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Bewcastle Roman fort, high cross shaft in St Cuthbert's churchyard, and Bew Castle medieval shell keep castle

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Bewcastle Roman fort, high cross shaft in St Cuthbert's churchyard, and Bew Castle medieval shell keep castle

List entry Number: 1015728

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Carlisle

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Bewcastle

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 01-Nov-1935

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Oct-1997

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 27753

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

Reasons for Designation

Roman forts served as permanent bases for auxiliary units of the Roman Army. In outline they were straight sided rectangular enclosures with rounded corners, defined by a single rampart of turf, puddled clay or earth with one or more outer ditches. Some forts had separately defended, subsidiary enclosures or annexes, allowing additional storage space or for the accommodation of troops and convoys in transit. Although built and used throughout the Roman period, the majority of forts were constructed between the mid first and mid second centuries AD. Some were only used for short periods of time but others were occupied for extended periods on a more or less permanent basis. In the earlier forts, timber was used for gateways, towers and breastworks. From the beginning of the second century AD there was a gradual replacement of timber with stone. Roman forts are rare nationally and are extremely rare south of the Severn Trent line. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments, which are important in representing army strategy and therefore government policy, forts are of particular significance to our understanding of the period. All Roman forts with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be nationally important.

Roman forts served as permanent bases for auxiliary units of the Roman Army. In outline they were straight sided rectangular enclosures with rounded corners, defined by a single rampart of turf, puddled clay or earth with one or more outer ditches. Some forts had separately defended, subsidiary enclosures or annexes, allowing additional storage space or for the accommodation of troops and convoys in transit. Although built and used throughout the Roman period, the majority of forts were constructed between the mid first and mid second centuries AD. Some were only used for short periods of time but others were occupied for extended periods on a more or less permanent basis. In the earlier forts, timber was used for gateways, towers and breastworks. From the beginning of the second century AD there was a gradual replacement of timber with stone. Roman forts are rare nationally and are extremely rare south of the Severn Trent line. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments, which are important in representing army strategy and therfore government policy, forts are of particular significance to our understanding of the period. All Roman forts with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be nationally important. High crosses were erected in a variety of locations in the eighth to tenth centuries AD. They have carved shafts supporting cross heads and are set within dressed or rough stone bases called sockles. High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with established churches and monasteries, some acting as cenotaphs or marking a burial place, and others marking routes or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. The carved decoration divides into four main types; plant scrolls, plaiting and interlace, birds and animals, and figurative representation often taking the form of religious iconography. The earliest high crosses were erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the church, but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the art styles and mythology of Viking settlers. High crosses provide important insights into art traditions and changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs during the same era, and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the north of England. A shell keep castle is a masonry enclosure with few buildings and perhaps one tower only within its interior. They are usually rounded or sub-rounded, although other shapes are known. Shell keeps were built over a period of about 150 years, from not long after the Norman Conquest until the mid-13th century, and provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families. They are rare nationally with only 71 recorded examples, and considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being alike. Along with other castle types they are major medieval monument types, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acting as major administrative centres and forming the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. The importance of this monument as a foci for both military, civil, and possibly religious settlement over a long period is attested by the presence of a Roman fort, a high cross and a medieval castle. Limited excavation has shown that buried remains of Bewcastle Roman fort survive well. This fort was one of a small number of outpost forts associated with Hadrian's Wall and is one of only a handful of Roman forts which was not constructed to the normal `playing card' plan. Bewcastle high cross shaft is widely recognised as possessing the finest surviving early eighth century AD carved artwork in England. The high technical merit of the relief carving and the imited extent of literacy in Northumbrian society at this time suggests a monastic community may have been involved in the production and erection of the cross and that Bewcastle may have been a monastic settlement. Despite a combination of collapse and stone robbing, Bew Castle still retains substantial amounts of upstanding medieval fabric. Its location close to the Scottish border meant that it functioned as the first line of defence against attacking Scottish armies and as a focal point for English military campaigns against the Scots in the late 13th/early 14th centuries. As such it provides an insight into the constantly changing design and defensive strategies employed in medieval castles.

History

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

Details

The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Bewcastle Roman fort, together with an early eighth century AD high cross shaft, situated in the churchyard to the south of St Cuthbert's Church which itself is located within the Roman fort, and the upstanding and buried remains of Bew Castle, a medieval shell keep castle situated at the north east corner of the Roman fort. Bewcastle Roman fort is located on a natural hexagonal plateau which is protected on all sides by its own natural steep scarp; on the south by Kirk Beck, on the west by Hall Sike, and on the east by Bride Gill. Unlike the majority of Roman forts which were rectangular in plan, Bewcastle was originally built to fit the shape of the plateau on which it was located. Construction began in c.AD 122 and, apart from a short period of abandonment during the mid-second century, it remained in use until the first quarter of the fourth century. The fort is situated 9.6km north of Hadrian's Wall and it functioned as an outpost fort of the Wall, to which it was linked with the wall fort at Birdoswald by a road known as the Maiden Way. Earthworks representing the remains of the fort's wall and rampart survive well on the east and west sides and additional defence was provided on the west by an outer ditch. Limited excavations in the fort found well preserved building remains revealing four structural periods; Period I is dated c.AD 122-139/42; during this phase the fort was constructed on a hexagonal plan with defences comprising a turf-revetted rampart with at least one stone gateway and internal buildings of both timber and stone. An inscription suggests this work was undertaken by the cohors I Dacorum, a 1000 strong infantry garrison originally raised in Dacia (now modern Romania). After a short period of abandonment which coincided with the decision to move the Roman frontier into Scotland, Bewcastle was reoccupied in c.AD 163 when Hadrian's Wall was recommissioned. Period II saw construction of a stone fort wall and the replacement of earlier internal timber buildings with ones of stone. A building dedication suggests a unit of the legio VI Victrix formed the garrison at this time. Period III relates to a fairly drastic reorganisation of the fort's interior during the late second/early third century. Many buildings were rebuilt or altered and new barracks were built, and this period is thought to represent the garrisoning of the fort by the cohors I Nerva Germanorum at a time when the frontier was being reorganised and cavalry units were being stationed in outpost forts. Towards the latter quarter of the third century the fort was again subjected to drastic remodelling. A new fort wall was built on the west and north sides, reducing the area of the fort considerably and suggesting a much reduced late third/early fourth century garrison. Internally some of the buildings were altered, including the bathhouse which appears to have been converted into a barrack. Coin evidence suggests Bewcastle was abandoned during the early years of the fourth century and this period coincides with the visits of the emperor Constantine the Great to Britain in 312 and 314, the former date being the occasion for the withdrawal of many troops to form the nucleus of a mobile field army. The Roman name of Bewcastle is unknown, although two candidates have been offered; Banna, a name connected with at least two other forts in the area, and Fanum Cocidi, the shrine of Cocidius, which according to the seventh century compilation of countries, towns and rivers known as The Ravenna Cosmography, was in the general area of Bewcastle. Cocidius was a native god honoured at certain forts on the Roman frontier and at Bewcastle his dedications occur on silver plaques found during limited excavation of the headquarters building. Bewcastle high cross is located to the south of the church in St Cuthbert's churchyard. It consists of a richly carved sandstone cross shaft standing 4.4m high and set in a sandstone socle or base. The cross dates to the early eighth century AD. Although the cross head is missing the shaft is carved with a quality of artwork unsurpassed in England for this date. The west side of the shaft depicts three human figures and a lengthy runic inscription. The top figure is heavily worn but is interpreted as St John the Evangelist. The central figure is Christ shown as the reconciler and tamer of beasts. The identity of the lower figure is still a matter of debate. When first described it was seen as a Falconer with his eagle; it is now usually seen as St John the Evangelist with his symbol the eagle. The south face has a panel of close symmetrical knotwork, a small runic inscription, a length of symmetrical vine scroll, a looser symmetrical knot panel, a large S-curve of vine scroll which includes a carved sundial on which the hole for the gnomon still survives, and a small knot panel above which are traces of a small runic inscription. The sundial is the only one on a cross to survive from the pre-conquest period. Other surviving examples are all set into church walls. On the east face there is a single great vine scroll inhabited by birds and beasts. On the north face there is a vine scroll, then a small runic inscription, then a knot panel, then a large panel of chequer pattern, above this knot work, and at the top more vine scroll above which are traces of a small runic inscription. The shaft sits in a base which now lies mostly beneath the modern ground surface. The inscriptions on the cross have been the subject of much academic discussion. However, they are all severely weathered and none can be fully reconstructed and understood. The existence of the high cross may hint at the former existence of an early ecclesiastical establishment (a single church, or possibly a small monastic community) within the former Roman fort. Such a situation could be paralleled at other northern Roman forts including Old Brampton, Kirkbride and Nether Denton. Bew Castle is traditionally thought to have been constructed between 1296-1307 at a time when Edward I was involved in military campaigns against the Scots. It was strategically situated within the north east corner of the Roman fort; lengths of the fort's north and east fort ditches were widened and deepened and cross ditches cut so as to form a moat and isolate the castle site. An outlet channel issues from the moat's south east corner. Earth from the ditches was thrown onto the newly formed platform and the castle erected in the form of a shell keep. Its chief defences consisted of an outer shell wall c.2m thick and 28m square with a rampart and battlements running around the top. Within, a range of buildings lay up against the wall, surrounding a small courtyard open to the sky. A gatehouse was added towards the end of the 15th century and access to the castle was by a drawbridge. Documentary sources state that the castle underwent periods of both decay and rebuilding during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was garrisoned for the last time in 1639 in response to `commotions in Scotland' and dismantled two years later by Parliamentary forces when the garrison removed to Carlisle. Today only the castle's south and east walls survive to anything like their original height. The south wall stands up to 9m high and retains most of its external facing stone. There are two windows and two fireplaces on the second storey, suggesting that the internal lean-to buildings consisted of a low verandah- like basement with a frontage open to the courtyard. Above this may have been the accommodation for the garrison, underneath the owner's domestic quarters. The main feature of the west wall is the gatehouse which is placed up against it. The east and north walls have largely fallen and/or been robbed of their stonework. St Cuthbert's Church is Listed Grade II*, Demense Farmhouse and the former rectory, now known as Banna, are Listed Grade II. St Cuthbert's Church, the building housing the museum to the south of the church, Banna and its outbuilding, Demense Farm and all its outbuildings, all graves and headstones, the surface of all access drives, roads, paths, yards, gravelled areas and car parking areas, and all modern walls, fence posts, gateposts, telegraph poles and traffic signposts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland, (1967), 66-70
Austen, P, 'Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc Research Series' in Bewcastle and Old Penrith: A Roman Outpost Fort and a Frontier Vicus, , Vol. 6, (1991), 1-50
Curwen, J F, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Ser.' in Castles and Towers of Cumb, West and Lancs N of the Sands, , Vol. XIII, (1913), 138-41
Other
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,

National Grid Reference: NY 56537 74599

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 24-Nov-2017 at 11:39:38.

End of official listing