History

 

Carrawburgh Roman Fort was an outpost built along the line of Hadrian's Wall. That frontier was constructed from AD 122 and was a physical barrier with gatehouses (which we now call Milecastles) every Roman mile. The original intention was to accommodate the frontier's garrison in the existing forts along the Stanegate Road, a little way south of the Wall. However, soon after work started, the Roman Army altered its stance and decided this approach reduced the mobility of the army. Accordingly the decision was made to build new forts which straddled the Wall itself and Carrawburgh was one of these new facilities. It was located between the cavalry fort at Chesters and the infantry outpost at Housesteads.

 

By the time the decision was made to build Carrawburgh, work on the frontier in this particular area was quite advanced. The Wall itself had been built as had the Vallum, which was a parallel physical barrier just to the south consisting of a set of twin ramparts and a ditch which created a 'military zone'. Accordingly construction of the fort necessitated flattening the Vallum in vicinity of both the new facility itself and also in its immediate hinterland to the east. The fort, which enclosed an area of around 3.5 acres, was configured in the standard 'playing card' layout but, unlike most of the other outposts along the Wall, did not straddle the frontier and was instead built entirely to the south. Inscriptions found on the site suggest it was built by the Sixth Legion (Legio VI Victrix) and was intended to garrison a 500-man strong Auxiliary Infantry Regiment. The Ravenna Cosmography, a seventh century compilation of earlier records, notes the name of the fort as Brocolitia (an earlier record which referred to it as Procolitia was probably a misspelling). A small civilian settlement (vicus) grew up to the south-west of the fort along with no less than three temples which were dedicated to Mithras, the Water Nymphs and the goddess Coventina.  A Bath House, which would effectively also have served as a hybrid gym and recreational centre, was located to the west of the fort.

 

Discovery of a variety of inscriptions at the site has helped piece together information relating to the fort's garrison. The first Regiment assigned to the facility may have been the the First Cohort of Aquitani (Cohors Primae Aquitanorum), a unit traditionally recruited from south-west France with a strength of 500 troops. They were seemingly moved on shortly after and replaced with the First Cohort of Tungrians (Cohors Primae Tungrorum), a 1,000 strong unit drawn from Southern Belgium. This Regiment was also attested to at Vindolanda Roman Fort on the Stanegate Road during this period and it seems the force was split between the two facilities. The Tungrians remained at Carrowburgh/Vindolanda until circa-AD 138 when Hadrian's Wall was abandoned in favour of a more northerly frontier along the Clyde-Forth isthmus known as the Antonine Wall. The Tungrians then moved north to Castlecary and Cramond Roman Forts and Carrawburgh may simply have been abandoned.

 

The Antonine Wall was abandoned circa-AD 160 and the Hadrianic frontier was re-activated. Carrawburgh Fort was repaired and restored by a vexillation (detachment) of the Sixth Legion (Legio VI Victrix). Thereafter the garrison was the First Cohort of Cugerni (Cohors Primae Cugernorum), a German unit, but by AD 213 had been replaced by the First Cohort of Batavians (Cohors Primae Batavorum). This is the last recorded location of this unit and it is possible they remained assigned to Carrawburgh until Roman control of Britannia ended in the late fourth/early fifth centuries.

 

Bibliography

 

Berggren, A. J (2000). Ptolemy's Geography. Princeton University Press.

Breeze, D.J (2002). Roman Forts in Britain. Shire Archaeology, Oxford.

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

Campbell, D.B (2009). Roman Auxiliary Forts 27BC-AD378. Osprey, Oxford.

Collingwood, R.G and Wright, R.P (1965). The Roman Inscriptions of Britain. Oxford.

Davies, H (2008). Roman Roads in Britain. Shire Archaeology, Oxford.

Fields, N (2005). Rome’s Northern Frontier AD 70-235. Osprey, Oxford.

Historic England (2016). Carrawbrugh Roman Fort List entry Number: 1015914. Historic England, London.

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

Ordnance Survey, Historic England and RCAHMW (2016). Roman Britain. 1:625,000 Scale. Ordnance Survey, Southampton.

Waite, J (2011). To Rule Britannia. The History Press, Stroud.

What's There?

Visit Official Website

Carrawburgh Roman Fort survives as a substantial masonry structure but it has not been excavated and accordingly is only visible as earthworks. The adjacent Temple of Mithras however is fully visible.  The site sits on the Hadrian's Wall path.

Carrawburgh Roman Fort Layout. The fort was built abutting the Wall although whether its northern rampart was shared or separate will not be known until the B6318 is excavated. The Military Way, which ran south of the Wall and connected the forts and milecastles along the frontier, was also a late addition and climbed onto the northern rampart of the Vallum as it left Carrawburgh Fort. A Bath House was built to the west of the fort along with a a civilian settlement and no less than three Temples.

Vallum. The remains of the Vallum can be seen to the west of the fort (not accessible to the public). This was constructed before Carrawburgh and was flattened to make space for the new facility. An area to the east was also cleared although the reason for this is unknown.

Temple of Mithras. The cult of Mithras was popular in the Roman Army. Worshippers normally met in underground mithraea (caves) and the design of the Carrawburgh Temple was intended to imitate the cramped environment of such a setting.

CARRAWBURGH ROMAN FORT

Carrawburgh Roman Fort, known to the Romans as Brocolitia, was added to Hadrian’s Wall after the frontier had already been built. Constructed by the Sixth Legion, the fort was one of many that housed the garrison of the frontier and during its three century occupation was home to a variety of Regiments.

Getting There

Carrawburgh Roman Fort is found between Housesteads and Chesters on the B6318. The site is well sign-posted and has a dedicated (pay and display) car park.

Carrawburgh Roman Fort

NE46 4DB

55.035701N 2.220430W