The names listed above are all recorded in the past as being associated with this site.
Drumburgh sits between the larger forts of Aballava (Burgh by Sands) and Mais (Bowness on Solway).
This is a very small fort, and as you read on you will get a better picture as to its history. There is not a lot of information about it, and some of the archaeology assists us in understanding it a bit better. But I believe this is one of those sites that will never fully divulge its colourful past.
The site sits at a point that was once the terminus of the turf Hadrian’s Wall. It is situated on high ground overlooking the Solway Firth. This location was important as it was a place where ships could travel up the Solway Firth and have sheltered anchorage.
It has been discovered through excavations that a previous timber fort stood on the site. This timber fort was much larger than its later one, as one would expect for a fort marking the end of the turf wall.
The second, smaller fort, was built of stone and measured 82m by 96m and covered an area of 2.2 hectares. Hadrian’s Wall ran at its north side and measured only 2.95m thick.
The exact dates for the construction of the forts is unclear. It has been suggested that the later fort was constructed during the Antonine period, but until we obtain any finds which can give an absolute date, this is the best we can go by. Excavations have, however, shown us that the original larger timber fort had more than one phase of construction.
The gates of the fort are non-axial and it appears they were placed in the usual locations but not aligned to the cardinal points as they usually are.
The North Gate gave access beyond the Wall, its exact location is unknown. The East Gate’s location is also unknown, but it assumed to be located just north of the farmyard. The South Gate stood where there was a 3.65m gap within the defences, and the ditch near this gate had been infilled during the Roman occupation of the site. The West Gate was made of timber and just in front of its location archaeology has shown there was a short row of upright logs, forming a short palisade. The palisade trench measured 0.76m wide by 0.60 m deep.
The buildings of the fort were not set out in the usual plan. The granary was located in the north west corner, and this was buttressed. F. G. Simpson, who undertook excavations at the site in 1947 informs us that the plan of this site was ‘crowded and unusual’. Three barrack block have been identified in the south west of the fort.
It has been noted during all of the excavations (see timeline) that the buildings had extremely shallow foundations, and their stone was robbed out easily, in some cases just leaving traces of robber trenches.
In 1860 it was recorded that the ramparts and ditches were still visible around the site.
No vicus has been recorded, and further archaeological work in the form of LiDAR and geophysical surveys could answer this specific question, as to whether there was a vicus here or not.
The Notitia Dignitatum informs us that a detachment of the Second Cohort of Lingones was garrisoned here.
Drumburgh House now sits across the north wall of the site and is built from the stone of the fort. This was once a Medieval Grange and a new ditch for this Grange was cut across the old line of Hadrian’s Wall at the north west corner of the fort. This ditch was aligned to the cardinal points and measured 90ft heading north and then turning at 900 and headed east.
Drumburgh Castle is located outside the fort to its south west across the modern road.
Here is the known timeline for this site,
c.160 Presumed built.
1st-2nd C Dating from: Coins discovered at the site.
369-383 Dating from: Pottery sherds.
12th C Stone robbed from the site for building materials.
1539 Itinerary of John Leland makes mention of Drumburgh Castle and states ‘stones from the Pictish Wall were pulled down to build it’.
1859 Inscribed stone found at the site.
1899 Excavated by the Haverfield and Cumberland Excavation Committee.
1860 Rampart and ditch still visible around the site.
1880-1890 Roman coins found at the site dating from the 1st and 2nd centuries.
1921 Roman alters were noted around the area.
1947 Excavated by Simpson and Richmond.
1970 The British Museum acquired RIB 2053, and inscriber building stone, from the site.
1989 Watching Brief.
1999 Watching Brief.
This would be a wonderful site to investigate with research questions centering around the construction dates for the timber and stone built forts.
References & Bibliography
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