MELANDRA ROMAN FORT

Melandra Roman Fort, also known by its Latin name of Ardotalia, was established in the first century AD as one of a network of outposts which connected Manchester to the wider road network. It was later rebuilt in stone but was probably abandoned in the mid-second century AD.

History

 

Occupying a high promontory overlooking the River Etherow, Melandra Roman Fort was built circa-AD 75 as part of a chain of military outposts providing security across the Peak District. The only written reference dates from the late seventh century AD when a fort named Zerdotalia, believed to be a corruption of Ardotalia, was listed in the Ravenna Cosmology. This document was compiled by an unknown cleric who drew upon sources that have subsequently been lost. The cosmology was later duplicated by other authors with a myriad of mistakes and mis-spellings being introduced as a result. The document placed Melandra between the military outposts at Manchester (Mamucium) and Buxton (Aquae Arnemetiae). This doesn't tally with our understanding of the Roman road network; Melandra was on a different road (today known as Snake Road) to Buxton and the Roman fort at Brough, Derbyshire (Navio) seems to have been the adjacent outpost.The modern name, Melandra, seemingly originates from a Reverend John Watson circa-1772.

 

Melandra was configured in the standard 'playing card' layout associated with Roman forts of the period. The Headquarters building was in the centre of the structure with barracks in each quadrant. Originally the defences would have been earth and timber but the ramparts were later rebuilt in stone. A bath house, equivalent to a leisure and social club, was built outside of the walls to the north-west (the risk of fire made it undesirable to incorporate it within the fort itself). The defences enclosed 21 acres whilst an unusually large civilian settlement, which developed as a result of the fort, also existed nearby.

 

Little is known about the military use of the fort and it does not seem to have occupied a position of particular significance – its location is probably due to its proximity to the river for logistical purposes and distance from the adjacent forts (Roman military doctrine generally placed forts at one day's march apart). Archaeological finds link two regiments with the fort; the First Cohort of Frisivones (Cohors I Frisiavo), a unit recruited from north Germany, and the Third Cohort of Bracara Augusta (Cohors Tertiae Bracaraugustanorum), a unit from northern Portugal. It seems to be the Frisivones who are credited with building Melandra but otherwise the periods in which they occupied the outpost are unknown.

 

Investigations in the 1960s discovered a large rectangular building immediately to the east of the fort which has been interpreted as a mansion house. This was demolished circa-AD 140 which may also represent the date the fort was abandoned.

 

Bibliography

 

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

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

Burn, A.R (1953). Agricola and Roman Britain. English Universities Press, London.

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.

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

Petch, J.A (1963). Journal of Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. Vol. 83.

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

What's There?

Little remains of Melandra Roman Fort other than the earthworks associated with the rampart. The site is overgrown although grass footpaths provide access to the interior including the location of the Headquarters building. There are also very limited amounts of masonry on display.

Melandra Roman Fort. The outline of the defences can still be seen although the ditches are gone and the ramparts have been reduced to a small mound.

Roman Military Disposition AD 100. Melandra Fort was one of many in Lancashire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. The above map shows the key outposts and roads that were established between the Legionary bases at Chester and York.

Rampart. Very limited sections of masonry are on display.

Headquarters Building. Footpaths mark the boundary of the Principia (Headquarters Building).

Fort Interior.

Getting There

The remains of Melandra Roman Fort can be found off Melandra Castle Road. It is not sign-posted but there is a dedicated car park.

Melandra Roman Fort

SK13 0LD

53.451263N 1.987129W