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Beckfoot Roman Fort


As on the line of the Wall, forts were situated along the length of the Western Sea Defences. Beckfoot, known to the Romans as Bibra, was the second (assuming Kirkbride also performed that function in the north) and housed a 500 strong infantry garrison which at one stage was the Cohors II Pannoniorum - a unit raised in Czechoslovakia. Nothing remains visible from ground level today but the view across the Solway is impressive after the flatter vistas seen more recently on the route. Keeping heading south along the B5300.

ARTICLE CONTENTS:


SECTION 1: Introduction

- Visiting Rome’s Northern Frontier

- Components of the Frontier


SECTION 2: History of the Wall

- Empire Without Limits

- A Frontier - but Where?

- Holding the Line


SECTION 3: The Wall east to west as it exists today

- South Shields to Benwell Hill (including Newcastle)

- Benwell Hill to Rudchester (including Heddon-on-the-Wall)

- Rudchester to Halton Chesters

- Halton Chesters to Chesters

- Chesters to Carrawburgh

- Carrawburgh to Housesteads

- Housesteads to Great Chesters (including Steel Rigg and Cawfields)

- Great Chesters to Birdoswald (including Walltown)

- Birdoswald to Castlesteads

- Castlesteads to Stanwix

- Stanwix to Burgh-by-Sands (including Carlisle)

- Burgh-by-Sands to Bowness-on-Solway

- Western Sea Defences

TRAVEL AND PARKING

This section starts in Burgh-by-Sands and passes through to Bowness all served by a rural road with some laybys. There is also a small car park/enhanced layby just after Bowness.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (Opens in new window)

On this section of the frontier there is one staffed site - Maryport Roman Museum. Nevertheless information can be accessed at (link opens in new window):

- Maryport Roman Fort and Museum


The museum at Maryport is overlooked by far too many tourists despite having some amazing exhibits.

GETTING THERE


LAT/LONG

OS GRID REF

POSTCODE

Bowness-on-Solway Roman Fort (Maia)

54.9528N 3.2164W

NY 2219562694

CA7 5AF

Milefort 1

54.9456N 3.2369W

NY 2086561914

N/A

Milefort 3

54.9325N 3.2719W

NY 1860060494

CA7 5AG

Milefort 4

54.9263N 3.2889W

NY 1749759825

CA7 5AQ

Milefort 5

54.9134N 3.2949W

NY 1708358404

CA7 5AQ

Kirkbride Roman Fort

54.9031N 3.2048W

NY 2284057149

CA7 5HX

Milefort 9

54.8938N 3.3530W

NY 1331956292

CA7 4QU

Milefort 12

54.8599N 3.3965W

NY 1045652577

CA7 4HL

Beckfoot Roman Fort (Bibra)

54.8283N 3.4165W

NY 0910149078

N/A

Milefort 15

54.8216N 3.4234W

NY 0864348348

N/A

Milefort 16

54.8092N 3.4297W

NY 0821146971

N/A

Milefort 17

54.7971N 3.4374W

NY 0768445638

N/A

Milefort 20

54.7564N 3.4352W

NY 0773941112

CA15 6PB

Milefort 21

54.7468N 3.4506W

NY 0672440056

CA15 6SL


Milefort 22

54.7362N 3.4648W

NY 0578138897

N/A

Milefort 23

54.7280N 3.4851W

NY 0445538014

N/A

Maryport Roman Fort (Alauna)

54.7208N 3.4958W

NY 0375137227

CA15 6JD

Milefort 25

54.7039N 3.5088W

NY 0287635362


CA15 8PA

Milefort 21

Milefort 21


Lat/Long:  54.7468N 3.4506W

Grid Ref:   NY 0672440056

Postcode: CA15 6SL

MILEFORTS

Whilst the terrain of the Cumberland coast offers good vistas and an appreciation of the siting of the Mileforts and turrets, only one fortlet (number 21) is visible and presented to the public.

Articles > Hadrian’s Wall HADRIAN’S WALL: THE REAL ROUTE Part 18: Western Sea Defences (Cumbrian Coast)

Key: BLUE MARKER = Fort Location    RED MARKER = Known Milecastle/Milefort Location    GREEN MARKER = Point of Interest

THE WALL EAST TO WEST: WESTERN SEA DEFENCES


What Can Be Seen


This final section on Hadrian’s Wall covers the defences that ran down the west coast of Cumberland certainly as far as Maryport and possibly as far as Ravenglass. As with the rest of the western section of the frontier, coastal erosion has taken its toll and virtually nothing remains of this once extensive element of Rome’s northern border. The route detail starts on quite rural roads getting increasingly busier to the south. The National Trail, which ended at Bowness, does not encompass any element of this section.

BACK TO ARTICLES MENU >


The Frontier Continues


The west coast defences that formed as much part of the frontier as the Wall itself are often overlooked. Many complete the walk for the coast to coast experience and continuing half way down the Cumberland shore is superfluous to their achievement. And for those interested in the Wall for its own sake, it loses much of its appeal when there is so little visible and the terrain is less captivating than the crags of the Whin Sill. But it is worth experiencing at least some elements of this section because with the primary threat (in the second century AD at least) coming from the west, these defences were critical to the viability of the frontier.


Turrets and Milefortlets


The configuration of the frontier here remains much of a muchness with the Wall. Mileforts, effectively milecastles but without the Wall connection, were situated every Roman mile whilst two turrets stood between them. Numbering by modern historians mirrors that on the Wall - starting from Milefort 1 in the North East which is situated a Roman mile from the location of Milecastle 80 and later the fort at Bowness-on-Solway(Maia). A single bank and ditch surmounted by a wooden palisade seems to have run between the Mileforts. Keep following the unnamed road that led you through and out of Solway-on-Firth. This road will take you through North Plain to Cardunock including the sites of Mileforts 1 to 5.

Near Milefort 3

Near Milefort 10 site

Anthorn transmitters - near Milefort 5

Beckford Fort Site

In vicinity of Milefort 18

River Wampool from site of Kirkbride Fort

View of Solway Firth from near estimated position of Milefort 2

Near Milefort 4


Route of Fortlets


After Milefort 5 historians and archaeologists are uncertain whether the line of fortlets and turrets continued into the estuaries for the Rivers Wampool and Waver that converge at this point. No evidence has been found to suggest they did but given the density of protection along the coast it would surprising if this wide gap was left completely undefended especially given the proximity to the Scottish shore. Historians have certainly assumed the bay was defended and have taken it into account when numbering Mileforts. Accordingly the next known fortlet after number 5 is Milefort 9 located just under 3000 metres from Milefort 5 on the opposing bank at Skinburness.


Kirkbride Roman Fort


From the Milefort 4 position it is 5.5 miles to the site of the Roman fort at Kirkbride - simply follow the road you are on until Whitrigg and then turn right onto the B5307 and go straight through Angerton to Kirkbride. This fort, whose Latin name is unknown, was built in the AD 80s probably during the Agricola era as part of the Stanegate frontier. It has been mooted the fort acted as a logistical supply base for the western Stanegate until replaced by the fort at Bowness-on-Solway in the second half of the second century AD. The fact this turf and timber fort was never rebuilt in stone and encompassed a fairly large area (6 acres) supports both theories. Today nothing is visible.

Milefort 19 position (near Allonby)

This section provides some impressive views over the Solway

Southern Scotland from Bowness

Milefort 1 location

View across Solway from Beckfoot Fort


Sole Survivor - Milefort 21


Not long before the turning to Crosscanonby and Crosby there is a sole survivor - the earthwork remains of a Milefort that can be visited and explored and even has a panel explaining what’s there! If driving there is a layby directly under the Milefort but you’d have to climb a very steep slope to the fort. Instead park at the beech car park at the Crosscanonby turn off and cross over to the dedicated footparth towards the fortlet.

Gateway of Milefort 21

Site of Kirkbride Fort

Near Milefort 12 site


Maryport


Keep heading south west on the B5300. After the site of Milefort 22 the road diverts from the coast, and the line of the fortlets, to make space for Maryport Golf Course - Milefort 23 would have been sited just beyond. Keep on the road until it joins with the A596 and then head south west to Maryport. Follow the signs to the Maryport Roman museum.


End of the Frontier


Nobody knows where the western/southern terminus of the frontier was - some historians have suggested it may have just petered out. A Milefort (no. 25) has been placed with some certainty at the southern end of Maryport so they seem to have continued beyond the fort. We also know there was a Roman fort at Burrow Wells near Workington (Axelodunum) and another at Moresay (Gabrosentum) near Whitehaven. These probably formed part of the frontier although no firm archaeological evidence has been able to confirm this. It is possible, albeit unlikely, the frontier stretched as far south as the fort at Ravenglass (Glannaventa).

Ravenglass (from Black Combe) - did the sea defences stretch this far?

Main road - follow this for Mileforts 1-4 and onwards to Kirkbride


Skinburness


From the site of Kirkbride it is just under 12 miles to Skinburness and the site of Milefort 9 (which as already discussed may have really been number 6). The quickest way to get there is to reverse your steps to Angerton and follow the B5307 to Abbeytown and then the B5302 until the sign-post prompts you to turn right to Skinburness.

Milefort 9 site in Skinburness


West Coast


From Skinburness the B5300 runs south as far as Maryport probably on top of the Military Road that connected the Mileforts and Turrets. Head south down this road passing the sites of Mileforts 10 through to 23 in Maryport.

Milefort 15 position

Earthworks of Milefort 21

Maryport Roman Museum (Alauna)

See Webpage


The earthwork remains of a Roman fort built to support the Mileforts and turrets of the Western Sea Defences. Accompanying the earthworks is an impressive museum holding a whole range of archaeological finds from Roman Britain. A must see.


Maryport Roman Fort


The fort at Maryport (known in Latin as Alauna) seems to have been a combined cavalry/infantry fort - the first garrison seems to have been the Cohors I Hispanorum Equitata; a unit traditionally recruited from Spain. The earthworks of the fort can be explored - and a viewing tower enables you to appreciate the layout more clearly. The museum, with a vast collection of Roman altars and engravings is the perfect way to conclude your tour of the frontier.

Remains of the Roman fort at Maryport


Conclusion


Hadrian’s Wall is a superb national monument and I hope this short article has encouraged you to visit it and, for those who have already done so but strictly followed the National Trail, perhaps see a few things they might have missed first time. There is much more to see - the Romans built their frontier here to secure the valuable mineral wealth of northern England and the initial military presence in the region was aimed to secure and control an anti-Roman insurgency in the Pennines and Cumberland mountains. Stanegate, which later evolved into the Wall garrisons, was the northern line of a Roman encirclement of these troublesome areas and the Cumberland Sea Defences probably formed part of it as well. Many sites tell this story of the north - the remote Roman fort at Hardknott and Whitley Castle being two excellent examples. North of the Wall Bewcastle is proof the Romans did not regard the Wall as an impenetrable barrier that no Roman would ever cross. Finally York, where the Ninth and then Sixth Legions were based, was the capital of the north and perhaps ultimately controlled the whole military zone of the Wall.

REFERENCES / FURTHER READING

Breeze, D.J (2011). The Frontiers of Imperial Rome. Pen and Sword Books Ltd, Barnsley.


Burton, A (2010). Hadrian's Wall Path. Aurum Press Ltd, London.


Crow, J (1989). Housesteads Roman Fort. English Heritage, London.


English Heritage (2010). An Archaeological Map of Hadrian's Wall, 1:25,000 Scale. English Heritage, London.


Hodgson, N (2011). Chesters Roman Fort. English Heritage, London.


Moffat, A (2009). The Wall. Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh.


Wilmott, T (2010). Birdoswald Roman Fort. English Heritage, London.


Bedoyere, G (2010). Roman Britain: A New History. Thames and Hudson Ltd, London.


Dando-Collins, S (2010). Legions of Rome. Quercus, London.


Hobbs, R and Jackson, R (2010). Roman Britain. British Museum Company Ltd, London.

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