological deposits survive well and extensively. The size of the vicus and the high quality of building remains noted by antiquarian accounts and discovered in more recent excavations confirm that this was a settlement of considerable importance. Whilst Main Street and its associated settlement have cut a swath through both the fort and the Vicus it is clear that significant remains survive in the fields to North and South. The site therefore, retains considerable information about its original form and use.


The monument includes the Roman fort identified as Bravoniacum and its associated civilian settlement or vicus. The fort is located in fields immediately N and E of the Town End of Kirkby Thore and is bisected by the modern Main Street. Whilst the site of the fort has been somewhat denuded by ploughing in the past, the rampart remains visible as a low but distinct terrace. The line of main street, where it crosses the fort, deviates from its generally straight course to form a slight arc. This is a strong suggestion that at an early stage of village development a substantial building, perhaps the headquarters building, still stood within the fort and that the road was diverted around its ruins. The fort is some 2.2 hectares in extent and is believed to have accommodated a cavalry unit. Numismatic evidence and limited excavation suggests that occupation commenced in the Flavian period with the construction of a turf and timber fort. This was destroyed c.AD 125 and replaced by a masonry-built fort. Occupation appears to have continued into the late 4th century AD. The vicus extends to the W, S and E of the fort. Evidence for its existence consists of observations from as early as the late 17th century of structures and artefacts over a wide area. Recent reassessment of early antiquarian accounts of the site, especially that of Nicolson and Burn (1777), suggests that the densest concentration of remains noted then lay in the area between Main Street and the Troutbeck. The remains noted included stone buildings, some with underground conduits and some with floors paved with stone and tile. The existence of such substantial buildings indicates that the settlement was of some importance and was built with permanence in mind. This evidence has been taken to indicate that the main focus of the Vicus therefore lay in this area, perhaps with buildings fronting onto the precursor of Main Street which would have been the main road leading into the SW gate of the fort. The view that the vicus clustered around main access roads into the fort is supported by evidence from the majority of other comparable sites, particularly those associated with the northern frontier line. Whilst post Roman developments along this road, culminating in construction of the modern houses along the roadside, will have disturbed the Roman period remains here such that their present condition is uncertain, it is clear that significant remains do still survive in the fields to north and south of the road. Recently, for example, finds from, and geophysical survey of, the area to the S of the modern village and N of the Troutbeck confirm that the vicus extended into this area. Additionally excavations in the 1960's produced evidence which has been interpreted as indicating that, unusually, the Vicus was enclosed by earthwork defences. To the NW of the village these defences were suggested to run parallel and close to the present line of the A66 before turning NW along the line of Piper Lane finally turning to align with the NE rampart of the fort. The extent of the vicus indicated by these various finds demonstrates that while the origins of the settlement probably began as a cluster of buildings immediately outside the fort grouped around an access road, it must have expanded considerably to occupy a much greater area. Excluded from the scheduled area are all field boundaries and telegraph poles; the recreation field changing room, a nearby hut and the children's play equipment, two farm outbuildings close to Piper Lane; an approximately 250m length of Piper Lane; the British Telecom exchange adjacent to the A66; a pumping station close to the Trout Beck; and all tracks and public footpaths. The ground beneath all these features, however, is included. The monument falls into three seperate constraint areas, these covering those areas where remains are known to survive and are reasonably well understood. It should be noted that archaeological remains are known to extend beyond the areas defined above, especially in the area to the S of the Troutbeck. However the precise character of these remains is not yet fully understood.

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.

Legacy System number: 13450

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Charlesworth, D, Recent Work At Kirkby Thore, (1964)
Gibbons, P, Excavations and Observations at Kirkby Thore, (1989)
Machell, T, MSS.VI
Birley, E, 'Trans.Cumb. And West. Antiq. And Arch Soc.' in Trans.Cumb. And West. Antiq. And Arch Soc., , Vol. XLIX, (1949)
Gater, J, Gaffney, C, 'Kirkby Thore An Archaeological Appreciation' in Kirkby Thore Bypass, Cumbria, (1990)
Richardson, C. Carlisle Museum Service,

End of official listing