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Historic England Research Records

Whitley Castle Roman Fort

Hob Uid: 13725
Location :
Northumberland
Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh
Grid Ref : NY6948948692
Summary : Whitley Castle Roman Fort is a lozenge-shaped fort of about four acres, with a well-defined multiple ditch system. It was known as EPIACUM. Evidence indicates that the earliest activity on the site may have been an Iron Age fortification and that there may have been an earlier Roman camp on the spur. The Roman fort had three occupation phases. Built in the early 2nd century, it appears to have been partly or wholly demolished and rebuilt soon after, before it was largely altered or rebuilt once more in around AD 300. The purpose of the fort appears not only to have been a base for troops but due to its position it enabled the Romans to exert control over the local area and in particular, over local lead production.The main elements of the fort visible in the earthworks include the principal roads which divided the interior, a central headquarters building, a commandant's house, barrack blocks and granaries. A bath-house, excavated in 1810 is situated in the line of the outer ditches and faint indications of small rectangular plots may belong to the vicus of the fort. A temple dedicated to the Emperor Caracalla is also known to have existed on the site, dating to the early third century. Pottery finds indicate that the site was occupied in the 3rd and 4th century. Later features on the site of Whitley Castle consist of agricultural features including ridge and furrow and post-medieval buildings.While it follows the usual fort layout, Whitley Castle is considered to be an exceptional example of its kind. Not only was its design altered to suit the site's geographic location but it is thought to have had the most elaborate defences of any fort in the Roman Empire.
More information : [NY 6950 4870] Whitley Castle Roman Fort [G.S.] (1)

A lozenge-shaped fort of about four acres, with a well-defined multiple ditch system. The internal plan has not be recovered, but traces of the principia and angle towers survive. An inscription c213 and pottery (3) attest 3rd and 4thc. occupation.
See Illustration Card.

Remains of the bath-house were excavated prior to 1810 (5).
Scheduled. (2-5)

Generally correctly described, and in good condition. The interior is much disturbed by surface quarrying, and no identifiable remains exist there. A few exposed foundations of the bath-house survive. ('A')
Re-surveyed at 1/2500. (6-8)

As described and planned. (9)

EPIACUM. Probably the Roman fort at Whitley Castle. (10)

The position of the bath-house excavated c. 1810 interrupts the line of the outer ditches. Air Photographs (11, 12) indicate that the fort had been smaller than it later became and that the bath-building was originally intended to lie beyond the N-W corner of the fort. The rampart S-W of the portae principales is much more massive and upstanding than that round the praetentura, which is likely to represent a later extension. The denuded remains of the line of the original N-E rampart may be visible within the fort just N-E of the via principalis. Various other internal structures, including part of the principia, show as shadow marks in unploughed rough pasture. Faint indications of small rectangular plots may belong to the vicus of the fort. The sinuous course of a leat to supply water to the bath-house may also be visible running from the ravine N of the fort. (11-12)

NY 495486. Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh. Whitley Castle listed under Roman remains. Scheduled No 12. (13)

Whitley Castle Roman Fort is a lozenge-shaped fort of about four acres, with a well-defined multiple ditch system. It had the Roman place-name EPIACUM. Little of the internal plan has been recovered, but traces of the principia and angle towers survive. An inscription dating to around A.D. 213 and pottery attest to 3rd and 4th century occupation. It is a Scheduled Monument. (1-13)

Between November 2007 and July 2008, English Heritage's Archaeological Survey and Investigation team undertook an analytical field survey of Whitley Castle (the Roman fort of Epiacum) in Northumberland. The investigation of this well-preserved site was intended to inform its management and presentation to visitors, and was undertaken in part as a 'figurehead' for English Heritage's multidisciplinary investigation of the impacts of lead-mining in the region, entitled `Miner - Farmer Landscapes of the North Pennines AONB' (Event record 1501202). The analytical field survey, in combination with documentary research and aerial photographic analysis, was carried out at Level 3 standard; the fort was surveyed at 1:500 scale and 19.5 hectares of its environs at 1:1000, using survey-grade GPS and `Total Station'. The earthwork survey was followed up by two extensive geophysical surveys undertaken between January and March 2009 by Archaeological Services Durham University (Hale et al 2009). The first, a magnetic susceptibility survey, covered an area of c. 35ha centred on the fort, while the second, a detailed earth resistance survey, examined a total area of 7.5 ha including the interior of the fort and a selection of areas around the perimeter. The position of the bath-house, excavated in around 1810, interrupts the line of the outer ditches. Air Photographs indicate that the fort had been smaller than it later became and that the bath-house was originally intended to lie beyond the North West corner of the fort. The rampart South West of the portae principales is much more massive and upstanding than that round the praetentura, which is likely to represent a later extension. The denuded remains of the line of the original North East rampart may be visible within the Fort just North East of the via principalis. Various other internal structures, including part of the principia, show as shadow marks in unploughed rough pasture. Faint indications of small rectangular plots may belong to the vicus of the fort. The sinuous course of a leat to supply water to the bath-house may also be visible running from the ravine North of the Fort. A full report, part of the Research Department Report Series, is available from the NMR, reference RDRS 89/2009. The analysis presented in this report incorporates the results of the 2009 geophysical surveys and earlier geophysical surveys within the fort and to the west carried out by GeoQuest Associates in 2003 and 2006 (Noel 2006). (14)

The fort appears to have been built in the mid 2nd century however it is possible that there was an earlier Roman camp on the spur and possibly even an earlier Iron Age fortification. In around AD 200 the fort appears to have been partly or wholly demolished and rebuilt soon after, before being largely altered or rebuilt once more in around AD 300. In the early third century a temple was dedicated on the site to the Emperor Caracalla by troops belonging to the Second Cohort of Nerivians who were occupying the fort at this time. The purpose of the fort appears not only to have been a base for troops but its location was to also enable them to exert control over the local population and, in particular, over the production of lead.

The main elements of the fort visible in the earthworks include the principal roads which divided the interior, a central headquarters building, a commandant's house, barrack blocks and granaries. While it follows the usual fort layout, Whitley Castle is considered to be an exceptional example of its kind. Not only was its design altered to suit the site's geographic location but it is thought to have the most elaborate defences of any fort in the Roman Empire. (15)

This report contains the results of a geophysical survey conducted on the site of Whitley Castle. The survey enabled the successful detection of anomalies within the study area which assisted in identifying former land use in different parts at different times. As well as the various elements of the fort, the surveys also identified a possible pre-Roman settlement, agricultural features including ridge and furrow, as well as post-medieval buildings and possible evidence of mining.

The surveys results enabled the identification of several phases of activity including at least two phases of major remodelling of the fort's defences and structures in its southern corner. (16)

This article provides an overview of a 5-year landscape survey project English Heritage has been undertaking since late 2008 to investigate the miner-farmer landscapes of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Whitley Castle is within the study area and has been the subject of a detailed earthwork and geophysical survey. The full results of the survey are available in the English Heritage Research Department Report Series. Please see article for further details. (17)

This is the full report of the findings resulting from documentary research and detailed earthwork and geophysical survey undertaken by English Heritage at Whiteley Castle Roman fort between November 2007 and February 2009. As a result of these investigations the date of construction of the fort is thought to have been the early 2nd century. Please see report for full details. (18)

The remains of Whitley Castle Roman fort are visible as earthworks on air photographs and lidar, at NY 6949 4868. The fort was mapped as part of the Miner-Farmer landscapes of the North Pennines AONB NMP. The earthwork ramparts are clearly defined - though denuded at the northern most corner. Here an extractive pit and the remains of the fort's bath house are located. The fort's vicus has now been recorded separately (see UID 1530980), as have the associated Roman roads (UID 1530892 and UID 1530959). Two post medieval field boundaries (UID 1530730 and 1530905) cut across the fort . A post medieval extractive pit and spoil heap (UID 1530881) is cut into the southern corner of the ramparts. The earthwork remains of a post medieval building (UID 1530989) are situated within the fort. The features are extant on the latest 2009 lidar.
(19)


Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : O.S. 6" (Prov) 1946
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne
Source details :
Page(s) : 249-255
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : Jan-24
Source Number : 11
Source : Aspects of archaeology in Britain and beyond : essays presented to O G S Crawford
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Roman Britain from the air
Source details :
Page(s) : 119-120
Figs. :
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Source Number : 13
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : DOE (IAM) AMs in Eng 1 1978 43
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Source Number : 14
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : ENGLISH HERITAGE: WHITLEY CASTLE PROJECT
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Source Number : 15
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : English Heritage. Whitley Castle Roman Fort Cumbria [accessed 09-JUN-2010]
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Source Number : 16
Source : Whitley Castle, Tynedale, Northumberland geophysical surveys
Source details :
Page(s) : 1
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Source Number : 17
Source : Research News
Source details : No. 11, Spring 2009
Page(s) : Dec-16
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Source Number : 18
Source : Whitley Castle, Tynedale, Northumberland: An archaeological investigation of the Roman fort and its setting
Source details :
Page(s) : 94-5
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Source Number : 19
Source : Light detection and ranging (lidar) airborne survey
Source details : LIDAR NY6948 DSM 01-APR-2009
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Source Number : 3
Source : Archaeologia Aeliana : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details :
Page(s) : 191-203
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Vol(s) : 37 - 1959
Source Number : 4
Source : Ancient monuments in England and Wales : a list prepared by the Ministry of Public Building and Works, corrected to 31st December 1963
Source details :
Page(s) : 82
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Source Number : 5
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Hist of Northumb Vol 3 pt 2 1840 74-7 (J Hodgson)
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Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : First Ordnance Survey field investigator RWE 14-OCT-66
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Source Number : 7
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : Aerial Photographs (RAF 541/A/439 29.7.48 3189-90)
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Source Number : 8
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : Aerial Photograph (St Joseph) BF/29
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Source Number : 9
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Second Ordnance Survey field investigator ISS 15-MAR-78
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Source Number : 10
Source : The place-names of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 360
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Possible Iron Age fortification
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Hillfort
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Built early 2nd century
Monument End Date : 132
Monument Start Date : 101
Monument Type : Fort, Road, Barracks, Military Headquarters, Granary, Vicus, Bath House
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit, Cropmark
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Fort rebuilt after circa AD 200
Monument End Date : 210
Monument Start Date : 190
Monument Type : Fort, Temple
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Partly or wholly demolished around AD200
Monument End Date : 210
Monument Start Date : 190
Monument Type : Fort
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Rebuilt around AD 300
Monument End Date : 310
Monument Start Date : 290
Monument Type : Fort
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Fort, Extractive Pit, Bath House
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Early Roman Camp
Monument End Date : 166
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Temporary Camp
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 : ND 12
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : NMR 4114/10
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Northumberland)
External Cross Reference Number : 5934
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : NY 64 NE 1
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1001823
Relationship type : Is referred to by
Associated Monuments : 1530694
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1530707
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1530730
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1530881
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1530892
Relationship type : Is referred to by
Associated Monuments : 1530905
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1530959
Relationship type : Is referred to by
Associated Monuments : 1530980
Relationship type : Is referred to by
Associated Monuments : 1530992
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1531093
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1530620
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, WHITLEY CASTLE (EPIACUM?)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1810-01-01
End Date : 1810-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WHITLEY CASTLE (EPIACUM?)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1828-01-01
End Date : 1828-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WHITLEY CASTLE, (EPIACUM?)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1957-01-01
End Date : 1959-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NY 64 NE 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1966-10-14
End Date : 1966-10-14
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NY 64 NE 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1978-03-15
End Date : 1978-03-15
Associated Activities : Primary, WHITLEY CASTLE, TYNEDALE
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: WHITLEY CASTLE PROJECT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2007-11-01
End Date : 2008-07-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WHITLEY CASTLE, TYNEDALE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: MINER-FARMER LANDSCAPES OF THE NORTH PENNINES AONB NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2009-08-13
End Date : 2011-06-01