Lanchester Roman Fort: Longovicium Roman Fort: Longchestre

 

 

  • Lanchester, Durham.
  • OSGB – NZ 159 469
  • Scheduled Monument.

PRIVATE PROPERTY.

 

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.

 

Aerial view of Lanchester Roman Fort

 

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

 

c.117-138/150        Built.

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.

284                           Occupied.

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.

1937                           Excavated.

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.

 

Sailors Diploma.
Westwood. B. 2018. Permanent Home for Sailor’s Diploma. Portable Antiquities Scheme. Available at https://finds.org.uk/counties/durham/permanent-home-for-sailors-diploma/.

 

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.

 

Longovicium The distinctive herringbone pattern walls of this Roman fort are much more readily visible in winter when the vegetation has died down. There is no public access so the road view is all you get.
By David Collins, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12541435

 

 

Recommended Reading

                  


References & Bibliography

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Westwood. B. 2018. Permanent Home for Sailor’s Diploma. Portable Antiquities Scheme. Available at https://finds.org.uk/counties/durham/permanent-home-for-sailors-diploma/.

William Whellan and Co. 1856. History, Topography, and Directory of the County Palatine of Durham: Comprising a General Survey of the County, with Separate Historical, Statistical, and Descriptive Sketches of All the Towns, Boroughs, Ports, Parishes, Chapelries, Townships, Villages, Wards, and Manors. To which are Subjoined A History and Directory of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and a List of the Seats of the Nobility and Gentry. Whittaker & Company.

 

 

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