Rise How tower 25a, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast including remains of prehistoric burial mound and early medieval kiln
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014802
Date first listed: 08-May-1978
Date of most recent amendment: 19-Nov-1996
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Allerdale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: NY 02680 35019
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 in the second half of the first century AD when a
military road, the Stanegate, was constructed along with a series of forts.
There is evidence that the Tyne-Solway route was being recognised as a
frontier by the start of the second century AD, but the line was consolidated
in the early second century AD by the construction of a substantial frontier
work, Hadrian's Wall, in c.120 AD. Subsequent attempts to establish the
boundary further north, between Clyde and Forth, failed by c.160 AD. Hadrian's
Wall then remained the frontier of the Roman Empire in Britain until c.400 AD
when Roman armies withdrew from Britain.
For most of its course, the 70 miles of Hadrian's Wall running from coast to
coast comprised a continuous stone wall (which in places was first temporarily
built of turf) with permanent structures sited at intervals of one Roman mile
(milecastles) and at third of a mile intervals (turrets) between the
milecastles. At a later date, the Wall was strengthened by 16 full-size
garrison forts built either on, or close to, the Wall. To the north of the
Wall, for most of its length, lay a substantial defensive ditch and to the
south a complex of banks and ditches provided east-west communication and
demarcated the frontier zone from the province.
To the west of Bowness-on-Solway, where the Wall reached the sea, however, the
frontier had a different character and served a slightly different purpose. At
the western end of the Wall a system of milefortlets and towers, spaced
similarly to the milecastles and turrets along the Wall, extended the frontier
system for at least 27 miles down the Cumbrian coast and helped control
movement across the estuary of the Solway Firth. In places these milefortlets
and towers were supplemented by lengths of palisade fences.
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.
The frontier works along the Cumbrian coast survive as earthworks or buried
archaeological remains, the latter sometimes visible on aerial photographs.
They survive in this form largely as a result of the more ephemeral materials
of which they were built (timber and turf instead of the stone of Hadrian's
Wall land frontier) rather than because of poor survival of archaeological
remains. Components of the coastal frontier which have surviving
archaeological remains, whether visible or not, will generally be considered
of national importance.
Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating mainly from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC, although later examples are known. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds which covered single or multiple burials. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst prehistoric communities. Despite the lack of surface remains, limited excavations have proved that this prominent hilltop site was utilised on three separate occasions for widely differing purposes. The earliest use of the site was for a prehistoric burial monument. This is unusual in being Iron Age in date, thus post-dating the main period in which such barrows were built. The excavations have shown that buried remains of Rise How tower 25a survive reasonably well, thus the monument will contribute to any further study of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast. Additionally the site was reused during the early medieval period.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the buried remains of Rise How tower, together with the
buried remains of a pre-Roman burial mound or barrow and an early medieval
grain drying kiln. Within the sequence of Roman towers along the Cumbrian
coast this one has been identified as 25a. The tower was originally of
sandstone construction and is located close to the cliff edge on the summit of
Rise How from where there are excellent views in all directions. Limited
excavations in the late 1960s and early 1980s found the tower to measure 6m
square. The walls of the tower survive up to one course high, measure 0.96m
wide, and stand on clay and cobble foundations 1.4m wide and 0.38m deep. In
places the walls and foundations had been robbed during the early medieval
period to provide stone for a grain drying kiln which was constructed on the
site of the by then demolished tower. This kiln was aligned NNE-SSW and was
built with splayed wings to catch the prevailing wind. The presence of this
kiln indicates the existence of an early medieval settlement involved in
arable cultivation in this area.
Within the Roman tower two hearths were found together with a number of finds
including a small amount of Roman pottery dated to the first half of the
second century AD, a fragment of a gaming board marked out on a thin sandstone
slab, two parts of a quern, and an assortment of animal bones and shellfish
thought to be the remnants of food consumed by the tower's occupants. A small
paved area outside the tower's north east corner suggested the entrance was at
this point, while a second paved area associated with a pit close to the south
east corner is thought to have been the site of a latrine.
Evidence for a pre-Roman use of the site was provided when excavation located
human bones close to the foundations of the tower's west wall. Of the skeleton
only the leg bones remained, the rest having been disturbed by construction of
the tower, and these lay in a shallow grave. A quantity of brown loam spread
around the tower by the Roman builders was interpreted by the excavator to
have come from the mound of earth which had been raised over the burial. Three
pieces of hand-made course black pitted ware found close by the remains of the
body are of Iron Age date. Laboratory testing to determine the age of the
bones gave a date close to the end of the seventh century AD and indicated
that the bone sample had been contaminated by the corn drying kiln. However,
it did provide a date for the use of the kiln.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 10 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: 27721
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Bellhouse, R, 'CWAAS Research Series' in Roman Sites On The Cumb Coast: A New Schedule Of Coastal Sites, (1989), 56
Bellhouse, R, 'CWAAS Research Series' in Roman Sites On The Cumb Coast: A New Schedule Of Coastal Sites, (1989), 48-51
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast, , Vol. LXX, (1970), 46-7
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Proceedings, , Vol. IXC, (1991), 266-7
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast: The New Tower On Rise How, , Vol. LXXXIV, (1984), 43-54
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast: The New Tower On Rise How, , Vol. LXXXIV, (1984), 43-4
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast: The New Tower On Rise How, , Vol. LXXXIV, (1984), 41-59
Robinson, J, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. Old Ser.' in Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. Old Ser, , Vol. V, (1880), 124
RCHME, Cumberland Coast Events Record - Tower 23a, (1995)
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