Palisade ditches, part of Roman frontier defences along Cumbrian coast, Roman camp & road and part of Romano-British field system,250m north of Silloth Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Palisade ditches, part of Roman frontier defences along Cumbrian coast, Roman camp & road and part of Romano-British field system,250m north of Silloth Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1015250 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 21-Sep-2019 at 08:33:53.


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

Allerdale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 11329 54093

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.

Roman camps are rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosures constructed and used by Roman soldiers either when out on campaign or as practice camps. They were bounded by a single earthen rampart and outer ditch, in plan are straight-sided with rounded corners, and normally have between one and four entrances. Roman camps predominate in hostile upland and frontier areas and provide an important insight into Roman military strategy and organisation. Roman roads were artificially made-up routes introduced to Britain by the Roman army from c.AD 43. They facilitated both the conquest of the province and its subsequent administration and additionally became commercial routes and foci for settlement and industry. Two main types of Roman road are distinguishable; the first has widely spaced boundary ditches and a broad agger comprising several layers of graded materials, the second usually has drainage ditches and a narrow simple agger of two or three successive layers. Roman roads provide important evidence of Roman civil engineering skills as well as the pattern of Roman conquest and settlement. Romano-British field systems are associated with contemporary settlements and provide important evidence of a carefully planned reorganisation of landscape and a definition of landholding. Their articulation with other contemporary archaeological features such as land boundaries, settlements, farmsteads and enclosures, makes them worthy of protection. A combination of aerial photography and limited excavation have shown that buried remains of two palisade ditches which formed part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast survive reasonably well, together with the buried remains of an adjacent Roman camp, a length of Roman road and a length of ditch associated with a Romano-British field system. The monument will contribute to any further study of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast and in addition will facilitate any study of the contemporaneity of its integral features.


The monument includes the buried remains of a 250m length of the linear defensive system forming part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast and here comprising two ditches which originally held palisade fences. This defensive system has been identified in part by a combination of aerial photography, excavation and geophysical survey along the Cumbrian coast. The monument also includes the buried remains of most of a Roman camp and an associated Roman road, and a 115m length of buried ditch which formed part of a field system associated with Silloth Farm Romano-British settlement. The monument is located on Solway Community School playing field and it was first identified on aerial photographs taken in 1975. These showed the crop marks of two ditches running parallel to, and 70m from the present tidal limit. Behind these ditches the photographs show the crop mark of a Roman road which runs to the gateway of a square enclosure interpreted as a Roman camp, and crossing this camp there is the crop mark of a broad ditch which formed part of the extensive field system of Silloth Farm Romano-British settlement, the nucleus of which lay 300m to the south east and was excavated in 1977 prior to the construction of new housing. Limited excavation of the western of the two ditches running parallel to the coast found that it consisted of a clay-filled bedding trench measuring some 40cm wide by 50cm deep. At intervals of approximately 50cm-60cm there occurred in the centre of the ditch evidence for stakes having been rammed into the clay. Where this evidence was clearest it could be seen that two stakes had been inserted alongside each other and in places Roman nails were found in the stake sumps. The excavator concluded that the ditch had been designed to hold a timber palisade fence. Limited excavation of the eastern ditch found that it too consisted of a clay-filled bedding trench measuring some 55cm wide by 40cm deep. It contained a central slot 27cm wide by 15cm deep in which stake impressions identifiable in pairs and again serving to hold up a palisade fence could be seen. A difference in the clay fill of the east and west trenches suggested to the excavator that they were not in use contemporaneously. Limited excavation of the Roman road found that it measures between 3.8m-4.2m wide and is flanked by side ditches. The road runs behind the palisade ditches for some distance then turns SSE to run to the north west gateway of the Roman camp which is visible on the aerial photographs as a three-sided enclosure with rounded corners measuring approximately 50m square. Limited excavation of the camp's defensive ditch revealed a typically military sump-profile. Crossing the north eastern side of the camp is the buried ditch associated with the Romano-British farmstead. All post and wire fences, property boundaries, football goalposts and a sanded jumping pit are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath all these features 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.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Goodburn, R, 'Britannia' in Roman Britain In 1977, (1978), 424
Goodburn, R, 'Britannia' in Roman Britain In 1977, (1978), 424
Higham, N J, Jones, G D B, 'Britannia' in Excavation Of Two RB Farm Sites In North Cumbria, (1983), 56-65
Higham, N J, Jones, G D B, 'Britannia' in Excavation Of Two RB Farm Sites In North Cumbria, (1983), 56-65
Jones, G D B, 'Britannia' in The Solway Frontier: Interim Report, (1982), 292-5
Jones, G D B, 'Britannia' in The Solway Frontier: Interim Report, (1982), 292-5
AP No. RB 110,16, Bewley, B, Silloth School Playing Field,
AP No. RB 110,16, Bewley, B, Silloth School Playing Field, (1983)
Woolliscroft,D., Excavations on The Cumberland Coast at Silloth 1994, 1994, Unpublished excavation report


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].