Herd Hill (milefortlet 4) and associated parallel banks and ditches, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014917

Date first listed: 17-Jul-1961

Date of most recent amendment: 21-Feb-1997


Ordnance survey map of Herd Hill (milefortlet 4) and associated parallel banks and ditches, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. 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.

County: Cumbria

District: Allerdale (District Authority)

Parish: Bowness

National Grid Reference: NY 17458 59824


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.

A combination of limited excavation and geophysical survey have shown that buried remains of Herd Hill milefortlet 4 and an associated defensive system of parallel banks and ditches survive well. The monument will contribute to further study of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast.


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


The monument includes the buried remains of Herd Hill milefortlet together with the buried remains of a short length of the linear defensive system, here comprising parallel banks and ditches. The linear defensive system has been identified in part by a combination of aerial photographs and excavation along the Cumbrian coast, but in particular between Bowness-on-Solway and the northern shore of Moricambe. Within the sequence of milefortlets along the Cumbrian coast this one has been identified as number 4. It was originally of turf and timber construction and is located approximately 1km north of Cardurnock village on generally level ground with a break of slope on the western side. The milefortlet was first identified here in 1945 when limited excavation revealed evidence of a defensive turf rampart. In 1994 geophysical survey produced a clearer picture of the buried remains of the milefortlet; low resistance readings interpreted as the fortlet's defensive ditch were recognised on the south and east sides with a break at the mid-point of the east side consistent with a causeway giving access across the ditch and through a gateway into the milefortlet. High resistance readings within the milefortlet were interpreted as being associated with the collapsed defensive turf rampart and the site of former buildings. For a short distance immediately to the south of the milefortlet the geophysical survey also identified two parallel narrow bands of high and low resistance readings interpreted as a defensive bank and ditch system. These features are aligned SSW-NNE, measure approximately 9m apart, and were traced by the geophysical survey for approximately 16m to the southern limit of the survey area. Faint traces of another possible ditch c.35m long, and running parallel to the banks and ditches just described, were identified by the geophysical survey on the eastern side of the milefortlet. A post and wire fence is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

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: 27730

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Geophysical Surveys of Bradford, , Roman Defences of the Cumbrian Coast, (1994)
Bellhouse, R L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Roman Sites On The Cumberland Coast, 1954, , Vol. LIV, (1954), 54-5
Simpson, F G, Hodgson, K S, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Coastal Milefortlet At Cardurnock, , Vol. XLIII, (1947), 82
RCHME, Cumberland Coast Events Record, (1995)

End of official listing