Rey Cross Roman temporary camp and signal station, and prehistoric stone circle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016929

Date first listed: 05-Aug-1933

Date of most recent amendment: 19-Mar-1999


Ordnance survey map of Rey Cross Roman temporary camp and signal station, and prehistoric stone circle
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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 90040 12434, NY 90072 12231


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 ditches, 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 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 of importance to our understanding of the period. All Roman signal stations with surviving archaeological remains are considered to be nationally important. Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of upright or recumbent stones. They are found throughout England, although they are concentrated in western areas. This distribution may be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern. Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were designed and laid out carefully, frequently exhibiting regularly spaced stones, the heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully understand the uses for which these stones were originally constructed but it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied internment of the dead. Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. Large irregular stone circles comprise a ring of at least 20 stone uprights. The diameters of surviving examples range between 20m and 40m, although it is known that larger examples, now destroyed, formerly existed. The stone uprights of this type of circle tend to be more closely spaced than in other types of circle and the height and positioning of uprights also appears not to have been as important. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England, only 45 examples of large irregular circles are known. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity, all surviving examples are worthy of preservation. The Roman temporary camp at Rey Cross is very well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. It is a good example of an early marching camp and will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the first century conquest of the North. The survival of a later Roman signal station within the camp is important as it is one of a chain of similar towers which cross Stainmore. The stone circle is well preserved and will add to our understanding of prehistoric settlement and activity in the area.


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


The monument includes the remains of a temporary camp and signal station of Roman date and a stone circle of prehistoric date, situated at the highest point of the Stainmore Pass and commanding extensive views to the east, west and south. The Roman camp is also situated astride the main Roman road from York to Carlisle which, locally, linked the forts of Brough and Bowes. The camp is placed mid-way between the two forts, each of which is some 19km distant. The camp is thought to have been constructed during the first century AD as excavation has shown that it pre-dates the Roman road. The monument is divided into two separate areas of protection by the modern dual carriage way which bisects it. The Roman camp, which is roughly rectangular in shape, encloses an area of 8.1ha. It has maximum dimensions of 296m east to west by 144m north to south within a substantial rampart and an external ditch. The rampart, of stone and earth, stands to a maximum height of 1.8m at the centre of the south side and is a maximum of 11m wide at its base. On the north side, the rampart is intermittent and, where visible, less substantial than elsewhere; it has been suggested that the northern side of the camp was thought to have been sufficiently protected by an extensive boggy area. Slight traces of an external ditch 0.4m deep are visible along the north side of the camp and probing at the north west angle in 1990 suggested the existence of a ditch 0.8m deep. Excavation at the monument in 1990 in advance of road widening confirmed the existence of an outer ditch on the east and west sides of the camp; here the ditch was up to 2m wide and 0.8m deep, separated from the rampart by a berm 1m wide. There are now nine gates visible through the ramparts of the camp; three through the north side and two through each of the other three sides. Each gate is approximately 10m wide and is defended by an oval shaped traverse, a detached length of rampart placed 19m outside the entrance varying in height from 0.4m to 1.6m. It is thought that there was a further gateway through the east and west sides through which the original Roman road across Stainmore passed. Excavation in 1990 uncovered what is thought to be the cobbled surface of a road running through each of these gates, but it is uncertain as to whether this represented the surface of the Roman road or a later phase in its history. At each of the gateways the camp ramparts are interned and these features are thought to belong exclusively to camps which were constructed during the first century AD. Use of the camp clearly continued after the its initial first century construction as late third or fourth century pottery was found during excavation of the ditch and in the interior, the latter associated with stake holes, and there is evidence for the subsequent blocking of some of the gates.

Within the south western part of the interior of the camp, immediately north of the A66, there are the remains of what is thought to be a later Roman signal station. This is visible as a square mound measuring 15m across and standing to a maximum height of 0.8m high. The area surrounding the mound has been subject to surface quarrying and there are no visible traces of a surrounding ditch. The signal station may have formed part of a chain of signal stations which cross Stainmore between the Roman forts of Bowes and Brough. Some 30m south of the most easterly entrance through the north wall of the Roman camp there is a roughly circular stone setting, occupying a commanding position at the head of the Stainmore Pass. This is interpreted as a stone circle of Bronze Age date. The stone circle is 20m in diameter and is bounded by up to 28 stones and boulders, the tallest of which stands to only 0.5m high. Several of the stones are earth-fast boulders. Within the stone circle there is a roughly circular, slightly raised area offset from the centre in the south eastern quadrant; this mound is 0.4m high and up to 9m across. The map extract does not show the widened A66. Rey Cross was moved to a new location in advance of the road widening. The snow fences 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: 28595

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), 58
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 60
Welfare, H, Swan, V, Roman Camps in England: The Field Evidence, (1995), 57-60

End of official listing