Buried remains of a late-Roman fort, over-lying earlier enclosures and linear features, situated on the south side of the River Went, where it was crossed by the Lincoln-Doncaster Roman road.
Reasons for Designation
Thorpe Audlin Roman fort is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Period & rarity: as a rare example of an early fourth century timber-built Roman fort providing an insight into the strategy of the late Roman military occupation of the country;
* Diversity: for retaining both the full footprint of the fort alongside remains of possible industrial activity outside the defences as well as evidence of the use of the site before the fort’s construction;
* Documentation: for the addition to our understanding of the site provided by the excavation report and geophysical survey.
Roman forts served as permanent bases for the auxiliary troops of the Roman Army. The majority of Roman forts were constructed between the mid-first and mid-second centuries AD; however, archaeological finds suggest that the fort at Thorpe Audlin dates to the late-third or early-fourth century and was occupied for a relatively short period of time. The fort has the typical outline of a straight-sided square enclosure with rounded corners, defined by a single rampart of turf or earth, together with an outer ditch. Roman forts varied in size according to the number and type of troops that they were built to accommodate; internally forts were typically laid out with a headquarters building (principia) to the centre, flanked by a house for the commander (praetorium) on one side and one or more granaries (horrea) on the other, with most of the rest of the fort's interior being taken up with ordered rows of barrack blocks, with a scattering of ancillary buildings. At Thorpe Audlin the buildings within the interior of the fort, along with the gateways, towers and breastworks appear to have been of timber construction. Roman forts were also often provided with a bath house, frequently sited 100m or more away, close to a river or stream for water supply. Many Roman forts attracted civilian settlement (vicus), typically extending along one of the approach roads to the fort. Roman forts are rare nationally and provide an important insight into Roman military strategy. Their archaeology also provides important information about the economic and the military situation of Roman Britain.
Although Roman finds including coins and pottery were found at Thorpe Audlin as early as 1959, the first tentative identification of a Roman fort was made from aerial photographs (Margary 1973). Field-walking by the Pontefract and District Archaeology Society between 1977 and 1987, produced fragments of querns, Dales Ware and Samian pottery, tegulae and imbratae (flat and semi-cylindrical roof tiles), and hypocaust box-tiles. A cropmark survey undertaken by Bob Evison of the Pontefract and District Archaeology Society informed a trial excavation of the main ditch in 1987, which located an enclosure ditch about 10m wide and 2m deep. The results of these excavations were published in 1987 (E Houlder and D J Hedges).
A geophysical survey was undertaken of the fort and part of the surrounding field by West Yorkshire Archaeology Service in 2012. The survey confirmed the extent of cropmark features already observed via aerial photography and also identified a number of internal divisions and discrete anomalies. It is clear from the results of the geophysical survey that the site has a number of phases and that the fort cuts a number of linear features and enclosures that are on a different alignment to the fort. The geophysical data indicates that the fort measures 135m by 130m internally and it is enclosed by a ditch with rounded corners. Two gateways have been identified, one on the south-eastern and one in the north-eastern side. Additional anomalies possibly representing structures and industrial activity, perhaps the site of a bath-house, have also been noted between the fort and Doncaster Road. Due to the size of the fort, it is considered that it is a late-Roman auxiliary fort, built to defend the hinterland along the nearby Roman road and the associated crossing of the River Went, towards the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, confirmed by the dating of excavated finds.
Principal elements: low earthworks and buried remains of a Roman fort, over-lying earlier enclosure and linear features, along with buried archaeological remains outside the area of the fort; all situated in a field approximately 360m north-east of Thorpe Audlin, some 10km south-east of the Roman fort at Castleford (Lagentivm).
The fort is located on the western side of the A639 Doncaster Road, which follows the route of the Roman road built to connect Lincoln (Lindvm) to Catterick (Cataractonivm). Lengths of the north-west and the north-east ramparts are apparent as slight upstanding earthwork features, with the ground falling away to the river to the north. Evidence recovered during the 1987 trial excavation and a geophysical survey undertaken in 2012 indicates that the fort occupies a multi-phased site, with a silted-up ditch beneath a secondary cobbled surface, which was cut by a 10m wide and 2m deep ditch that enclosed the fort. The only securely-dated finds recovered from the base of the main ditch are late-Roman sherds and construction debris, dating to the late-third or early-fourth century AD, suggesting a late date for the construction of the fort. Geophysical anomalies between the fort and the road to the east are suggestive of industrial activity and structural remains.
Area of Scheduling: this includes the full extent of the trapezoidal shaped field containing the fort and associated archaeological deposits, bounded by the River Went to the north, the A639 to the east, a public path to the west, and a hedge-line to the south; approximately 380 x 328m at its widest point. Fence lines defining the boundaries of the field lie immediately outside the scheduled monument. Telegraph poles and their foundations are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath and around their foundations are included.