Kilgram Bridge, North Yorkshire

Introduction

This research report provides information regarding the recent finding of a Roman paved ford at Kilgram, close to Masham in North Yorkshire. The ford is well preserved thanks to it being “protected” by it’s use as a foundation for the Norman bridge built directly over it. Due to this, it is one of the most well preserved Roman paved fords in Britain. This report describes the fords construction and it’s relationship with regards to the system of Roman roads in the area.

Location

The ford sits directly under Kilgram Bridge in North Yorkshire. Grid reference SE191859.

Kilgram Bridge

Kilgram bridge itself is of known ancient construction, and is believed to date from the early 12th century – probably built around 1145 AD by the Cistercian Monks who founded Jervaulx Abbey nearby. Local myth tells how the bridge was built by the Devil after a pact made with the local population. Kilgram Bridge is first mentioned in literature in 1301, however Kevin Cale, in his assessment of the bridge suggests an early 12th century date to be appropriate (4).

The Romans In Mashamshire

In 1720, the cartographer, Warburton created some of the first extensive maps of Yorkshire and Northumberland. Uniquely, he took pains to record the course of any Roman roads that were still visible, and recorded a Roman road which travelled from Grewelthorpe to Catterick (North Yorkshire). The road is recorded as passing close to Masham, through Kilgram (shown above), where it crossed the River Ure, continuing to Catterick via Newton le Willows and Hornby. This road was confirmed by the antiquarian John Fisher (1) some 100 years later however it has had little recognition in modern times. The course of this road is still visible to the south of Kilgram.

The construction of the ford will be described later, it’s size would tend to indicate this road was an important communication route during Roman times, it’s destination – Catterick being a known major centre will have been an important regional focal point, other sites close to the course of the route include a small camp at Roomer Common and a settlement of probable Iron Age origin close to Horsecourse Hill, Grewelthorpe. Little is known of these sites.

Kilgram Bridge from the air – Multimap.com

Kilgram Bridge in 1856 – OS map from old-maps.co.uk.

Clues that lie below – The Paved Ford

Dating of the ford

Without excavation evidence a firm conclusion as to the period of construction can only be arrived at using evidence as to the visible context of the ford – it’s location under Kilgram Bridge, and it’s manner of construction.

The fact that is sits under a Norman structure, known to exist from at least 1301, and probably built within a few years of the founding of the nearby Jervaulx Abbey – 1145 would tend to suggest it was built in a period prior to the Norman conquest. Other factors such as the building of the bridge directly over the structure indicate it had fallen out of use some time prior to the building of the bridge.

The use of lewis holes in it’s construction, as well as water hard mortar are clear indicators of a Roman origin, these features not re-occurring in Britain until long after the date of the bridge which rests upon it. The extensive use of steel straps to bond the structure together give further evidence of a Roman date. No such structures are known to have been built in either the Norman or Saxon periods.

Further evidence is suggested by the relationship with the Roman road reported by Warburton and confirmed by Fisher.

Taking this evidence together, it seems unlikely that this structure could be anything other than that of Roman origin. Fortunately, it’s watery context means that the wooden parts of its construction are still extant, and perhaps confirmation of it’s date can be obtained in future with the use of dendrochronology.

Construction of the ford

The structure of the ford sits directly under Kilgram Bridge. It is composed of large sandstone slabs, which are well squared, and vary in size from approx 70cm x 150cm to 45cm x 90cm. The slabs are closely laid across the river to form a ford approx 8 m in width and 24m in length, from one bank of the river to the other. Each slab is held together by white mortar.

Built out of sandstone, these very regular and in places massive stone blocks cross the river. The bridge uses it as a foundation.

Along the outside of the paved ford, a regular series of iron straps, held in place by whitened lead can be seen.

In places lengths of timber and the contents of postholes remain intact. Also to be noted is the mortar holding the stones in place.

Along the outside edges of the ford, along its length, a series of iron straps (opus revinctum) serve to further secure it’s structure. These are probably be held in place by now whitened lead, which is typical of Roman construction. Although the majority of the ford is hidden by a covering of marine plantlife, which has the effect of staining the stone red, in places a number of lewis holes – used to lift the stones into place can be seen.

The outer edges of the ford are protected from erosion by the river by a length of wooden plank. The whole structure is held in place by wooden piles approx 20cm in diameter, placed in approx 2m intervals.

One unusual feature of the ford, is that it broadens in width about two thirds of its length towards it’s southern end. It is assumed that this was to accommodate the direction of approach from the south.

Although it is generally considered that the Roman’s used fords extensively as a means of crossing rivers, paved fords are so far extremely rare finds in Britain, in his book “Roman Roads” Richard Bagshawe mentions only three to be known, two of which have been recently lost due to flood damage and development. The ford at Kilgram sits under an already scheduled monument and should be around for some time yet.

Lewis hole.

The only known paved fords in Britain are Roman, the width of this one compares favorably with the Roman ford at Kempston, Beds. And it’s construction appears to have been even more significant. The ford at Kempston apparently lacking the Opus Revinctum.

Known paved fords of Roman origin

There are three known Roman paved fords in Britain (others have been identified but have not been verified). These are at Iden Green (Kent), Poddington (Beds) and Kempston (Beds). The former two are small fords which cross streams. Only Kempston crosses a large river and as such should provide the closest comparison of the construction techniques used.

Discussion

Whilst research is still ongoing, the ford under Kilgram Bridge is highly likely to have been of Roman construction. The building methods and material used, the size of the ford and the known reference to a Roman road passing over this spot all point to this structure being of Roman origin. If this is so, then this ford is one of only four Roman paved fords known in Britain. Furthermore, it is potentially larger and more ornate than the largest Roman ford so far known – Kempston, Beds.

The width of the ford – approx 8m, compares favorably with the average width of major Roman roads in Britain of 22 pedes (6.5m) and importantly, is almost exactly the width of nearby Dere Street (26 pedes, 7.7m) and again marks this route as being of high importance during Roman times.

Of the three Roman mentioned by Bagshawe – Iden Green (Kent), Poddington (Beds) and Kempston (Beds). Only Kempston crosses a large river (The former two are small fords which cross streams.) and would have provided the closest comparison of the construction techniques used, however this was destroyed by recent floods.

The width of the ford – approx 8m, compares favourably with the average width of major Roman roads in Britain of 22 pedes (6.5m) and is almost exactly the width of nearby Dere Street (26 pedes, 7.7m). However, little is known with regard to the relationship between the width of Roman paved fords and the width of the roads they carried..

References

1. History of Mashamshire, John Fisher, 1860.
2. Roman Roads in Britain. Hugh Davies, 2002 Tempus.
3. Roman Roads, Richard W. Bagshawe, 2000, Shire.
4. Kevin Cale Archaeological Consultant – Kilgram Bridge (assessment and evaluation reports) 1998. English Heritage.

Housesteads, Northumberland

Images from Housesteads

Greta Bridge Roman Fort, County Durham

Southern rampart ditches.

Southern Rampart ditches.

Earthwork outside of the main fort are by the river Greta.

“The position at Greta Bridge presents many points of similarity with Bowes, but the rectangular area inclosed is 3 acres, and the earthworks are more perfect, espacially on the south, where there is a fine double vallum and ditch with well-marked entrance 25ft in width. The fort lies between the River Greta and the Tutta Beck, just south of their junction, while the Rom,an Road skirts its northern edge, of which vestiges still remain in the gardens of the houses there. The eastern side descends in a double scarp to the low, marshy bank of the Greta, while on the west, where the rampart has been lowered, the slope is more gentle towards the stream and the existing road occupies the place of the original ditch. The southern rampart, as at Bowes, shows a core of stone.” From Victoria Histories 1912

Catterick Roman Fort, North Yorkshire

The Fort at Catterick. It has an unusual shape due to multiple fort plans being overlayed on it.

Originally it was a Roman fort, but a settlement soon sprang up outside the fort, which soon dominated the fort, and Catterick became one of the most important ‘Small towns’ in the north of Britain. In 1959 the new bypass went straight through the town, destroying the ‘mansio’ or posting station that was at its heart. Excavations over the past 40 years have produced a mass of material, which we here pull together to unveil the mystery of Roman Catterick

Statue of Vulcan found at Catterick

Grave of Roman cross-dressing eunuch priest uncovered in dig
By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent
(Filed: 22/05/2002)

The grave of a castrated priest who dressed in women’s clothing and jewellery in fourth century Yorkshire has been unearthed by archaeologists. (English Heritage press release 2002).

Peter Wilson, senior archaeologist at English Heritage, with the skull and face mask of the priest
Buried in a matching jet necklace and bracelet, the young, slightly built man is thought to have been a eunuch follower of the fertility goddess Cybele.

He is one of the few Roman eunuchs ever discovered in Britain and highlights how even the northernmost reaches of the empire were relatively cosmopolitan 1,700 years ago. The finds come from the bustling Roman town of Cataractonium which lies close to present-day Catterick. Part of the town lies under a racecourse while some of it was destroyed when the A1 dual carriageway was built in the 1950s. Although excavations began in 1958 and carried on until 1998, the significance of many of the finds had been fully appreciated only recently. The skeleton was buried at a grave at Bainesse, a farm close to Catterick and once an outlying settlement of the Roman town. The man appeared to have died in his youth, although the cause of death is not apparent. The jet necklace and bracelet, a shale armlet and a bronze expanding anklet contained about 600 stones. When the remains were first discovered in the 1980s, archaeologists assumed that the skeleton was of a woman but subsequent tests revealed it to be that of a male.

The findings are described in the two-volume Cataractonium: A Roman Town and its Hinterland, edited by Dr Pete Wilson, a senior archaeologist at English Heritage. “He is the only man wearing this array of jewellery who has ever been found from a late Roman cemetery in Britain,” said Dr Wilson in York yesterday. “In life he would have been regarded as a transvestite and was probably a gallus, one of the followers of the goddess Cybele who castrated themselves in her honour.” Cybele was imported from Anatolia in the 3rd century BC and became a Roman state deity. The Roman town developed from a military fort on Dere Street, an important route for legions heading north. Archaeologists have discovered shops, leather workshops, elaborate baths and evidence of an influx of foreigners who left behind continental-style brooches.

Two of the finest finds include a statue of the smith god Vulcan, and an enamelled flask that once contained perfume. A pottery mask, probably used for religious theatre, was also discovered. Dr Wilson, who pulled together 40 years of research for the books, said: “This portrait of a constantly changing community would never have emerged but for the 20th century road construction which finally destroyed the remains of its buildings.”

Cataractonium (Catterick)

A fort was established in the later first century at Catterick, perhaps under Agricola, where Dere Street crossed the river Swale. It was abandoned by the early second century, although a small town occupied the site from the mid second to the fourth century. The writer of one tablet (343), perhaps a trader supplying the army, is concerned for the delivery of a batch of hides at Catterick. As well as this letter, the large deposit of tannery waste found in the annexe of the early fort suggests that Catterick produced leather for much of the army of the northern frontier.

Inscriptions from Catterick:

Deus qui vias et semitas commentus est (God who devised roads and paths)

Catterick: altar by Titus Irdas, singularis consularis, and restored by Q. Varius Vitalis, beneficiarius consularis, in 191. RIB 725
Matres Domesticae (Household Mother Goddesses)

Catterick: altar by Julius Victor. JRS l (1960), 237, no. 6
Hueeteris, and Mogons Vitiris

Catterick: altar to Vheteris by Aurelius Mucianus. RIB 727

Suria, see also Ceres Dea Suria

Catterick: altar by Gaius N[…] O[…], beneficiarius. RIB 726


Part of a Theatrical Mask
recovered from Catterick.

Barnard Castle Roman Ford, County Durham

This page is an initial research report for the Roman Ford on the River Tees at Barnard Castle, the specific place name – Startforth is a corruption of “Street Ford” meaning a ford for a Roman road which crossed the Tees here. Current research indicates the ford was last recorded more than one hundred years ago, the low water of the summer of 2003 allowed our researchers a clear view of the ford as it meets the south bank of the Tees. This note records our research so far. We have contacted the SMR (Durham) and are waiting for further notes.

Plan of the ford structure – 16/08/03

The ford is located some 150 metres upstream of the road bridge to Barnard Castle across the river Tees. It appears to cross the Tees at a diagonal to the river, joining the northern bank approximately at the point matching the location of the modern weir. A relatively large section of the ford is still visible, covering an area of approximately 10m by 3m. It is highly likely that more of the ford still survives, and is simply buried under the river deposited stones.

Construction

The ford is constructed of well squared stone blocks, these measure a pretty much uniform 30cm wide, but the lengths vary between 1.2m and 30cm. The ford has been constructed in a highly uniform way, the paving slabs apparently being foreshortened where appropriate to provide a pavement constructed of interlaced masonry. Only the upriver – western edge of the ford is visible, the eastern side being covered by a thick stone scatter, however, the overall structure of the ford seems more or less intact and there is every reason to believe that under this scatter more of the ford will be hidden.

Along the upriver side of the ford is a large wooden beam, this has been held in place using steel pins placed a regular intervals along it’s length – 1m or so. Only a single 3m length of the beam was apparent, this seemed to be an original feature and would appear to be odd, given the apparent structural nature of the beam – tying the individual stones together at a point of apparent stress and weakness. This may have been accounted for by the possible use of concrete as a mortar further along the fords length (7m or so), however, the depth of water was too great to allow for an accurate assesment to be made.

The ford was visible for 10m of it’s length at the time of the site survey, which was an August day following a long period with little rain, all of the ford was covered in water, indicating that this was a fortunate sighting of this rare object.

Relationship with the weir

Two points were noticed with regards to the ford. Firstly, the ford seemed to lack a number of the strengthening features which has been observed on other river fords – opus revinctum, mortar (see note above) and wooden piles. Secondly, there seemed an obvious relationship between the ford, and an ancient weir at the same location. The weir, we have discovered, belonged to Ullathorne’s Mill (Bridge End Mill – shoe thread manufacturing), which was built in 1798. Initial investigations suggest that the weir was built immediately in front of the ford, it appears to sit side by side with the ford (i.e. does not overlay it) and indeed seems to be contemporary with it. The above pictures show the weir before it was destroyed (cause unknown), and the lie of the ford plotted on a current photograph. In addition to this, the ford was surrounded by Squared masonry blocks, which were apparently debris from the weir – some of these had steel straps which may have been opus revinctum (see below).

Either this ford is modern, or the weir was Roman.

The above pictures show (left) a heavey stone block, probably part of the destroyed weir sitting ontop of the ford, and, (right) this stone construction, was part of the weir and seems to be more or less in situ, just upriver of the ford, it comprises of several large (1 ton+) blocks held together with at least five iron straps, detail of which shown below.

Scattered

Research Notes

Startforth Ford; Roman Ford..
Site of the Roman Ford across the Tees on the Bowes(Lavatrae), to Binchester(Vinovia), road. The place name Startforth is likely to be a corruption of “Street Ford”. The road has been observed twice, in 1839 and in 1886 during construction work on the Barnard Castle Gas Works site on the north bank of the Tees. The road was observed some 6 feet below the then ground surface and measured some 12 feet across. The road was first observed to be made of limestone rock placed edgeways and compacted with sandstone fragments. Later it was seen to be paved with stone blocks measuring 15inches square and arranged diagonally to the course of the road. It has been suggested that this represents the surfacing of the ford{Ref.1}.

SMR number: 3859
General historical period: Roman – from AD70 to C5

OS grid reference to nearest 1km: NZ0416

Further reading: {ref. 1} Margary, I.D.. Roman Roads In Britain. SMR, 1973. P436.
{ref. 2} Wright, R.P.. Archaeologia Aeliana. SMR, Series 4, No.14, Page 194.
{ref. 3} Wright, R.P.. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. SMR, Volume 33, Page 227.

The village of Startforth is situated on the south bank of the Tees, opposite Barnard Castle, at a point where the old Roman road from Bowes crossed the river, and hence its name of Stratford (corrupted in later times into Startforth), that is the ford on the street or Roman road. A stone bridge of two arches, supposed to have been built in 1569, and partially rebuilt after the flood of 1771, connects the village with Barnard Castle. – Bulmers directory, 1890.

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Troutbeck Roman Camps, Cumbria

Troutbeck Roman Camps – Cumbria

At Troutbeck are three Roman marching camps and a small fort. This could be either a training camp or signs of three campaigns and a later fort.

Unfortunately, as with most marching camps, only tantalising glimpses of the earthworks remain, so much so, that we have been unable to get images of the earthworks of the largest camp (D).

Air view from Multimap.com. A is within the area of the first camp, the second camp is below B, the fort is to the left of C, and the D is within the area of the third and largest camp.

Images from Camp A

Part of the eastern rampart.

The southern rampart.

Another view of the southern Rampart.

Images from Camp B

Part of the eastern rampart. Although very much flattened, these seemed to be multiple rampart and ditch in construction, which is out of keeping with typical camp design. This is marked as a camp on the 50,000 scale OS map.

Images from the fort (C)

This is the eastern rampart of the fort.

Eboracum, York, North Yorkshire

Altar from Micklegate, York.

“To the African, Italian and Gallic Mother Goddesses Marcus Minucius Audens, soldier of the 6th Legion Victrix and a pilot of the 6th Legion, willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfilled his vow”.

Audens will have been responsible for guiding vessels up the Ouse to York.

Fremington Hagg Cavalry Hoard, North Yorkshire

Fremington Hagg Roman Cavalry Hoard

The Fremington hoard was found sometime prior to 1833 and the objects were presented to the Yorkshire museum, further items however, were later presented to the British Museum in 1880 and there has be conjecture as to if both collections were from the same, or different hoards. Both however are attributed to Fremington Hagg and can therefore due to there similar constrution and design be treated as from the same deposition.

The hoard comprises of pendants, roundels and other objects related to “horse furniture” of Roman origin, which Graham Webster has suggested were of the period AD60-70, and were probably lost by a Roman force at a time prior to the conquest of Brigantia.

This is the strongest evidence of pre-conquest battle between the Romans and the Brigantes, in his paper “A hoard of Roman equipment from Fremington Hagg (Soldier and civilian in Roman Yorkshire, Leicester University Press 1971, p.107.) Graham Webster states: ” The Fremington Hagg Hoard is therefore most likely to be pre-Flavian and cannot be associated with the conquest of Brigantia in A.D. 71. There were, however, earlier incursions of Roman troops into this area. Tacitus records the events following the divorce of Venutius, when Cartimandua was kept on her throne by force of Roman arms, and fighting may have continued until the end of the governorship of Gallus (Annals, xii, 40). The circumstances of the find, although our total knowledge at present confined to the name of the find spot, would nevertheless seem to indicate a cache of loot taken after an engagement and hidden by a follower of Venutius, never to be recovered. It is even possible to imagine that the warrior may have been deceived by the sparkling, tinned sheen of the trappings into thinking of them as solid silver. It is difficult to conceive of this hoard being buried under Roman auspices.”

This find, together with the earthwork dykes thrown up to separate Fremington from the Reeth valley, an area which was probably heavily engaged in lead mining at the time and was certainly an Iron Age centre would tend to indicate that this is the site of the first major engagement between Cartimandua and Venutius, the conjecture being that Venutius by force of otherwise had taken the area of Reeth, which was rich in the resources needed to fund his revolt against Cartimandua. Cartimandua, feeling the effect of this loss of territory, retaliated by attacking Venutius at Reeth. After laying seige to the Reeth area, Cartimandua found herself in difficulty, possibly pinned down in the Fremington area (Fremington Castle Manor, a folly, may have been built over a much earlier earthwork), and needed to send for Roman help. The Roman’s, realising the need for a rapid response, sent a cohort of cavalry to mount a rescue operation, which was a success, but not without the loss of Roman lives.

Catterick Marching Camp, North Yorkshire

Roman Marching Camp – Catterick, North Yorkshire

OS Ref: SE231991
OSMap: Landranger 99

Size; (160+ x c.230 m) 9 acres (3.6 ha). Discovered only recently by air survey and geophysics, this camp lies on the alluvial plain of the River Swale, on the south bank of the river just north east of Catterick racecourse. The camp lies some 350m to the west of Dere Street. Only the north east corner angle, a length of the north rampart and a longer section of the eastern defences have been recorded. There is a gateway with a possible external titulum located about mid-way along the northern side, other than this the camp is poorly defined and not easy to interpret. Other possible related earthworks covering a possible south west corner have also been identified.

Rey Cross Marching Camp, Cumbria

Images from Rey Cross.

Rey Cross is one of the largest marching camps known in Britain, it is large enough to hold more than two legions (and therefore did) and has been dated to c. 71 A.D.

The Roman marching camp at Rey Cross is split by the A 66 trunk road. The camp is large having an area of about 20 acres. It is in the shape of a square, each side roughly 300 m long. It is one of the best preserved of its type in the country and the visitor can easily trace its boundaries by foot. It has a number of entrances, each protected by a small rampart called a tutuli which protected against a frontal assault against the gate. Its size shows that it was used as a temporary camp for a legion. This was very probably the resting place of the ninth legion, under the command of Cerialis, after the Battle of Stanwick in AD 72.

Research Notes

BOWES (NY 901121) C. J. Dunn reports that at the bottom of a steep cliff south of Rey Cross stony banks represent a linear settlement of small enclosures and hut circles. perhaps of Romano-British date. On Bowes Moor 500m to the northeast a small oval enclosure with an entrance on the south has been partly destroyed by a former quarry.Yorkshire Arch. Journal. Vol. 49 1977, p.17.

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