Mawbray Sandpit tower 16b, 680m WSW of Hailforth, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Mawbray Sandpit tower 16b, 680m WSW of Hailforth, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Allerdale (District Authority)
Holme St. Cuthbert
National Grid Reference:
NY 07836 46108

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.

Despite the paucity of surface remains, limited excavation has shown that buried remains of Mawbray Sandpit tower 16b survive well. The monument will contribute to further study of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast.


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Mawbray Sandpit tower. Within the sequence of Roman towers along the Cumbrian coast this one has been identified as 16b. The tower was originally of sandstone construction and is located on a consolidated sand dune to the south east of a disused sand and gravel pit. The outer face of the tower's north wall 0.15m high and 3.3m long can be seen protruding above the ground, and the inner face can be ascertained by probing indicating a wall width of c.1.1m. Limited excavation by Bellhouse in 1954 found the west wall of the tower to survive up to two courses high and c.1.2m wide. Elsewhere only the clay and cobble foundations of the other walls remained showing that the tower originally measured c.3.8m square internally and c.6.2m square externally. Internally several hearths were found together with an assortment of animal bones and shellfish which gave evidence of the dietary habits of the tower's occupants. Other finds included a stone platform in the south east corner, three spearheads, nails, metal spikes, bronze wire, fragments of a shield boss, pottery, and glass. Of particular interest were fragments of a large Roman storage jar of Spanish type. Four pieces, which could be joined together, carried a graffito in cursive lettering reading: IIS VRI[. CIIIKYIIPT[ INSVLSAI[I In translation the first line reads `I am hungry.' The second line refers to the vessel's capacity when full (in this case 17.5 pints or 9.94 litres), and the third line labels the contents as `unsalted'. It appears that some delicacy, stored dry in this jar, was shipped from Spain to a Roman site in Cumbria. Further limited excavation in 1970 indicated that the tower had been rebuilt. A sandstone and clay wall 1.5m wide was found a little to one side of one of the robbed out walls of the earlier tower together with the entrance to the first tower and an associated gravel path. A mixture of clay, sandstone and shingle overlying the remains of the towers indicates deliberate demolition by the Romans after a short period of occupation.

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.

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Books and journals
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast, 1954, , Vol. LIV, (1954), 28-55
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast, , Vol. LXX, (1970), 21-23
RCHME Survey - Unique ID No. 9078, RCHME, Cumberland Coast Events Record - Tower 16b, (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

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