Roman signal station and camp 270m north east of Bowes Moor Hotel


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016463

Date first listed: 18-Feb-1955

Date of most recent amendment: 19-Mar-1999


Ordnance survey map of Roman signal station and camp 270m north east of Bowes Moor Hotel
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Bowes

National Grid Reference: NY 92969 12527


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

Reasons for Designation

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 eleven 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 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 signal stations were rectangular towers of stone or wood situated within ditched, embanked, palisaded or walled enclosures. They were built by the Roman army for military observation and signalling by means of fire or smoke. They normally formed an element of a wider system of defence and signalling between military sites such as forts and camps and towns, generally as part of a chain of stations to cover long distances. Signal stations were constructed and used in Britain during three distinct periods. The earliest examples were built between AD 50 and AD 117 for use during earliest military campaigns during the conquest period. Signal stations at this period took the form of a wooden tower. After AD 117 towers were more usually built in stone, some on the same site as earlier timber towers. The latest series, in the mid-4th century AD, were more substantial stone signal stations built mainly along the Yorkshire coast. Signal stations survive as low earthworks, or their below ground remains may be identified on aerial photographs. Fewer than 50 examples have been identified in England. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments, which are important in representing army strategy, government policy and the pattern of military control, signal stations are important to our understanding of the period. All Roman signal stations with surviving archaeological remains are considered to be nationally important. In spite of the fact that it has undergone partial excavation, the signal station on Bowes Moor retains significant archaeological deposits. It is one of a group of towers on Stainmore which are thought to have served as signal stations. The association of a signal station with a Roman camp is uncommon in England and this example will add greatly to our understanding of Roman military strategy.


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


The monument includes the remains of a signal station and temporary camp of Roman date, parallel to the former Roman road. The signal station is one of a chain of towers which cross Stainmore from Bowes to Brough. The Roman camp, situated on a level site which slopes gently to the south east, is visible as the slight remains of a small square enclosure with rounded corners. The enclosure measures a maximum of 56m across within a single bank now only visible along the south side as a low scarp. Outside the bank there is a slight ditch 0.2m deep. A small part of the eastern side of the camp was excavated in 1990 in advance of road widening. The excavation revealed that the ditch was 0.9m wide and 0.2m deep and that the bank, which was revetted in turf, was 1.9m wide and 0.3m high. The signal station, which is situated 8m to the south of the camp on the level crest of a slight spur, is visible as a rectangular enclosure measuring 10m by 6.5m, now truncated by the A66 dual carriageway on the south. The enclosure is bounded by a well-defined bank on average 5m wide and standing to a maximum height of 0.3m. Limited excavation in 1933 revealed that this bank was of turf construction. Outside the bank there is a ditch only visible on the north and the eastern sides, where it is 2m wide and between 0.5 and 0.7m deep. An outer bank only survives above ground on the north and eastern sides where it is between 3m and 4m wide and stands to a maximum height of 0.4m. The signal station underwent partial excavation in 1990 in advance of the A66 road widening. The excavation confirmed the absence of a ditch on the south and western sides and revealed the presence of an entrance through the south wall. Within the interior of the signal station several large stones are thought to have acted as padstones upon which the timber tower and stairway were constructed. Roman pottery recovered from beneath the northern rampart suggest that the site was constructed between 340-350 AD. It is thought that the Roman signal station and camp are contemporary in date and that the camp may have served as a compound for animals or as temporary accommodation for a garrison. The snow fences which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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: 28596

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Vyner, et al, The Archaeology of the Stainmore Pass, (1998)
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 57
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 57
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 57

End of official listing