Boothby Roman fort
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014585
Date first listed: 17-Nov-1964
Date of most recent amendment: 01-Jul-1996
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Oct-2018 at 12:48:04.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Carlisle (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: NY 54455 62969
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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
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 indentifiable.
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.
The Stanegate military road linked Corbridge and Carlisle, both of which were
also situated on important north-south routeways. It also extended west of
Carlisle towards the Cumbrian coast. The construction of a series of forts
along the road line allowed many troops to be stationed in this crucial
frontier zone and ensured that the area could be closely patrolled. A series
of smaller watch towers were also built to help frontier control. The
Stanegate frontier was consolidated during the late first and early second
century AD and helped crystallise Roman tactics and military expectations in
the area. The function of the Stanegate road and its forts was changed by the
building of Hadrian's Wall. Initially at least, the Stanegate's support
function was enhanced, but as the new frontier line became more fully
established its strategic importance declined.
Boothby Roman fort was one of a number of forts constructed along the Stanegate Roman road. Despite the absence of obvious earthwork features and the loss of part of the northern half of the fort due to landslip, the site of Boothby Roman fort survives reasonably well and remains unencumbered by modern development. An aerial photograph has identified below ground features which have been confirmed by limited excavation undertaken by Simpson in 1933. The monument will retain further archaeological evidence of the layout of the fort and its subsequent occupation.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the site of Boothby Roman fort which is located at a
strategic position on the edge of a scar overlooking the River Irthing to the
north. The fort was part of the Stanegate system, the first Roman defence
system running across the Tyne-Solway route. The existence of the fort has
been proven by the combination of an aerial photograph, which highlights
features such as the infilled defensive ditch on the fort's south and east
sides, and limited archaeological excavation undertaken by Simpson in 1933 who
found evidence of the fort's ditch and rampart. A trench dug across the
defences revealed that the ditch measured 5.2m wide by 1.8m deep while behind
the ditch remains of a beaten clay rampart were located. Roman pottery found
during this excavation was dated to the late first/early second century AD.
The aerial photograph shows the existence of a gateway on the mid-point of the
fort's southern side. The only surface evidence of the fort's existence is a
slight hollow which marks the position of the ditch as it curves around the
south east corner of the fort.
All fence posts and gateposts are excluded from the scheduling although the
ground beneath these features 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.
Legacy System number: 27703
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Simpson, F G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Rept of the Cumberland Excavation Committee 1933: Boothby, Castle Hill, , Vol. XXXIV, (1934), 154-5
AP Ref no. STJ T33. SMR No 285, Cambridge University Collection of APs, Boothby Roman fort,
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