Lanchester its between the forts of Vindomora (Ebchester) and Vinovia (Binchester) 32 km south of Hadrian’s Wall, in the area of Britain known to the Romans as Britannia Inferior (Lower Britain) and this area was governed from Eboracum (York).
The fort sat upon a ridge overlooking the countryside on three sides. It was the typical rectangular shape of Roman forts measuring 164 meters by 140 meters, covering an area of 2.3 hectares. It had the usual four gateways set in at the cardinal points, with the North and South gates offset from the centre. The fort has natural protection from sloping ground to the South, West and North, and on the east traces of a double ditch have been found measuring approximately 0.5 meters deep. There was a berm (space between the ditches) measuring 3 meters wide. The site had rounded corners and it was recorded in 1938 that it originally had 10 wall turrets, it also gave a description of the gateways and the repair work undertaken,
[Gateways included] double portals flanked by guard chambers…..rebuilding of the fort wall, a new floor in the turret, and repair work in the east guard-chamber of the south gate (Roman Britain 1937).
There were the usual buildings included within the fort, 8 barrack blocks, a principia, stables, bath house, commanders house, and granaries. More on the buildings within forts later this week! The buildings were constructed of stone and several them still survive in the form of foundations and surface rubble. Due to the archaeological evidence it is suggested that the fort may have acted as a possible armory. With iron slag being found around the site this could be an indication of part of the forts function in its time.
There is evidence of a vicus outside of the fort which will be covered later this week when we look at the archaeology of the site. And a cremation cemetery has also been identified which lays to the west of the fort.
The fort faced Dere Street, an important Roman road running from Eboracum (York) to the Antonine Wall in Scotland.
The sites water supply was fed from two aqueducts. One of them being the best-preserved Roman aqueducts in Britain today.
The fort was garrisoned at different times by XX Valeria Victrix (20th Legion) and Cohorts of I Vardulorum, I Lingonum, and I Lingonum Gordiana.
Here is a timeline for the site
175-178 Dating from: Inscription found at the site RIB 1083.
218-222 Dating from: Alter uncovered in 1986.
238 Dating from: Stone inscribed from the Cohors Primae Lingonum (First Cohort of Lingones) and Cohors
238-244 I Lingonum were garrisoned at the fort under the command of Marcus Aurelius Quirino. Inscription found at the site RIB 1091, 1092.
3rd C Beginning: Dedication slab dated to has been uncovered.
4th C Beginning of: Reoccupied by detachments of troops from the Suebians and Lusitanians.
c.5th C The fort was abandoned.
1700 Before: Dedication stone found at the site.
1700 Seven dedication items found at the site.
1715 Dedication item found at the site.
1716 Dedication item found at the site.
1730 Dedication item found at the site.
1732 Three dedication items found at the site.
1735 Two dedication items found at the site.
1788 Dedication item found at the site.
1805 Dedication item found at the site.
1807 Dedication item found at the site.
1811 Dedication item found at the site.
1813 Dedication item found at the site.
1822 The aqueduct to the fort was mentioned for the first time.
1873 Two dedication items found at the site.
1875 Dedication item found at the site, RIB 1089, then later lost. At this date also the dedication item found in 1811, RIB 1095, was also lost.
1896 Dedication item found at the site.
1897 Dedication item RIB 1096 was lost.
1954 Field Investigation.
1974 Field Investigation.
1975 Excavated. A large building was uncovered believed to have been a workshop.
1984 Oval lead seal found at the site.
1986 Alter uncovered dating to around 218-222. An inscription says To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, the First Cohort of Lingones part mounted[set this up] under the command of  Fulvius Felix, prefect.
2008 Geophysical survey revealed a vicus outside of the fort.
2016 A Sailors Discharge Diploma was uncovered at the site.
Remains from Lanchester are still evident today, and it was also recorded in the 19th century that there was a subterranean chamber in the south east corner of the fort which had steps leading down to it.
As with most historic sites across Britain, in the past stone was robbed to make other buildings, and Lanchester is no different. Its stone was robbed to make a local farmhouse and to repair local stone walls.
There is quite a lot of archaeology associated with the site, including ceramic finds, spindle whorl, Sailors Discharge Diploma, several dedication slabs, alters etc., the remains of buildings and the still standing walls, which in some areas are at a height of around 3 meters and measuring 1.5 meters thick. There is also evidence of a fire having ripped through the fort,
The red ashes of the basilica and bath, the vitrified flooring, and the metallic substances evidently run by fire, which occur amongst the ruins, form a strong indication that the structure perished in flames. (Collingwood 1851).
As with several old Roman forts, this one also saw some reuse following Roman withdrawal, but in what sense and for how long is unknown. One thing is for certain though, due to lack of intrusion this is an amazing site that is beginning to share some of its secrets of the past and I for one am looking forward to further archaeological work and investigations both within and without her walls.
References & Bibliography
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