Roman fort, two Roman fortlets, two Roman camps, a section of Roman road and a medieval settlement and chapel at Chew Green


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NT 78874 08505

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 fortlets are small rectangular enclosures with rounded corners defined by a fortified rampart of turf and earth with one or more outer ditches. The ramparts were originally revetted at the front and rear by timber uprights in shallow trenches and were almost certainly crowned with timber wall walks and parapets. Fortlets were constructed from the first century AD to at least the later fourth century AD to provide accommodation for a small detachment of troops generally deployed on a temporary basis of between one to two years and supplied by a fort in the same area. The function of the fortlet varies from place to place; some were positioned to guard river crossings or roads while others acted as supply bases for signal towers. Roman fortlets are rare nationally with approximately 50 examples known in Britain, half of which are located in Scotland. As such, and as one of a small group of Roman military monuments which are important in representing army strategy and therefore government policy, fortlets are of particular significance to our understanding of the period and all surviving examples are considered nationally important.

Roman camps are rectangular or sub-rectangular enclosures which were constructed and used by Roman soldiers either when out on campaign or as practice camps; most campaign camps were only temporary overnight bases and few were used for longer periods. They were bounded by a single earthen rampart and outer ditch and in plan are always straight sided with rounded corners. Normally they have between one and four entrances, although as many as 11 have been recorded. Such entrances were usually centrally placed in the sides of the camp and were often protected by additional defensive outworks. Roman camps are found throughout much of England, although most known examples lie in the midlands and the north. Around 140 examples have been identified, and as one of the various types of defensive enclosure built by the Roman army, particularly in hostile upland and frontier areas, they provide an important insight into Roman military strategy and organisation. All well preserved examples are identified as being of national importance.

Roman roads were artificially made-up routes introduced into Britain by the Roman army from c.AD 43. They facilitated both the conquest of the province and its subsequent administration. In addition, throughout the Roman period and later, Roman roads acted as commercial routes and became the foci for settlement and industry. Although a number of roads fell out of use soon after the withdrawal of Rome from the province in the fifth century AD, many have continued in use up to the present day and are consequently sealed beneath modern roads. On the basis of construction technique, two main types of Roman road are distinguishable. The first has widely spaced boundary ditches and a broad elaborate agger comprising several layers of graded material. The second usually has drainage ditches and a narrow simple agger of two or three successive layers. In addition to ditches and construction pits flanking the sides of the roads, features of Roman roads can include central stone ribs, kerbs and culverts, not all of which will necessarily be contemporary with the original construction of the road. With the exception of the extreme south west of the country, Roman roads are widely distributed throughout England and extend into Wales and lowland Scotland. They are highly representative of the period of Roman administration and provide important evidence of Roman civil engineering skills as well as the pattern of Roman conquest and settlement. A high proportion of examples exhibiting good survival are considered to be worthy of protection.

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more.

This monument lies in the Cheviot sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, the upland mass straddling the English-Scottish border. The sub- Province has not been sub-divided and forms a single local region. Settlement is now largely absent, but the area is characterised by the remains of linear dykes, field boundaries, cultivation terraces and buildings which bear witness to the advance and retreat of farming, both cultivation and stock production, over several thousand years. The distinctive, difficult upland environment means that many of the medieval settlement sites relate to specialist enterprises, once closely linked to settlement located in the adjacent lowlands, such as shielings, but the extensive remains of medieval arable farming raise many unanswered questions about medieval land use and settlement, touching economic, climatic and population change.

A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre-Reformation period. Chapels were designed for congregational worship and were generally divided into two main parts; the nave, which provided accommodation for the laity and chancel, which was the main domain of the priest and contained the principal altar. Around 4000 parochial chapels were built between the 12th and 17th centuries as subsidiary places of worship built for the convenience of parishioners who lived at a distance from the main parish church. Unlike parish churches, the majority of which remain in ecclesiastical use, chapels were often abandoned as their communities declined or disappeared. Chapels, like parish churches, have always been major features of the landscape. A significant number of surviving examples are identified as being nationally important. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they were often left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about their nature and date of their use up to their abandonment.

The Roman military complex at Chew Green is very well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. It will contribute to any study of the Roman military north. The continued use of Dere Street as a major medieval thoroughfare, and the development of a medieval settlement and the construction of a chapel will contribute to our understanding of post-Roman settlement in the region.


The monument includes the remains of two temporary camps, two Roman fortlets, a Roman fort, a section of Dere Street and a deserted settlement and chapel of medieval date, situated on a narrow, near level spur on the left bank of the River Coquet. The remains clearly represent occupation of the site over several hundred years although the sequence of construction of the Roman remains is poorly understood despite part excavation in 1936-7.

The most southerly of the two temporary camps is also the largest feature at Chew Green. The camp is roughly square in shape and encloses an area of 7.7ha, within a rampart which varies in height between 0.1m at the north eastern side to 2m high on the south eastern side, above the surrounding ditch which is 2.5m wide and a maximum of 0.4m deep. In places the line of the defences are obscured by the counterscarp bank of the later fort, and in other areas the line of the buried ditch is visible as vegetation mark. There are gateways through three of the sides, except the north east where the likely position of a gateway here is obscured by the defences of the later fort. The gateways are visible as gaps through the rampart and ditch; the north western gateway displays traces of an internal clavicula, a curved extension of the rampart intended to give added defence.

Part excavation of this temporary camp in 1937 uncovered what was interpreted as the ditch of a Roman fortlet, 0.2ha in area, which was subsequently constructed over the south eastern quarter of the temporary camp, immediately adjacent to Dere Street. There are no surface remains of this fortlet which it is thought was demolished during the Roman period in order to facilitate the construction of a second fortlet, although it does survive beneath ground level as a buried feature.

A second temporary camp lies immediately north of and partly overlies the north wall of the first thus indicating that it is later in date than the first. The full outline of this camp is visible and it survives partly as an upstanding earthwork and partly as a buried feature. The camp is a parallelogram in shape and encloses an area of 5.5ha. The surrounding rampart is 2.5m wide and stands between 0.1m to 1.4m high above the bottom of the surrounding ditch which is 2.3m wide and a maximum of 0.7m deep. There are at least three visible gateways each of which are protected by a traverse, a detached length of rampart and ditch placed across the external face of the entrance at a distance of 4m to 6m intended to block the direct line of entry. The surviving three traverses vary in height between 0.3m to 0.6m and the ditches are on average 2m wide.

Placed within the earlier temporary camp there are the well preserved remains of a Roman fort. This fort encloses an area of 2.7ha within a rampart 3.6m wide and stands to a maximum height of 3m; it is surrounded by a ditch 3m wide and 1.3m deep. Each of the four sides contains a gateway, all of which, except that through the north eastern side, has an internal clavicula and a causeway across the ditch. The south western gate also has an external traverse. Visible remains within the interior of the fort suggest that it was occupied on a semi-permanent basis; these remains include traces of an internal road system and a series of nine pits, thought to represent the remains of building foundations.

Immediately east of this fort there are the prominent remains of a strongly defended fortlet. The fortlet is roughly square in shape enclosing an area of 0.3ha. It is strongly defended by a substantial principal rampart and a broad berm; surrounding these features there are two additional but weaker ramparts and three ditches. There is a gateway through the north eastern side of the camp. Two enclosures immediately south east of this fortlet are interpreted as annexes, the most north westerly of which is earlier than the fortlet as it runs beneath it.

The complex at Chew Green lies immediately adjacent to the Roman road known as Dere Street, constructed during the first century AD by the first governor of Britain, Julius Agricola, in order to facilitate the conquest northwards. The road is visible as the intermittent prominent remains of the mound of the agger which is on average 5m wide.

Situated between, and in some areas overlying the Roman camps and forts at Chew Green, are the remains of a deserted medieval settlement including a medieval chapel. Areas of the settlement were uncovered during the part excavation of the Roman features in 1936-7; medieval pottery of broadly 13th to 15th century date was also recovered. The remains of this settlement are visible as a series of rectangular platforms which are thought to have contained rectangular buildings and smaller garths up to 0.5m high, many of which are thought to have functioned as stock pens. A larger enclosure bounded by high banks and clearly part of the settlement is situated alongside the River Coquet. The footings of a rectangular structure are situated upon the earthwork remains of Dere Street immediately south of the point where it crosses the Chew Sike. Documents attest to the importance of the site as a resting place for travellers and drovers crossing the hills into and out of Scotland, and as early as 1249 it was established as a location for the formal settlement of cross border criminal cases. A rectangular structure situated on the north east bank of the Chew Sike immediately adjacent to Dere Street and its successors is known from documentary sources to be the site of the Chew Green Inn.

A rectangular building situated in the centre of the semi-permanent fortlet was excavated in 1883 and was interpreted as a small Norman chapel. It measures 18m by 9m and its walls stand to a height of 1m. In 1889 the discovery of a stone cross near the chapel by a local shepherd lends support to the interpretation of this building, although the exact provenance of the cross is unknown. The cross is now held in the Museum of the Society of Antiquities of Newcastle upon Tyne. By 1550 the medieval settlement at Chew Green was known as Kemylpeth when it was named in a survey, and an earlier document of 1456 refers to a Kemblepath.

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.

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Books and journals
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Archaeology, (1995), 85-90
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Archaeology, (1995), 85-90
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Archaeology, (1995), 85-90
NT70NE 03,
NT70NE 04,
NZ70NE 04,


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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