Healam Bridge Roman fort and vicus


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
Pickhill with Roxby
National Grid Reference:
SE 32214 83616, SE 32434 83505

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.

The area outside Roman forts was typically put to a variety of uses. There was usually a bath house and often a number of shrines, burial grounds and sometimes other official establishments such as lodging houses for official visitors. Over time, sprawling external settlements known as vici developed around many forts. These housed a range of people and activities attracted by the military presence. Some of the inhabitants may have been families of troops stationed at the fort, although it was not until the third century that soldiers on active duty were officially permitted to marry. Craftsmen and merchants are also thought to have set up premises in the vici. The most common type of building found in a vicus was the long narrow strip building that was typically used for both domestic and commercial purposes. The economic fortunes of most vici were linked to the army and they normally rapidly declined following any abandonment of the associated fort. However some, particularly those sited on transport routes, survived and developed into small settlements in their own right, sometimes even surviving beyond the end of the Roman period.

Roman roads facilitated both the conquest of the province and its subsequent administration. Their main purpose was to serve the Cursus Publicus, or Imperial mail service. Express messengers could travel up to 150 miles (241km) per day on the network of roads throughout Britain and Europe, changing horses at wayside `mutationes' (posting stations set every 8 miles (12.87km) on major roads) and stopping overnight at `mansiones' (rest houses located every 20-25 miles(32km-40km)). In addition, throughout the Roman period and later, Roman roads acted as commercial routes and became foci for settlement and industry. Although a number of roads fell out of use soon after the withdrawal of Rome from the province in the early fifth century AD, many have continued in use down to the present day and are consequently sealed beneath modern roads.

Despite being bisected by the modern A1, significant and extensive remains of Healam Bridge fort and vicus still survive. Its importance is heightened by its location on Dere Street half way between the Roman towns of Aldborough and Cataractonium.


The monument includes the buried remains of a Roman fort and associated civilian settlement, known as a vicus, that were built on Dere Street, the main north/south Roman road east of the Pennines. Both the fort and vicus are bisected by the modern A1 as this road follows the same route as Dere Street which passed through the middle of the fort. The monument lies in two separate areas of protection, on either side of the A1. The fort lies on the high ground on the south side of Healam Beck with the vicus extending both north and southwards from the fort, with the northern part of the settlement extending beyond the beck. The full extent of the Roman settlement, and associated areas such as cemeteries, is not known. Further nationally important archaeological remains may thus survive beyond the boundaries of the monument.

The monument was investigated by geophysical survey and small scale sample excavation in 1993-94. Thirteen trial trenches were excavated, distributed across the monument, representing less than 0.5% of the monument's total area. These investigations revealed that the fort was approximately 130m by 130m within its defensive ditches, and thus similar, if slightly smaller, than the fort 18km north along Dere Street at Cataractonium on the south bank of the River Swale. Finds from the fort suggested that it was constructed and occupied in the early to mid-second century AD, but then probably abandoned by the Roman army. The associated civilian settlement appears to have developed soon after the building of the fort, but to have also been occupied in the third and fourth centuries. The settlement developed immediately around the fort and extended as ribbon developments along Dere Street, extending at least 400m south and 300m north beyond the fort's defences. Properties forming this ribbon development are believed to have fronted onto Dere Street, each set within rectilinear ditched enclosures that extended back from the road. The geophysical survey suggests that these enclosures included additional buildings and small industrial areas. Sample excavation also demonstrated the survival of cobbled surfaces, representing yards or secondary streets, and refuse pits. The geophysical survey showed a number of features within the area of the fort which suggests that the civilian settlement extended into this area after its abandonment by the army. However as Healam Bridge lies half way between the Roman towns of Aldbourgh and Cataractonium it may have acted as a posting station for the Cursus Publicus, or Imperial mail service, utilising at least part of the fort. One trial trench was excavated north of Healam Beck, east of the road. This also uncovered settlement evidence from the second and fourth centuries as well as a human burial. The geophysical survey detected a number of pits in the surrounding area which are considered to be further graves forming a cemetery.

The eastern limits of the settlement are believed to have been determined by the geophysical survey and sample excavation. However the full extent of the settlement, especially to the north and west, is not known and it is possible that it extended beyond the area of scheduling. Further nationally important remains may thus lie outside the area of the monument.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are the bridges over Healam Beck, one of which is Listed Grade II, all modern fences, walls, stiles, gates, water troughs, telegraph poles, sign posts and all road and path surfaces; although the ground beneath all these features is included. Fence lines defining the boundaries of the monument lie immediately outside the protected area.

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:
Legacy System:


Typescript, Jones, A, Healam Bridge, North Yorks Archaeological Evaluation, (1994)


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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