Roman forts, marching camps and associated monuments


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Roman forts, marching camps and associated monuments
© 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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This copy shows the entry on 19-Oct-2019 at 21:21:34.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Devon (District Authority)
North Tawton
National Grid Reference:
SS 66117 00833, SS 66184 00623, SS 66207 00246, SS 66364 00806, SX 66090 99897

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 military fortresses, forts and marching camps are of great value in understanding the complex pattern of troop movements which accompanied the Roman conquest of Britain, an event for which we have only the broadest historical outline. With two marching camps a fort and probable fortress on the same site, the North Tawton monument represents a particularly unusual association of military enclosures. This suggests a complex history of troop dispositions unequalled by any other in the south west peninsula, and by only a small number of sites nationally. The significance of the monument is considerably enhanced by the identification of the largest enclosure as a probable vexillation fortress. Vexillation fortresses - campaigning bases holding a mixed detatchment of between 2500 and 4000 legionary and auxiliary troops - are rare nationally with less then 20 identified examples, most of which are situated in the Midlands. The above average state of preservation of the fort south of the modern railway line further adds to the importance of the site. Roman forts are rare nationally particularly when they survive as earthworks.


The monument includes a complex of large Roman military enclosures together with a series of smaller enclosures and ring-ditches in fields around The Barton on the east bank of the River Taw. The military enclosures have been identified as two forts and two marching camps. One fort, immediately south of the Okehampton-Crediton railway line, survives as low earthworks, the second is in cultivated fields north of the line and is visible as cropmarks. The marching camps, which lie further north apparently enclosing The Barton, are also visible as cropmarks. The southernmost fort is limited by a low bank 0.4m high and 10m wide enclosing an area of about 2ha. To the south and east traces of a bank are visible. To the west is an extension or annexe of about 1ha. Immediately north of the fort, aerial photography has revealed a Roman roadway running east-west. The extent of the northernmost fort has been determined by aerial photography and survey. It appears to comprise at least two constructional phases and may reach 8-10ha in area, confirming its identity as a vexillation fortress. Three of the ring ditches lie to the north of The Barton, the fourth lies further south, at the north western angle of the northernmost fort. Unusually, three of the four have double concentric ditches, the fourth has a single ditch. They are identified as prehistoric funerary features, although, in view of their proximity to the military complex and their unusual double layout, they may be Roman military works. Additional cropmarks between the northernmost fort and The Barton are identified as prehistoric enclosures and land boundaries.

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
David, A, Geophysical Survey, (1989)
Fox, A, 25th Report on Archaeology and Early History, (1959)
Griffith, F, Roman Military Sites In Devon: Some Recent Discoveries, (1984)
St Joseph, J K S, Air reconnaisance in Britain 1955-7, (1958)
Frere, SS, Britannia, (1987)


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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