CASTLECARY ROMAN FORT
and CASTLECARY TOWER
Originally founded by General Agricola as one of a number of outposts to control the Clyde/Forth isthmus, Castlecary Roman Fort was later rebuilt as part of the Antonine Frontier. One of only two masonry fortifications on that line, its stone was later re-used to build Castlecary Tower.
A Roman Fort at Castlecary was first established in the AD 80s during the campaigns of General Gnaeus Julius Agricola. Since his appointment as the senior Roman military commander in Britannia, he had mounted successful attacks in Northern England and Wales. By AD 81 he had moved into Scotland but, before advancing on Grampian, consolidated his advance by establishing a number of forts along the Clyde/Forth isthmus. Unfortunately archaeological evidence for where these forts were located is scant. Based on a limited number of finds the following locations have been mooted; Old Kilpatrick, Balmuildy, Cadder, Mumrills and Castlecary itself. The fort was probably occupied throughout AD 82 and AD 83 during which Agricola was campaigning in the north culminating in his victory at the Battle of Mons Graupius and establishment of a Legionary base at Inchtuthil.
In AD 86 Rome shifted from a four to three Legion policy for Britannia with the Second Adiutrix Legion (Legio II Adiutrix Pia Fidelis) redeployed to Dacia (modern day Moldova). With the removal of the 5,000+ man Legionary force plus a large number of supporting Auxiliary regiments, sustaining an occupation of Scotland was no longer viable. The Romans commenced a phased withdrawal to the Solway/Tyne isthmus which was eventually consolidated into Hadrian's Wall in AD 122. Castlecary was abandoned as part of this general drawdown.
Hadrian died in AD 138 and his successor, perhaps for political reasons, pursued an expansionist policy. The Roman Legions once again moved into Scotland re-establishing the frontier along the Clyde/Forth isthmus. The Antonine Wall, running from Bo'ness to Old Kilpatrick, controlled this strip of land with forts spread along its length. Although the plan for the frontier's configuration was modified as the Wall was constructed, both original and revised intentions required a fort at Castlecary. Accordingly the fort here was rebuilt albeit now aligned with the rampart.
Castlecary Fort enclosed an area of three and a half acres. Configured in the traditional playing card shape, it was one of only two forts on the Antonine Wall that was built of stone rather than turf and timber (the other was Balmuildy). The fort was supported by an annexe - a fortified area attached to the eastern side of the defences - that provided a secure compound presumably for workshops and other military activities.
Occupied for the entire duration of the Antonine Wall, the fort was garrisoned by the First Cohort of Tungrians (cohors I Tungrorum milliaria peditata), a Regiment recruited in Northern Spain. At some point during the forts use they were replaced by the First Cohort of Batavians (cohors I Batavorum) from modern day Holland. Like nearby Rough Castle, there is some evidence of significant fighting at Castlecary between AD 155 and 166 which may well have accounted for the change in Regiment. The fort was abandoned when the Romans returned the frontier to Hadrian's Wall around AD 160 although it is possible there was periodic, perhaps expeditionary, use of Castlecary into the later second century.
The earliest references to a post-Roman fortification at Castlecary date from 1304 when Edward I ordered military forces to muster there. Perhaps this structure was a motte-and-bailey but evidence for its existence is scant. There was still some form of residence there in 1450 when a posthumous record relating to Robert Livingstone noted his forfeiture of the estate. It clearly returned to his family as his son, Henry Livingston, was credited with raising Castlecary Tower. Built re-using stone from nearby Castlecary Roman Fort, it was originally intended to be constructed in an 'L' plan configuration but either this was abandoned or else it was later partially demolished. The site was originally surrounded by a curtain wall.
Henry granted Castlecary Tower his son, Patrick, in 1491 and it remained with the Livingston family until the mid-seventeenth century. Thereafter it was sold to Patrick Baillie and later passed to James Dundas when he married Bethia Baillie. The Dundas family were prosperous merchants and opposed the Jacobite rebellions; accordingly Castlecary Tower was attacked and burnt during the 1715 rebellion. It was later restored and today the site is a private residence with no public access.
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Little is left of Castlecary Roman Fort as it was badly damaged by the building of the Railway and the removal of most of the stone for the construction of Castlecary Tower. Nevertheless traces of the defensive ditches and fragments of stone foundations can still be seen. Castlecary Tower is nearby but the site is private with only a glimpse of the structure possible through the trees.
Castlecary Roman Fort Layout. The fort was augmented by an annexe.
Castlecary Tower. The tower house was built from the stone remains of the Roman Fort.
Castlecary Fort is not sign-posted but is relatively easy to find off the B816 just before it crosses the M80. There is no car park but ample space for on-road parking. The tower is found by following the unnamed road under the Railway bridge that then runs parallel to the motorway. When the road turns and goes over another railway bridge, you are at the Tower.
Castlecary Roman Fort