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Historic England Research Records

Kirkby Thore

Hob Uid: 13562
Location :
Cumbria
Eden
Kirkby Thore
Grid Ref : NY6380025600
Summary : The earthwork remains of Bravoniacum Roman fort at Kirkby Thore. It was originally a Flavian turf and timber fort, destroyed in circa 125 AD and rebuilt in masonry, occupied in to the late 4th century and possibly occupied by a cavalry unit. The vicus was apparently walled.
More information : (NY 63082560) Bravoniacvm Roman Fort (R) (Site of) (NAT) (1)

Fort (Braboniacum). The existence of a Roman fort here is demonstrated by the discovery of Roman structures and relics, and by the evidence of the Notitia Dignitatum and the second Antonine Itinerary. From the Itinerary it is clear that the name of the place was BRABONIACUM, and the Notitia gives the garrison as a numerus defensorum. The tombstone of a retired Roman officer in Numidia vaguely indicates the presence of a cavalry regiment here (Brauniaco) at some uncertain date (C.I.L. VIII, 4800; E.E. VII, 955). Visible remains of the fort are few and in part doubtful. To the W of the village, in the SE angle between the main Penrith-Appleby road and Piper Lane, the rounded corner of a rampart with a maximum external height of nearly 9 feet can be seen. About 50 yards NE of the corner, a slight depression some 20 feet across may indicate the site of an entrance. The further plan of the work cannot now be traced on the surface, but the opposite (E) angle of it may be represented by an escarpment in a field 500 yards SE of the parish church. This escarpment extends with a slight outward curve for nearly 150 yards from SW to NE, and its line appears to turn towards the NW and to be followed approximately by a field-boundary on the opposite side of the road.
This area, known as the Burwens hill, has produced dressed stones, pottery and other finds since the 17th Century. Field-walls hereabouts contain many Roman stones, some chamfered, others with shallow channels cut lengthwise across them, whilst two niches, forming an ornamental feature of the front wall of the Council Houses' garden, incorporate flanged tiles, fragments of amphorae, and part of a cornice. It was apparently within this area that about 1687 Mr. Machell carried out excavations which are described as follows by Nicolson and Burn (379):-
"the square inclosure, called the High Burwens, seems to have been the area [of the fort], containing eight score yards in diameter, now ploughed and cultivated; and the outer buildings, mantle and gardens, to have run down along the said rivulet [the Troutbeck] at least as far as the fulling mill, and possibly further, beyond the high street or Roman way; thence up the west side of the said street about eight score yards, and thence again in a straight line to the west angle of the said area. For in all these places the vestigia of it may be discovered, but conduits underground; subterraneous vaults; fair pavements of floors made with flags; tiles and slates with iron nails in them, by which they have been fastened; but principally by the foundations of walls, both of brick and stone; as also coins, altars and urns, with other fictilia, often found thereabouts.
"The said Mr Machell, in the year 1687, in a search there, found among the rifled foundations a fourfold wall, made up of four walls, jumped together and as it were united into one. They were made of hewn stone, each wall being two feet and four inches thick, so that the whole was nine feet and four inches. The outermost wall was strongly cemented to the very foundation with the best Roman mortar, seeming to be a composition, of lime, gravel and brick. The other three had their foundations first laid in clay, and then in coarser sort of lime. And underneath all, was a pavement of cobble-stones to make the foundation more firm and durable....Some leaden pipes were also found and a drain through the quadruple wall to carry off the water....There was also found divers chambers, or arched vaults underground; with floors flagged with stone or paved with brick." Machell also discovered a well, apparently wood-lined, beneath the street near the bridge on the N. side of the beck and "about ten yards from the Roman road which leads to Carlisle." Roman pottery, perhaps second century, including both Samian and coarse ware, and a number of sandals were found. (Philosophical Transactions, No. 158, 1684, pp. 555 f., and plate opposite p. 551.)
In the demolition of the old bridge at Kirkby Thore in 1838 many Roman objects including brooches, coins and fragments of bronze were found "embedded and firmly contracted in a concrete mass" (Archaeologia, XXXI, 281 f.). These finds were subsequently dispersed. At present the principal owners are the British Museum, the Chesters and Tullie House Museums, Miss Cumpston of Barton Hall, and Mr F R Markham of Morland House; there are also a few objects in the Kendal Museum. Nicolson and Burn also record the finding of cremation-burials of Roman date "at Machel's Bank ten yards from the Roman road." In the Museum of Lowther Castle there are fragments (Plate 3) of six funeral slabs and a stone fire-cone, from Kirkby Thore, but their exact find-spot is not know. [NY 62 NW 4]
The following coins are known to have been found in or about the site:- Mr. F.R. Markham's collecton contains the following: Mark Antony (?) I, Nero I, Vespasian I, Domitian 2, Uncertain first century 2, Trajan I, Hadrian I, Antoninus Pius I, Commodus I. The report of the demolition of the bridge (Archaeologia XXXI, 281) states that the coins found date from the time of Vespasian to that of Alexander Severus. A hoard of 157 denarii was found in 1882 near he Maiden way: Nero 2, Galba I, Otho I, Vitellius 2, Vespasian II, Titus 4, Nerva I, Trajan 27, Hadrian 35, Antoninus 29, Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius 3, Marcus Aurelius 13, Verus 6; Sabina 6, Faustina I 13, Faustina II 5, Lucilla 3, Crispina I. (Arch. Aeliana, 2nd Ser., VI. 196.)
The total evidence thus available does not justify many conclusions. The coins suggest the possibility that the occupation began in the latter part of the 1st century, and that it was continued at least until the beginning of the 3rd century; whilst the Notitia may be taken to imply that the site was held in the 4th century. Permanent masonry buildings existed on the Burwens hill, and the description of Machell's exploration here suggests that they included a granary with the multiple sleeper-walls upon which the floors of these structures were frequently supported. Whether the escarpment on the eastern slope of the Burwens hill formed a part of the earthwork at Piper Lane must be regarded as doubtful, since on a reasonably symmetrical plan the area thus enclosed would be about 36 acres, which far exceeds the area of a roadside fort. It might be suggested that the site was originally that of a large "labour-camp" such as those which occupied comparable areas at Crackenthorpe+ and Rey Cross; and that the permanent fort subsequently occupied only the more dominant part of the original enclosure. The position of the entrance-if such it be near the western angle by Piper Lane is consistent with the plan of a fortification of this kind, with a series of entrances at short intervals. The proximity of the site, however, to Crackenthorpe makes the general supposition difficult, and the whole matter must be left open pending further discoveries.
[See Philosop Trans No.158, 555; Nicolson and Burn Hist and Antiqs West and Cumb 379; Arch XXXI 281. For inscriptions: C.I.L. VII, 73-5; VIII, 4800; Eph Epig vii, 955-7; C and W Trans NS XXXIV, 116. Finds; C and W Trans NS XIX, 7; Proc Soc Ants OS IV, 129; 2nd Ser XIX, 7. Coins; Arch XXXI, 281 ; Arch Ael 2nd Ser IV, 196.]
Condition - of earthworks, bad. (2)

Excavations in 1961 at "A" (Area NY 639255), at the presumed eastern corner of the fort, revealed a ditch containing late 2nd century pottery, and, in the position where the stone wall of the fort was expected, a clay and cobble foundation resting on disturbed clay. Within the area of the stone fort were a turf rampart and ditch, similar to the defences of the Flavian temporary camp at Oakwood, Selkirk, but taken to represent an early fort, as pottery evidence indicated prolonged occupation within the period 80 to 120 AD. This fort was probably destroyed circa 120-125. A trench at "B" (NY 63692578), across the line of a bank running NE/SE through the village, revealed foundations 6 feet wide of a substanial wall which must have surrounded the civil settlement. Surface observations had determined the area of the settlement and suggested it was defended. The west angle seems to lie in the field at the junction of the A66 and Piper Lane (NY 63302553). (3)

An air photograph by Dr St Joseph of the fort at Kirby Thore shows its exact outline, main gateway and head-quarters building. The fort however is only one element in a very much larger complex extending to some 36 acres an showing unambiguous signs of defences, particularly at the south-west angle close to the modern road (here coinciding with the Roman line). There can be no reasonable doubt that there existed here a small town, substantial after its fashion, under the shelter of the cavalry fort.
Name 'BRAVONIACVM' accepted for 4th. edition R.B.Map. (4)

Additional reference. (5)

1983 excavations and summary of all work in the town. Vicus not located in a field centred NY 6378 2574 in 1983. (6)

The fort on this site had two phases; a turf and timber Flavian fort which was destroyed c125 AD, rebuilt in masonry and occupied until the late 4th century, scheduled. (7)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1957
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
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Source Number : 2
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in Westmorland
Source details :
Page(s) : 144-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : The journal of Roman studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 63-75
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : N.S. 64 - 1964
Source Number : 4
Source : Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland
Source details :
Page(s) : 54
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 11 - 1958-65
Source Number : 4a
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Aerial Photograph (CUC DO 076 9.7.49)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Romano-British urban defences
Source details :
Page(s) : 120
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 126
Source Number : 6
Source : The journal of Roman studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 93-130
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 89 - 1989
Source Number : 7
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : English Heritage SAM Amendment 4.12.90
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Source : Kirkby Thore
Source details :
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 399
Monument Start Date : 150
Monument Type : Fort, Vicus, Town Defences
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 125
Monument Start Date : 67
Monument Type : Fort
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : CU 262
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 13450
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : NY 62 NW 5
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1001823
Relationship type : Is referred to by
Associated Monuments : 1031457
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : KIRKBY THORE, (BRABONIACUM)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1687-01-01
End Date : 1687-12-31
Associated Activities : KIRKBY THORE (BRABONIACUM)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1961-01-01
End Date : 1961-12-31
Associated Activities : KIRKBY THORE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1983-12-31
Associated Activities : KIRKBY THORE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1983-12-31
Associated Activities : KIRKBY THORE ROMAN FORT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1990-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : GREENACRES FILLING STATION
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : GREENACRES FILLING STATION
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : ROAD IMPROVEMENTS, KIRKBY THORE
Activity type : DESK BASED ASSESSMENT
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : ADJACENT A66, KIRKBY THORE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : FIELD 8866, KIRKBY THORE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND AT OS 8866, KIRKBY THORE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : KIRKBY THORE PIPELINE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2002-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND AT PROSPECT TERRACE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND ADJACENT TO PROSPECT TERRACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31
Associated Activities : KIRKBY THORE ROMAN FORT
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2013-01-01
End Date : 2013-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND AT KIRKBY THORE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2014-01-01
End Date : 2014-12-31