Blog – Birdoswald: Burgh Oswald: Banna: Amboglanna: Camboglanna.


  • Birdoswald, Cumbria.
  • OSGB – NY 61452 66263.
  • Scheduled Monument.
  • Historic England List Number – 1010994.


There is some archaeological evidence that the site may have previously been an Iron Age hillfort, and that the local area was originally wooded, with birch trees. It is widely believed that Oswald, King of Northumbria, had a hunting lodge here. This may also have attributed its current name.

Standing on the Military Way there was also a Roman road called the Maiden Way running to Bewcastle. The site was one of strength and good positioning. It stood on a spur of land overlooking the River Irthing and is defended by cliffs on the southern and eastern sides. To the west it was defended by two ditches approximately 13m apart.

Originally a timber fort was constructed on the site when this section of Hadrian’s Wall was made of turf only. It was believed by the Romans that there was no limestone available in this area, which was vital for the mortar, so they built the Wall in turf. However, after scouring the landscape they found limestone was available and then the stone fort was built, and this section of Hadrian’s Wall was then constructed in stone.


Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society 1898.


Where the fort stood was once located Turret 49A which was demolished. The location of the original turret is in the centre of the via Principalis and this is the alignment of the original section of Hadrian’s Wall. The stone wall was diverted 50m to the north of the new stone fort.

Gateways were positioned at the usual cardinal points, and there may have had a monument at the site of the West Gate. The South Gate was a double gateway. Two gateways have been identified in the eastern wall, however, one of these has been shown to be where stone was robbed from the fort to use as building materials. The main eastern gateway was a single gateway. In 1851 the pivot holes for the large wooden gates could still be seen at the site.

The fort itself measured 178.5 m by 123 m, covering and area of 2.2 ha. It included the usual buildings of a fort, and a couple of surprises….

      • Principia,
      • Barracks,
      • Horrea (granary),
      • Fabrica (workshop),
      • Basilica,
      • Bath House,
      • basilica exercitatoria, an exercise building, which would have been used much like gyms today, for the fitness of the troops garrisoned at the fort.
      • A possible parade ground existed to the south east of the fort.


Birdoswald roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall
By Photograph by Mike Peel (, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Remains of a vicus has been identified through geophysical survey located to the east and west of the site. The eastern vicus was larger and more scattered than the western one. The actual size of the vicus is unknown as some areas have been lost to the erosion of the cliffs.

Here is the timeline for the fort, (c. = at about this time).


125BC- AD 129   Dating from: Wrist purse.

112-400             Garrisoned.

123                   This section of the turf wall was completed.

125                   The timber fort was completed.

135-170             Dating from: Pottery uncovered at the site.

175                   Dating from: Coin

198-219             Rebuilt.

c.218                 A possible Antonine garrison was at the fort.

271-284             Dating from: Coins.

297-305             The praetorium, principia and bath house were restored and repaired.

3rd C                  Dating from: Flanged bowl.

3rd C                  Cemetery dates from.

3rd-4th C             Dating from: Pottery.

330-370             Dating from: A calcite gritted war jar.

C.350                One of the granaries was partially dismantled.

4th C                  The northern granary fell down.

c.500                 Garrisoned until.

5th-6th C             Two long halls were built on the site of the granaries.

13th/14th C          A tower house was built on part of the site.

1745                 Farmhouse built on part of the site.

1832-1852          Excavated.

1852                 Stone was taken by a local farmer from the east wall.

1895-1898          Excavated.

1911                 Excavated.

1927-1933          Excavated.

1928                 First Scheduled.

1945                 Remains of the turf Wall and Turret 49A discovered.

1949                 A wrist purse, containing denarii was discovered by the south gate.

1949-1952          Excavated.

1959-1960          Cemetery discovered on the western side of the fort.

1987                 Geophysical Survey of the site.

1987-1992          Excavated.

1997                 Scheduling amendment.

1997-1998          Excavated.

1999                 Surveyed.

2000                 Excavated by Time Team.

2004                 English Heritage acquired the site. Surveyed.

2009                 Excavated.

2100                 Two coins discovered at the site – a sestertius of Septimius Severus; and a half fallis of Justin or Justinian.


There have been a lot of inscriptions uncovered at the site. For a full list please visit – – and search BIRDOSWALD.

For more in-depth research go to –


Statue of young Hercules found at Birdoswald.


References & Bibliography.

Anderson. J. 1932. The Genesis of Diocletian’s Provincial Re-Organization. The Journal of Roman Studies, 22, 24-32. doi:10.2307/297084.

Beckensall.S. 2010. Empire Halts Here: Viewing the Heart of Hadrian’s Wall. Amberley Publishing Limited.

Biggins. J., Taylor. D. J. A., Coxon. B., Esselmont. B., Frank. A., Hudson. C., McCloy. P., Montgomery. E, & Robinson. J. 1999. A Survey of the Roman Fort and Settlement at Birdoswald, Cumbria. Britannia, 30, 91-110. doi:10.2307/526674.

Biggins. J. A., & Taylor. D. J. A. 2004. Geophysical Survey of the Vicus at Birdoswald Roman Fort, Cumbria. Britannia, 35, 159-178. doi:10.2307/4128625.

Bishop. M. C. 2014. The Secret History of the Roman Roads of Britain: And Their Impact on Military History. Pen & Sword.

Breeze. D., & Dobson. B. 1985. Roman Military Deployment in North England. Britannia, 16, 1-19. doi:10.2307/526389.

Britton. K., & Huntley. J. 2011. New evidence for the consumption of barley at Romano-British military and civilian sites, from the analysis of cereal bran fragments in faecal material. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 20(1), 41-52. Retrieved December 22, 2020, from

Brown. A. 1961. Camlann and the Death of Arthur. Folklore, 72(4), 612-621. Retrieved December 22, 2020, from

Bruce. J. C. 1875. Lapidarium Septentrionale: Or, A Description of the Monuments of Roman Rule in the North of England. B. Quaritch.

Bruce. J. C. 1851. The Roman Wall: A Historical, Topographical, and Descriptive Account of the Barrier of the Lower Isthmus, Extending from the Tyne to the Solway, deduced from Numerous Personal Surveys. J. R. Smith.

Castleden. R. 2003. King Arthur: The Truth Behind the Legend. Routledge.

Dark. P. 1999. Pollen Evidence for the Environment of Roman Britain. Britannia, 30, 247-272. doi:10.2307/526681.

de la Bedoyere. G. 2010. Hadrian’s Wall: History and Guide. Amberley Publishing Limited.

Gillam. J. P., & Richmond. I. A. 1951. Recent excavations at Birdoswald. Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, new series, 50 (1950), pp. 63–8.

Hanson. W. 1996. Forest Clearance and the Roman Army. Britannia, 27, 354-358. doi:10.2307/527052.

Haverfield, F. 1898. Report of the Cumberland Excavation Committee, 1897, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, old series, 15, pp.172–90 Available at

Haverfield. F. 1898. Inscriptions preserved at Birdoswald, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, old series, 15, pp. 197–200. Available at

Haverfield. F. 1899. Report of the Cumberland Excavation Committee, 1898, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, old series, 15, pp. 345–64. Available at

Hodgson. E. 1898. Notes on the excavations on the line of the Roman Wall in Cumberland, in 1896 and 1897, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, old series, 15, pp. 201–10. Available at

Hodgson. E. 1899. Notes on the excavations on the line of the Roman Wall in Cumberland, in 1898, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, old series, 15, pp. 365–76. Available at

Mann. J. 1990. Hadrian’s Wall West of the Irthing: The Role of VI Victrix. Britannia, 21, 289-292. doi:10.2307/526305.

MacLauchlan. H. 1858. Memoir Written During a Survey of the Roman Wall, Through the Counties of Northumberland and Cumberland, in 1852-1854. Private Circulation.

McIntosh. F. 2014. Byzantine Coin from Birdoswald. The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), 174, 367-369. Retrieved December 22, 2020, from

Oswald. F. 1929. Bowls by Acavnissa from Birdoswald, Mainz and Cologne. The Journal of Roman Studies, 19, 120-124. doi:10.2307/297341.

Reno. F. D. 2007. The Historic King Arthur: Authenticating the Celtic Hero of Post-Roman Britain. McFarland.

Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 1866. Archaeologia Aeliana: Or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquities, Volumes 11-12. Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Symonds. M. 2020. Hadrian’s Wall: Creating Division. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Wilmott. T. 2013. Hadrian’s Wall: Archaeological Research by English Heritage 1976-2000. English Heritage.




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