Low Mire (milefortlet 20) 50m north of Heather Bank, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014911

Date first listed: 21-Feb-1997

Map

Ordnance survey map of Low Mire (milefortlet 20) 50m north of Heather Bank, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Allerdale (District Authority)

Parish: Oughterside and Allerby

National Grid Reference: NY 07674 41123

Summary

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.

Despite the lack of surface remains, limited excavations have shown that buried remains of Low Mire milefortlet 20 survive well. The monument will contribute to any further study of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes the buried remains of Low Mire milefortlet. Within the sequence of milefortlets along the Cumbrian coast this one has been identified as number 20. The milefortlet was originally of turf and timber construction and is located on the end of a low ridge immediately north of the farm called Heather Bank. The only surface evidence for the milefortlet are some shallow depressions indicating the site of limited excavations by Bellhouse in 1969 and 1980. These excavations found the fortlet to be defended by a turf rampart c.6.4m wide and that it measures approximately 32m north west-south east by 30m north east-south west externally. It has central gateways on each of the shorter sides with a gravel-surfaced road connecting the gateways and dividing the interior into two equal halves. To the north of this road finds of floor timbers and nails indicate the milefortlet had internal buildings of wood. Other finds included Roman pottery of Hadrianic date (AD 117-138), Roman glass, an oven located in the south east corner, and a hearth located in the north west corner with evidence of food preparation within the remains of a timber lean-to shed. Evidence for the rebuilding of the fortlet's gates and repairs to the rampart enabled the excavator to identify three periods of second century AD occupation; Period I was dated c.AD 120 and saw both gates of the milefortlet operational. Period II was dated c.AD 160 and saw repairs to the rampart and construction of a new west gate, the east gate, however, was not rebuilt. Period III was dated c.AD 180 and saw further repairs to the rampart, the narrowing of the west gate and a reduction of the internal area. Excavations indicate the milefortlet was dismantled and abandoned shortly after the third period of occupation, however, up to ten sherds of fourth century AD pottery point to later reuse, possibly as a watch post. All post and wire fences 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. It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 27724

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast, , Vol. LXX, (1970), 23-30
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast: Milefortlet 20 Low Mire, , Vol. LXXXI, (1981), 7-13
Other
RCHME, Cumberland Coast Events Record, (1995)

End of official listing