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The Romans in Lakeland

Not far south of Emperor Hadrian's impressive attempt to control our Scots cousins the Romans developed a networks of roads and forts across the rugged English Lakes. The Romans erected the 84-mile Hadrians wall nearly 2,000 years ago and it is now both a World Heritage site and new official signposted long-distance footpath.

The most dramatic remains of the Roman occupation are those of Hardknott Fort (Pictured) overlooking Eskdale valley.Hardknott roman fort in its fantastic setting in the mountains

Another dramatic and challenging "Roman experience" can be enjoyed by walking in the footsteps of the legions across the mountain that became called High Street in recognition of this old roman road that links Penrith and Ambleside.
In 13th century it was called the Brethstrett, in respect of the Britons of Cumbria.On ridge at over 2,000 feet. Summit of High Street has even been used as a racecourse. It dips into the dramatic Straights of Riggindale and then up onto High Raise heading north, eventually gently descending Loadpot Hill towards Tirril for Penrith. Ambleside fort (Galava was built around 90 AD) while Brocavum (Brougham) was built 80-81AD by Agricola. Despite its great height it represents the walkers best route. The regulation Roman army rate was 20 miles in five hours. At the start Eamont Bridge provides two inns. A bronze age circular mound is known as King Arthur's Round Table. Before the moorland start the village of Tirril furnishes an inn and small store.Out onto the moors and soon one of many middle bronze age stone circles is passed. Thereafter steady climb past Arthur's Seat. High Raise starts the more dramatic mountain section South of High Street the roman road could have taken the distinct terrace path down towards Troutbeck, a route known as Scots Rake, no doubt in respect of its use as route by the Scots at some stage in history. But an alternative route for the roman road could have been tracing the ridge south skirting Froswick and Ill Bell before descending to the Garburn Pass. An ancient map does show short lengths of "roman road" on Yoke at 436062. More details on the High Street route.

 

 

The route from Amblesides roman fort to Ravenglass is marked on the ancient Antonine Itinerary, the first AA road map!
In 1920 near to the Little Langdale to Tilberthwaite footbridge and ford R.G. Collingwood saw a section of 10 foot wide road complete with kerb stones.In 1946 Ian Richardson, author of the Penguin classic on Roman Britain
did detailed field studies at Wrynose and Hardknott. The roman road is on a shelf some 75 yards above the present road until the two come together to breast the rise and pass the Three Shire Stone. After taking a more gradual descent than the present roasd the romans then ran a straight line to the north of the infant Duddon. This 24 foot wide causeway is clearly visible in parallel with the tarmac road. After Cockley Beck the romans headed down valley to Black Hall. From near the farm it then zig zags up to the head of the pass. On the descent to Eskdale the roman route goes straight on when the modern road takes a vertigous sharp turn left. The roman route had its own zig zags down from Hardknott fort to just south of Brotherilkeld. The roman route from Penrith via a fort at Troutbeck clearly indicates a fort at Keswick, with Castlerigg being an obvious contendor for the site.A roman route went over Whinlatter descending Scales Hill into Lorton.
Gallery of images from the 2012 archaeological dig at Derventio (Cockermouth)

Latest on the 2014 excavation of Roman settlement at Maryport..More details..

The following illustrations can be viewed on the VisitCumbria.com web site.
Birdoswald Fort / Galava Roman Fort /

Don't forget to see Maryport's Roman Museum if you are looking for a wet weather idea.
Information on Hadrians Wall can be found at this link.

Moresby roman fort...no extant remains but a dramitic setting overlooking the seaAlong the Cumbrian coast were a string of forts at Maryport, Workington, Moresby (See artist's impression) and Ravenglass.

Walkers are now able to follow the entire length of Hadrian's Wall across northern England for the first time in 1,600 years. A signposted trail runs along the spectacular 84-mile Roman route from Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria to Wallsend, Tyneside. The Countryside Agency has developed 30 miles of new rights of way to follow the wall's path, along with new gates, footbridges and stiles. The work has also opened up stretches of the World Heritage Site for disabled access.Parts of the wall have always been open to the public but since the Romans left, there has been no unbroken right of way to follow its route.

TAXIS for exploring Hadrians Wall.

Maiden Way Melmerby Fell Nov 2008:Rare Roman discovery brings ancestors' past to life A rare Roman settlement has been unearthed near Penrith in Cumbria, shedding light on the life and times of the region's ancient settlers
The discovery on agricultural land in Bougham near the A66 - described by experts as a find of national significance - was made by water company United Utilities during initial excavations for a 7km Hackthorpe-Penrith wastewater pipeline.The civilian settlement, or vicus, is believed to date back to the first century AD. It features the remains of two timber buildings, cobbled lanes and three stone buildings, and a very rare Grubenhauser - a sunken feature building from the early medieval period.Among the finds of jewellery and coins there were silver denarii, copper alloy buckles and broaches, glass and jade beads and a beautiful jet pendant and ring. Pottery gaming counters reveal that gambling may have been a popular way of passing the dark Cumbrian evenings, while drinking vessels show other ways they may have passed the time.

As is common with major excavation projects run by United Utilities, archeologists were drafted in at an early stage of the pipeline programme, in case any important finds were made while digging on the land. Alison Plummer from Oxford Archeology, who led an 18-strong excavation
team on behalf of United Utilities said: "The pipeline route is close to an existing Roman fort and graveyard, so we knew there was the chance of a significant find. Within days of removing the topsoil, it was clear that we had hit upon something very important indeed.

"This settlement would have been used by the unofficial wives and children of soldiers in the nearby fort, along with traders and craftspeople. The discovery offers some enticing clues as to how our ancient ancestors spent the cold Cumbrian evenings. "The beautiful and ornate jewellery also indicates that people took alot of care over their appearance. These items are likely to have been worn by women of considerable social standing." The landscape surrounding Brougham and Hackthorpe is steeped in ancient history, with a high concentration of Prehistoric and Roman monuments.

September 2008: Historians always predicted there was a Roman presence in the Keswick area and now the underground remains of an ancient structure the size of
eight football pitches has been found.
The site, two miles east of the town and close to the famous Castlerigg stone circle was almost certainly a base for soldiers campaigning north of the Border or resting on their return.

Summer 2009: CUMBRIAN archaeologist, Professor Clifford 'Indiana' Jones gets very angry at the neglect of the site of Workington's Roman fort. Where once Roman soldiers used to keep watch over the River Derwent estuary and the harbour now lies partly beneath a disused railway area and close to Dunmail Park shopping centre.
In true TimeTeam style, the professor wants the history of the Roman fort known as Burrow Walls excavated and researched. He says: "It is time to stir the earth and see what wonders lie beneath, to inspire future generations by our discoveries."
The Workington Roman fort was part of the chain of forts that made up the world famous Hadrian's Wall between Newcastle and Cumbria. Contrary to the school text book view professor Jones thinks the wall was less of a military barrier and more aimed at tax and customs collection for the Roman Empire. He says; "It a frontier built for taxation and prevention of cattle rustling."

This fort along with another at Moresby are part of the Hadrianic frontier, therefore they are part of the World Heritage site. He adds: "I can think of no more forgotten a piece of heritage than Burrow Walls. Its treatment
is nothing short of a disgrace."
"The "Walls" of Burrow Walls belong to a medieval hall, the builders of which took full advantage of the free quarry provided on the spot by the once grand Roman fort that looked immediately out onto the confluence of the Derwent and the sea; protecting the harbour facility, now lost under the wood pulping works. The sea and river have moved further away and as if an accident of history and time the site of the harbour has become invisible."
He is saddened that Hadrian's Wall Heritage Limited, (the company responsible for the Hadrianic frontier from Ravenglass to Wallsend) don't record the Workington site on their guides, yet there is public access and the site was proven as long ago as the mid-nineteenth century and formally excavated in the nineteen fifties, with further investigation in the late twentieth century.
Professor Jones says: "It is time to put Burrow Walls on the map. Its Roman name is still lost, various speculative attempts have been attached, but it remains elusive - a major excavation would assist in establishing its true significance as a means of defending the estuary mouth and commerce nearby. I strongly suspect that there is more than one fort on the site and an early one, much earlier than the Hadrianic period.

"Community archaeology is the thing - getting the local population involved in their history - this site is as much there site, indeed mores so than the archaeologists and academics. The occupants of the housing estate that sits next Burrow Walls are probably unaware that they reside next to an archaeological site that directly connects to them, not only to the rest of the Hadrianic system in Britain but to a frontier that encompassed the entire Roman Empire. Yet this wonderful gift of a portal into the past and potentially an educational and commercial boost for the community is simply forgotten; a pile of stones in a field."

"As a professional archaeologist working in west Cumbria I have spent many years building up a volunteer workforce, there being no point in suggesting excavation without personnel to carry it out. The use of
volunteers is vital to archaeology and community involvement at all levels; protecting the past is a matter of personal and community pride when the history is seen as part of the individuals past. There is the opportunity to train the community to field walk and survey and recent highly technical resistivity and magnatometry work was undertaken by volunteers after a weeks intensive training course with all age and backgrounds involved. Such background work is essential before any excavation could be considered. More importantly the site
is an English Heritage site and nothing can be done without there approval. But as, Hadrian's Wall Heritage Limited is funded by English Heritage it would undoubtedly be in their interest to assist a community based project on the site, that would boost visitor numbers and thus assist the local population.

"If the Burrow Walls site was excavated and presented to the public I believe it would both add to our knowledge of the past and benefit the present and future, attracting people to view the site would aid the
economy and give a sense of pride to the locals that have been involved in the work."


New publicationin 2012 by Dr Jones: Hadrians-Wall-Walking-Guide


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