Roman fort, Anglo-Saxon cemetery, motte and bailey castle and tower keep castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020126

Date first listed: 11-Feb-1915

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Dec-2002


Ordnance survey map of Roman fort, Anglo-Saxon cemetery, motte and bailey castle and tower keep castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Newcastle upon Tyne (Metropolitan Authority)

National Grid Reference: NZ 25071 63818


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.

Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries consist predominantly of inhumation burials which were placed in rectangular pits in the ground, occasionally within coffins. The bodies were normally accompanied by a range of grave goods, including jewellery and weaponry. The cemeteries vary in size, the largest containing several hundred burials. Around 1000 inhumation cemeteries have been recorded in England. They represent one of our principal sources of archaeological evidence about the Early Anglo-Saxon period, providing information on population, social structure and ideology. All surviving examples, other than those which have been heavily disturbed, are considered worthy of protection.

An early Christian chapel is a purpose-built structure, usually rectangular and often comprising a single undivided room, which contained a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the early medieval period (c.AD 400-1100). Until the seventh century, such chapels were mostly constructed of wood, often being replaced in stone at a later date. The remains of early Christian chapels, where they can be positively identified, will contain important archaeological information relating to the development of Christianity, and all examples with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In the majority of examples a bailey, an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte and bailey castles acted as garrisons for forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. As one of a restricted range of recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system.

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the principle defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops, may be found within the enclosure. They are rare nationally with only 104 recorded examples. With other castle types, they are a major medieval monument type which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

English Civil War fieldworks are earthworks which were raised during military operations between 1642 and 1645 to provide temporary protection for infantry or to act as gun emplacements. The earthworks, which may have been reinforced with revetting and palisades, consisted of banks and ditches and varied in complexity from simple breastworks to complex systems of banks and inter- connected trenches. Those with a defensive function were often sited to protect settlements or their approaches. Those with an offensive function were designed to dominate defensive positions and to contain the besieged areas. Despite having been partially excavated, the multi-period remains at Newcastle upon Tyne survive reasonably well. They represent some of the major events of English history from the Roman occupation to the English Civil War. The Roman fort, which preserves beneath it traces of earlier activity, is of unusual plan making it of particular significance for Roman fort studies. The fact that the fort was re-occupied for a time during the early post-Roman period will contribute to our knowledge of the nature of society at this time. The Anglo-Saxon cemetery will provide important information on burial practices while study of the skeletal remains will provide a valuable insight into the early medieval population of the area. The association of the graveyard with a contemporary building thought to be the remains of an associated church or chapel enhances the importance of the monument. The motte and bailey castle, which is documented and dated, represents the advance of Norman control and will add to our understanding of Norman society. The tower keep castle, from which the town took its name, was one of the major Royal castles built in England at this time. It is a symbol of Royal supremacy, enhanced by the fact that it was constructed on a site with a long established use. The fact that it was re-defended in the middle of the 17th century adds to its importance; taken together with similar re-fortification of the encircling town defences, it will contribute to our knowledge of the English Civil War, and in particular to the Siege of Newcastle in 1644. As a monument which is accessible to the public, the tower keep castle also serves as a valuable educational and recreational resource.


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


The monument includes the known extent of the buried remains of part of a Roman fort, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, a motte and bailey castle, the upstanding and buried remains of a stone building associated with the graveyard, and a tower keep castle of medieval and post-medieval date, including a 17th century bastion. It is situated on a promontory defended by steep escarpments on the south, east and west. It is bounded by the River Tyne to the south and originally on the east and north by the Lort Burn and one of its tributaries. This area became enclosed by the town's medieval defences during the 14th century; the town defences are the subjects of separate schedulings.

A series of excavations on the promontory between 1973 and 1992 revealed important information about all aspects of its occupation. Several prehistoric flint tools and a stone axe represented the earliest activity; there was also evidence of agriculture of an early but uncertain date. The discovery of mid- second century construction debris and a series of ditches and gullies indicate subsequent Roman activity. These features, of uncertain nature, were filled in and levelled before a stone built Roman fort was constructed over them. They are included in the scheduling.

The buried remains of the Roman fort are the earliest surviving structures on the promontory, and pottery associated with them show that it was built by the Emperor Antoninus Pius in the second century. As the exact location of Hadrian's Wall in this part of the city has not yet been determined, it is uncertain whether the fort is attached to the wall or lies between it and the river. The fort was named as `Pons Aelius' in an early fifth century Roman document taken from the adjacent Roman river crossing which the fort was intended to guard. Documents record that the First Cohort of Cornovii, a British tribe with its base at Wroxeter on the River Severn, garrisoned the fort in the early fourth century. The incidence of a native unit serving in its own province is rare. The fort was occupied until the early fifth century when it was abandoned as part of the Roman withdrawal from the province.

The fort is thought to be irregular in plan in order to utilise the triangular shape of the promontory. Its northern defences lie along the steep slopes which define the northern edge of the promontory, near the present site of the later Black Gate. A short section of this wall, uncovered by excavation in 1985 immediately east of the Black Gate, followed the contours of the promontory. The southern defences are considered to lie on the edge of a steep river cliff, which define the southern edge of the promontory while its east and west walls lie beyond the area examined by excavation.

Within the fort, excavation has revealed the remains of several buildings, including the central range comprising part of the headquarters building (principia), part of what is thought to be the commanding officers house (pratorium) to the west, and further buildings to the south. The outlines of some of these buildings are laid out in stone cobbles to the north and west of the castle keep. Partial excavation to the south of the principia in 1929 revealed the remains of further well-preserved Roman buildings, some retaining the sills of doors and windows. Immediately north of the central range of the fort, two granaries were uncovered lying on opposite sides of the main north-south road, the via Pretoria. Traces of a loading bay were found at the east end of the eastern granary, a feature which was re-modelled during the third century. Considerably later in the life of the fort, the granaries were adapted to a different and uncertain use. To the north and east of the eastern granary a pair of stone buildings, interpreted as workshops, were also uncovered. Small scale excavation in 1995 at the southern end of the promontory, near the present Bridge Hotel, revealed a metalled surface. This was interpreted as part of one of the main roads though the fort. Immediately outside the north wall of the Roman fort, excavation also uncovered evidence of activity, including post holes, metal working hearths and the fragmentary remains of a stone building.

After the fort was abandoned in the early fifth century, there is evidence that it was re-occupied for a period which involved the construction of structures associated with non-Roman native pottery. Overlying and extending beyond the excavated areas of the Roman fort, there are the remains of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. First discovered during 19th century railway construction, it was partially excavated between 1977 and 1992. Its use spanned the eighth to the middle of the 12th century and approximately 660 inhumations were uncovered, all aligned east-west. The earliest inhumations, dated by coin evidence to the eighth century, were buried without coffins. Later burials were placed in wooden coffins and later still, in stone coffins with grave covers, head, and footstones. The burials included skeletons of men, women and children in addition to many displaced bones. Within the cemetery the remains of a building was uncovered by excavation and thought to be associated with the graveyard. This building, situated beneath the second railway arch from the west, is visible as the lower courses of a square structure 6.25m across. It is thought to be the remains of a church or chapel associated with the graveyard.

Documents record that in 1080 a motte and bailey castle was constructed on the site of the Roman fort. The eldest son of William the Conqueror, Robert, Duke of Normandy built this earthen castle, the buried remains of which are thought to survive below ground level beneath the later stone castle. A boundary is thought to have run across the relatively level north western side of the promontory forming a bailey to the rear. Part of this boundary, uncovered by excavation, was visible as a broad ditch with a bank to the south. The bank was constructed of upcast from the ditch and composed largely of clay with Roman remains and bones from the Saxon cemetery. The excavated length had been disturbed in post-medieval times and its original height and profile could not be determined. The ditch was flat-bottomed and 2m wide. The exact location of the motte is uncertain, but it is thought to lie beneath the Moot Hall at the south eastern corner of the monument.

A stone built tower keep castle replaced the motte and bailey castle between 1168 and 1178 during the reign of Henry II. The castle encloses a roughly triangular area 128m north to south by 103m, which was divided by a wall into a north and a south bailey. Much of the curtain wall and the full extent of the wall which divided the courtyard into two baileys have been levelled, although their lower courses survive below ground level. Part of the east curtain wall remains upstanding and is visible as two lengths of masonry. The first, at the north eastern corner of the castle, runs south from the North Gate for a distance of 8m; it is visible as three chamfered off-set courses with up to four courses of masonry above. The second length of wall, which includes the southern part of the east postern, is visible beneath the first railway arch from the east; it is 13m long and visible as a length of rubble core retaining some of the ashlar facing stones, ranging from one to six courses high. A length of the south curtain wall also remains upstanding, including a small postern. This section of wall is 53m long and has a series of chamfered plinths on its south side. At its west end it incorporates the lower courses of the east side of a square tower. A postern, situated at the eastern end, is visible as a vaulted passage 1.5m wide. Part of the north gateway also remains upstanding, visible as the lower courses of the eastern gatehouse which flanked the gate passage. Excavation in 1974 showed that this gate had been inserted into the clay bank of the motte and bailey castle. Attached to the east side of the north entrance, a mound of masonry represents a thickening of the east curtain wall and this is thought to be an adjunct of uncertain purpose to the North Gate.

The tower keep was constructed in an elevated position within the defences at the south west corner of the north bailey between 1168 and 1178. A new roof and battlements were added to the structure in about 1811 and the whole was restored in 1848. It is visible as a rectangular structure 19m by 17m which stands about 25m high. It has square towers at three of its corners and a larger polygonal tower at the fourth. It is constructed of sandstone laid in irregular courses with ashlar dressing. There is a forebuilding attached to its eastern side, containing a straight stone staircase giving access to its main entrance on the second floor. The keep has three storeys, each of which contains a large centrally placed principal room with small rooms, garderobes, stairs and galleries set around it within the thickness of the walls. On the ground floor there is a chapel, visible as a small nave at right angles to a chancel.

During the mid-13th century there were several additions to the castle, including the construction of an aisled hall set against the internal face of the east curtain wall. In addition, a barbican was constructed, comprising a new gatehouse, the Black Gate, and a narrow passage to the rear which connected it to the original north gate. The Black Gate, situated at the northern end of the castle, is set at an angle to the north west curtain. It is oval in plan and comprises a central passage flanked by semi-circular towers measuring 15.25m across. The original height of the Black Gate is uncertain as its upper parts were remodelled in 1611, but in its original form, it is thought to have comprised a basement with two floors above. The Black Gate was also modified during the 18th and 19th centuries when several additions were made, including a brick wing attached to its eastern side, which formed part of an 18th century house. The basement is pierced by an entrance passage 6.4m by 3.3m, covered by a barrel vault. The entrance was clearly well-defended, and the remains of several defensive features, including a portcullis groove, are visible. Within the passage there is a gate visible as a pointed arch to the exterior, and beyond this there are arched entrances into each of the semicircular towers which served as guard chambers. The inner portal of the entrance passage contains an arch but there is no evidence of a gate. The passage to the rear is formed by two parallel walls; the more northerly is visible as a length of masonry up to 15 courses high with a chamfered base. The southern wall stands to its full height in places and is of squared coursed sandstone. There are several structures within the passage including the Heron prison pit set against the north wall, visible as a large square pit with no window or door openings. There is a garderobe above with a chamfered round-headed doorway. The inner drawbridge pit is also visible at the west side of the passage.

Immediately in front of the Black Gate to the west, excavation uncovered the remains of a ditch with a drawbridge abutment on its west side. The stone work of the abutment is visible as upstanding masonry, and the site of the medieval drawbridge is occupied today by a wooden footbridge. The ditch, which had been cleaned out at the time the Black Gate was built, was subsequently allowed to fill with silt and by the 15th century it had become an official rubbish dump. After excavation in 1987, the area of ditch which had been excavated was landscaped and is visible today as a prominent feature of the castle. It is known from documents that the castle was re-fortified at the time of the English Civil War. The castle served as a base for the Royalist garrison during the siege of Newcastle in 1644 and was equipped with a series of earthwork defences including breastworks and redoubts. The majority of these defences, most of which are thought to lie on the western side of the castle, had been levelled by the 18th century. Immediately north west of the keep, excavation in 1976 uncovered the remains of part of a stone built bastion. The bastion,`V'-shaped in plan and facing north east across the front of the Black Gate, was visible as ditch between 5m to 7m wide whose inner face was revetted by a stone wall 1.2 to 1.4m wide. One short length of walling stood to a height of 2m. A large pit which also dates to the time of the Civil War is visible in the North Gate as a rectangular stone lined pit about 6m long and 4m wide.

The Black Gate, the barbican walls between North Gate and Black Gate, the Heron pit, drawbridge pit and other under buildings in the barbican, the tower keep, south postern and adjoining curtain wall are Listed Buildings Grade I.

All 17th century and later modifications to the Black Gate including its upper storeys and the brick wing of the attached 18th century house and the 19th century masonry situated upon the south postern are excluded from the scheduling, although the structures to which they are attached are included. The Moot Hall including the Judges tunnel, the Bridge Hotel, the railway bridge arch piers, all signs, modern brick walls, wooden footbridges and fences, metal railings and gates, the metalled surfaces of all roads, pavements and carparks and all street furniture 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: 32753

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xviii, (1974), 196
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxii, (1978), 169
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xviiii, (1975), 241
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, (1979), 196
Cherry, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, (1979)
Clark, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxvi, (1982), 211
Clark, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxvii, (1983), 206
Clark, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxx, (1986)
Clark, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. xxix, (1985), 202-3
Ellison, M, Finch, M, Harbottle, B, 'Post-Medieval Archaeology' in The Excavation of a 17th Century Pit at the Black Gate, , Vol. 13, (1979), 153-181
Ellison, M, Harbottle, B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Excavation of a 17th Century Bastion in the Castle, (1983), 135-264
Ellison, M, Harbottle, B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Excavation of a 17th Century Bastion in the Castle, (1983), 135-263
Frere, S, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. XVIIII, (1988), 433
Frere, S, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. XVIII, (1987), 315
Frere, S, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. XV, (1984), 278
Frere, S, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. XVII, (1986), 376-8
Goodburn, R, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. X, (1979), 279-80
Goodburn, R, 'Britannia' in , , Vol. IX, (1978), 419
Harbottle, B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Excavations at the South Curtain Wall of the Castle, , Vol. xliv, (1966), 79-146
Harbottle, B, Ellison, M, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in An Excavation in the Castle Ditch, , Vol. ix, (1981), 75-250
Knowles, W H, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Castle, Newcastle upon Tyne, , Vol. ii, (1926), 1-51
Nolan, John , (2000)
Snape, M, (2000)

End of official listing