Blog – Carvoran Roman Fort: Magnis: Magnae Carvetiorum: Banna?


  • Carvoran, Northumberland.
  • Scheduled Monument.
  • Monument Listing – 1010991.
  • OSGB – NY 66590 65785.
  • Vindolanda Trust.
  • Roman Army Museum.


Mentioned in both the Ravenna Cosmography and the Notitia Dignitatum, the fort guarded the intersection of the Stanegate and Maiden Way. It is situated on a crest of high ground and overlooks the Tipalt Valley and river.

Between Hadrian’s Wall and the fort was an area of marshy or swampy ground. This would have acted as an added defensive feature.


John Collingwood Bruce The Roman Wall A Description of the Mural Barrier of the North of England, 1867


Originally a previous timber fort was constructed which stood on the Stanegate frontier. Hadrian’s Wall takes a diversion around the north side of the fort, showing that the original site may have been larger than the remains that we see today.

The site measures 135m by 111m the fort covers an area of c.1.5 ha and remains today as a grass covered raised platform within the landscape.

Trial excavations at the south gate tell us that this entrance was of a single portal and was protected by a tower on either side.

Geophysical surveys have been undertaken which have given us a better understanding as to the site and its layout. For full details on this please go to

Those responsible for garrisoning the fort have thrown up a few variations, and are as follows,

Cohors I Hamiorum Sagittariourum

  • Also recorded as the First Regiment of Hamian Archers.
  • This Cohort originated from Syria and were comprised of archers.
  • They garrisoned the fort between 136-140 and 163-197.
  • During their 163-197 time at Carvoran they were commanded by M. Caecilius Donatianus, as recorded in an inscription from the site.


Cohors II Dalmatorum

  • There is hardly anything known of this unit prior to being mentioned in associated with Carvoran.
  • Also recorded as the Cohors II Asterum Dalmatorum and the Cohors Secunda Dalmatorum Magnis.
  • They are recorded as garrisoning the fort in the 3rd century.


Numerous Magnensium – RIB 1825

  • This unit is mentioned on the RIB 1825 inscription which has now vanished. Jarrett tells us that,
  • .the only evidence for the existence of this unit which is clearly named from the fort; but it does not seem to have been the sole garrison at any time, unless this is an informal title for another unit such as coh. II Dalmatarum. (Jarrett 1994).


During the 19th century when antiquarians visited the site, they noted the following,

Stukeley noted, in Bruce, when he visited the site in 1725,

A little upon the south side of the Wall was a great Roman city and castle. We traversed the stately ruins: it stood upon a piece of high ground, about four hundred foot square: had a wall and ditch; vestiges of houses and buildings all over within and without…..(Bruce 1851).

Bruce then tells us of visits by other antiquarians in the 19th century,

Of late the rubbish of numerous rooms, the walls of which remain to about an average height of three feet, has been cleared out quite to the floors. The largest building that has been opened is just within the south wall, and near the south west corner of the station. It was a large hypocaust, and several rooms floored with bath cement, laid on large flat stones, and supported by pillars, many of the stones of which, by the lines and moldings upon them, had been evidently used in former buildings.

The mouth of the furnace of the hypocaust was deeply reddened and corrode by fire, and one of the flues covered with a firm arch, secured by a regular key stone. In 1830 the walls of one of the rooms, when first exposed, were so strongly and beautifully painted that their colours glittered in the sun like stained glass. In the next year the alter of the Prefect of the Hamian Archers was found, standing upon a pediment six inches thick…. More recently the remains of the station have been obliterated, its whole area having been subjected to the plough. (Bruce 1851).

Gutted! So much has been lost under the plough and for building materials! The north west tower is the only visible feature left that can be viewed currently. Excavations are expensive and hopefully, soon, funds can be made available to investigate the more interesting features seen on the geophysical survey.


Turret near Carvoran roman fort. The engraving is from Bruce, John Collingwood (1885).


A well has been located at the site, and within it were recovered antlers and a 54.5cm long spearhead.

The geophysical survey revealed a vicus located to the east and west of the fort. From the layout of the buildings it is believed that the remains represent residential, storage and workshop buildings. So much more to be interpreted and investigated!

This site, like many others throughout the country, has undergone major destruction over the years for building materials and land grabbing. Nearby Blenkinsopp Castle was constructed out of much of the forts remains in the 14th century. How magnificent the Bath House would look if it had been left in situ – with the above description you can build up quite an image in the imagination!


Here is a timeline for the site.

NOTE: There are conflicting dates for the garrisons of the site and these are marked with a *


c.80 AD                    Constructed as part of the Stanegate.

90-91                        Dating from: Bronze measuring container dates from.

122                            Included as part of the Hadrian’s Wall defences.

c.122*                       Garrisoned by Cohors I Hamiorum Sagittariourum.

136                            Late: Garrison Commanded by Flavius Secundus.

136-138                   Rebuilt in stone.

136-138*                 Garrisoned by Cohors I Hamiorum Sagittariourum.

136-137                  Stone wall constructed around the site.

162-165                  Garrisoned by Cohors I Hamiorum Sagittariourum.

3rd C                       Garrisoned by Cohors II Dalmatorum.

1344                       Stone taken from the fort to construct Blenkinsop Castle.

1599                       Recorded by antiquarians.

1732                       Recorded by Horsley – Antiquarian.

1766                       RIB 1825 recorded as being seen by antiquarian William Hutchinson.

1830                      Walls of the Bath House still standing and the hypocaust and flues still visible. Painted plaster on the walls which stood to a height of three feet.

1856                      Urn containing cremated bone was uncovered east of the fort.

1915                       Bronze measuring container found in the marshy area north of the fort.

1966                      Field Investigation.

1972                      Site purchased by the Vindolanda Trust.

1976                      Aerial Photograph.

1985                      Ditches recorded around the site.

1988                      Field Investigation.

1997                     Scheduled.

1999                     Carvoran Project.

1999                     Geophysical Survey.

2000                     Geophysical Survey.

2002                     Trial Excavations by the Vindolanda Trust.

2011                     The Roman Army Museum remodeled and reopened to the public.


This fort has had a great history and lets hope that soon it can be investigated further so we can add to its timeline in Britain’s past. Donations to the Vindolanda Trust can be made here –

The Trust does so much to assist in our understanding of our Roman past. They recently lost Professor Anthony Birley 1937-2020, a huge loss to the world of archaeology too. Visit the site, visit Vindolanda and assist in preserving our Roman heritage.


LiDAR showing area – Note the ? to the lower left hand side.



References & Bibliography.

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