Cardurnock (tower 4b) and earlier ditch system and patrol road, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Cardurnock (tower 4b) and earlier ditch system and patrol road, part of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast
© 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.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Allerdale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 17114 58829

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 aerial photography and limited excavation have shown that buried remains of three periods of the Roman frontier defences including an observation platform, a series of ditches including some which held palisade fences, and a Roman tower survive reasonably well. The monument will contribute to further study of the Roman frontier defences along the Cumbrian coast.


The monument includes the buried remains of a Roman observation platform and a later stone tower together with the buried remains of an associated linear defensive system here comprising a series of ditches, some of which contained palisade fences. The linear defensive system has been identified in part by a combination of aerial photographs, excavation and geophysical survey elsewhere along the Cumbrian coast, but in particular between Bowness-on-Solway and the northern shore of Moricambe. Within the sequence of towers along the Cumbrian coast Cardurnock has been identified as number 4b. The monument is located immediately to the west of Cardurnock village and was revealed during the 1970s by a combination of limited excavation and aerial photography; the latter clearly showed the crop mark of an infilled ditch running south from the Roman tower for approximately 110m. The excavation found a series of three periods of activity; the first period was attested by the presence of a clay platform fronted by a palisade ditch which was interpreted by the excavator as the remains of a low clay and turf mound which would have served as a point where patrolling sentries could have observed over the top of the frontal palisade towards the sea. This defensive arrangement was complemented by a forward ditch which is visible on aerial photographs and located some 11m to the seaward side of the palisade. The excavation revealed that the clay platform and its adjacent palisade ditch were abandoned during the second period of activity when a fresh palisade ditch was cut directly through the clay platform. Behind this new ditch traces of a patrol road were found during the excavation. The forward ditch remained in use during this second period but no evidence for a new observation platform was found during the excavation. The excavation showed that this second defensive arrangement subsequently became redundant during the third period when the running palisade and forward ditch was abandoned and replaced by a stone tower constructed overlying the forward ditch some 11m to the west of the site of the earlier clay platform. All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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.

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Books and journals
Bellhouse, R, 'CWAAS Research Series' in Roman Sites On The Cumb Coast: A New Schedule Of Coastal Sites, , Vol. III, (1989), 18-29
Jones, G D B, 'Britannia' in The Solway Frontier: Interim Report, , Vol. 13, (1982), 288-92
Located in /1 file, English Heritage,


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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