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Historic England Research Records

Birdoswald Roman Fort

Hob Uid: 13993
Location :
Cumbria
Carlisle
Waterhead
Grid Ref : NY6154966262
Summary : Birdoswald Roman Fort, known to the Romans as 'Banna', was built from 117AD. It measures 204m by 162m and is located on a ridge with a steep scarp to the south. It has four main gates and two posterns. Its prime function was to guard the Irthing Bridge. Excavation dates from the early 19th century. The barracks have been found in the north, and a hoard of 30 denarii current under Hadrian recovered. A bronze wrist-purse containing 28 coins was found in 1949 north of the east gate. A building of three rooms near the east postern, one with a hypocaust, (probably the baths of the commandant's house) yielded a seated statue of Fortune. In the centre of the fort, the headquarters building stood on or near the former site of Turret 49a, and to the west of this lay one or more granaries. Excavations have uncovered the following sequence of events on the site: prior to the construction of the fort the Turf Wall and Turret 49a occupied the area; these were demolished and a fort, probably of turf and timber, was erected and the Vallum diverted around it; later the Vallum was probably levelled to make room for the larger stone fort. The garrison was the milliary, peditate cohors I Aelia Dacorum and occupied the site from the late 2nd to the 4th century AD; during the first half of the 3rd century AD there is evidence for rebuilding before the site was abandoned for a period from the end of the third century and reoccupied in the early 4th; during the late 4th/early 5th century, the south granary was converted for residential use. During the 5th century AD a sequence of timber buildings were built on the site of the north granary. The site was possibly abandoned altogether by about AD 520. In the 13th century, a tower house was built by the porta princpalis sinistra (the main left gate). In the 16th century, a bastle house replaced the tower house, which in its turn was replaced by a farmhouse in the 17th century.
More information : (NY 615 663) Camboglanna Roman Fort (GS) (1)

Camboglanna fort (incorrectly named Amboglanna in the Notitia) measures 580 by 400ft. It has four main gates and two posterns. Its prime function was to guard the Irthing Bridge (NY 66 NW 12). Towards the rear (north) the normal barracks have been found and a hoard of 30 denarii current under Hadrian. A bronze wrist-purse containing 28 similar coins was found in 1949 north of the east gate. A building of three rooms near the east postern, one with a hyocaust, (probably the baths of the commandant's house) yielded a seated statue of Fortune, now in Tullie House Museum. West of this, in the centre of the fort, the head-quarters building stood on or near the former site of Turret 49a (NY 66 NW 13), and to the west of this lay one or more granaries. The Stone Wall is brought up to the fort's north angles. The Turf Wall abutted its principal gates, but it and its ditch ante-dated the fort. The Vallum is diverted round the south side of the fort and has a revetted causeway opposite its south gate. It cuts through a Promontory Fort (NY 66 NW 18). (See plan). (2-3) [Later compiler's note: please note that the identification of Birdoswald with 'Cambloganna' is now considered obsolete- see later sources]

Numerous Altars found at, or near, Birdoswald. (4)

The fort is in fair condition. Turf covered foundations, probably part of the headquarters building, are the only visible internal remains. There is no trace of the Vallum to the south of the fort or of the revetted causeway. Published survey (25") revised. (5)

BANNA - The Roman fort at Birdoswald, Cumbria. (6)

Birdoswald Fort (Banna NY 663 615). Two granaries, each measuring 26.8 x 10.4m, were excavated in the former garden of the farmhouse in 1987, lying parallel and adjacent to the via principalis. They probably date from c AD 205-8, and overlie earlier buildings in timber and stone. The fort's wall and ditch were also examined. On the north side, where the fort wall lies under the modern road, a primary interval tower was identified. (7-8)

The archaeological history of the fort, identified as BANNA (6), has been summarised by Birley up to 1961 (9a) and Daniels (9b) to 1978; they refer to the excavations done since 1850. In 1949-50, the Ministry of Works consolidated the exposed walls and gateways (9c). The fort measures 182m N-S by 121m internally; the consolidated curtain, with the S and E gateways, survives on the S and E sides, on about a half of the W side, and at the NW angle. The public road overlies the greater part of the N defences, and Birdoswald farmhouse and gardens, the outbuildings and yards occupy the N sector of the interior, the remainder of which is in permanent pasture. Little remains of the outer ditch; of the internal buildings, the S, buttressed wall of a granary is visible forming the ha-ha to the garden, and the sites of former excavated structures are defined mainly as areas of spoil. Birdoswald fort was surveyed in 1987 by RCHME Newcastle at 1:1000 scale, and a full field account produced, both of which are held in the NMR. (9)

Between 1987 and 1992, major excavations took place, mainly in the garden S of the farm house, revealing two granaries, and the W gate and causeway across the ditch; a full excavation report is forthcoming (10a). The granaries and the W gateway have been consolidated, and the whole site is open to the public. (10)

Birdoswald Roman Fort, known to the Romans as 'Banna', is situated on a ridge with a steep scarp to the south. Excavation work on the site has dated from the early 19th century. The fort encloses an area of 2.2 hectares. It was originally occupied by the first cohort of Dacians, 1000 strong, and probably early in the third century by the part-mounted first cohort of Thracians. A large Roman basilica was constructed in the north sector of the fort and has been interpreted as a parade or drill hall. A parade ground is also attested by a group of official parade ground dedications including 20 to Jupiter, though it is yet to be precisely located. A vicus (civil settlement outside the fort) was located to the east. An early medieval hall and associated structures were constructed inside the fort over the earlier Roman remains, demonstrating continued use of the site in the post-Roman period. Scheduled. (11)

Excavation report. Excavations of this Roman fort have uncovered the following sequence of events on this site. Prior to the construction of the fort the Turf Wall and Turret 49a occupied the area. These were demolished and a fort, probably of turf and timber, was erected and the Vallum was diverted around it. Later the Vallum was probably levelled to make room for a larger stone fort. There appears to have been a period of desertion between the completion of the defences of this fort and the erection of the interior buildings which are dated to the late 2nd century AD. The fort had a rare basilica-type building. The garrison was the milliary, peditate cohors I Aelia Dacorum and occupied the site from the late 2nd to the 4th century AD. During the first half of the 3rd century AD there is evidence for rebuilding and refurbishment of the fort. The site appears to have been abandoned towards the end of the third century and reoccupied in the early 4th. During the late 4th/early 5th century the south granary was converted for residential use. During the 5th century AD a sequence of timber buildings were built on the site of the north granary. The site was possibly abandoned by c.AD 520. In the 13th century a tower house was built by the porta princpalis sinistra. In the 16th century a bastle house replaced the tower house, which in its turn was replaced by a farmhouse in the 17th century.(12)

Report of Survey published in 1998. (13)

The later tower house is included in a gazeetter of medieval fortified buildings with plan and illustration. (14)

The earthwork and structural remains of Birdoswald fort (described by the previous authorities) were mapped from aerial photographs as part of the English Heritage: Hadrian's Wall NMP project. (15-16)

Tony Wilmott's book on Birdoswald, subtitled "1800 Years on Hadrian's Wall" encompasses the whole development of the site from before the Wall, its construction, redevelopment in the second and third centuries and the life of the garrison. There is a discussion of the basilican building found in 1989, to date a new type of building in the context of an auxilliary fort. The book also examines the post-Roman use of the site. A further point made is that in earlier sources Birdoswald was identified as 'Cambloganna', due to a misunderstanding of the original Roman source material: 'Cambloganna' is now thought to be the modern Castlesteads. (17)

The 2005 edition of the English Heritage guidebook covers the history and archaeology of the site from the Roman Period to the present. It includes a tour of the main features of the site, with maps, plans and historic photographs. (18)

Birdoswald is marked on English Heritage map of Hadrian's Wall published in 2010. (19)

The results of excavations at Birdoswald between 1996-2000 are discussed, including the Study Centre Project, the Time Team evaluation and the Spur Project. There are also sections on finds and general conclusions for the history of the fort. (20)

The Roman fort at Birdoswald and the landscape in which it sits were mapped as part of the Historic England Contribution to the English Heritage Trust's 'Hadrian's Wall: Birdoswald Sector Survey'. The area was surveyed from air photographs and digital elevation models derived from environment agency lidar and Structure from Motion (SfM) taken from 2017 specialist oblique photography.

The earthworks and ruined stone wall features of the fort were mapped to sub-metre accuracy from both the DEMs and orthomosaic photography derived from SfM. Features mapped range from the fort walls, towers, buildings, gates and outer ditches; to the remnants of the medieval tower house; the post medieval bastle and ridge and furrow (also recorded under 1449652). Also of likely post medieval date are numerous narrow ditches, trackways and hollows, presumably formed by the movement of vehicles and animals in and around the fort in recent centuries.

Of particular note, to the north of the fort and on the north side of the modern road, a north-facing escarpment appears to relate to the approximate line of the north outer ditch of the fort, the north wall now obscured beneath the road. This bank undulates in plan, and projects outwards roughly adjacent to where the north gate is thought to be, which could suggest it to be the edge of a platform for the gatehouse. However, the 1603 map of Triermain and Walton Wood shows a building on the wall-line at this approximate location with a road leading to it. Additional features adjacent to this and in the fields around the fort are discussed in other records.
(21-23)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1957
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Bruce and Richmond, 1966: "Handbook to Roman Wall with the Cumbrian Coast and outpost forts" 12th Edn
Page(s) : 163-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9b
Source : Handbook to the Roman Wall with the Cumbrian coast and outpost forts
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9c
Source : Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society
Source details : Gillam JP 'Recent excavations at Birdoswald'
Page(s) : 63-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 50, 1950
Source Number : 10
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Keith Blood/20-SEP-1994
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10a
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Willmott A, Director of Excavations 1987-92 (pers comm)
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 14-Jul-97
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Birdoswald : excavations of a Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall and its successor settlements, 1987-92
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 14
Source Number : 13
Source : Hadrian's Wall at Birdoswald : a survey of the extent and state of preservation of archaeological remains in the guardianship of English Heritage
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : The medieval fortified buildings of Cumbria : an illustrated gazetteer and research guide
Source details :
Page(s) : 134-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : vol.29
Source Number : 15
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : RAF 106G/UK/1392 3174 10-APR-1946
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 16
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR NY6166/134 (20535/32) 31-MAR-2006
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : The journal of Roman studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 135
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 36, 1946
Source Number : 17
Source : Birdoswald Roman Fort: 1800 Years on Hadrian's Wall
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 18
Source : Birdoswald Roman Fort (English Heritage Guidebook)
Source details :
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Source Number : 19
Source : An Archaeological Map of Hadrian's Wall, 1:25,000 scale
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 20
Source : Hadrian's Wall: archaeological research by English Heritage 1976-2000
Source details : "Excavations at the Hadrian's Wall Fort of Birdoswald (Banna) Cumbria: 1996-2000": paper by Tony Wilmott, Hilary Cool and Jerry Evans.
Page(s) : 203-387
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 21
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : HE SfM ORTHO 05-JAN-2017
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 22
Source : Digital Elevation Model
Source details : HE SfM DEM 05-JAN-2017
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 23
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Cumbria Records Office (Carlisle) DHN/C/713/3
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 4
Source : The Roman inscriptions of Britain, 1. Inscriptions on stone
Source details :
Page(s) : 576-95
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 BHP 03-NOV-71
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : The place-names of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 261-2
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : (Frere S S)
Page(s) : 436-7
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 19, 1988
Source Number : 8
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 274-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 20, 1989
Source Number : 9
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Keith Blood/09-SEP-1987/RCHME: Birdoswald Survey.
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9a
Source : Research on Hadrian's Wall
Source details :
Page(s) : 196-203
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Built 117AD onward
Monument End Date : 117
Monument Start Date : 117
Monument Type : Fort, Basilica
Evidence : Earthwork, Structure, Sub Surface Deposit, Ruined Building, Find
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Rebuilt first half C3AD
Monument End Date : 250
Monument Start Date : 201
Monument Type : Fort
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Reoccupied early C4AD
Monument End Date : 332
Monument Start Date : 301
Monument Type : Fort
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : 420-520 Early Medieval use
Monument End Date : 520
Monument Start Date : 420
Monument Type : Timber Framed Building
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : C13 use
Monument End Date : 1300
Monument Start Date : 1201
Monument Type : Tower House
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : 16th-17th Century
Monument End Date : 1700
Monument Start Date : 1550
Monument Type : Bastle
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Post medieval feature
Monument End Date : 1901
Monument Start Date : 1540
Monument Type : Ha Ha, Ridge And Furrow
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : C17 use
Monument End Date : 1700
Monument Start Date : 1601
Monument Type : Farmhouse
Evidence : Documentary Evidence

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Fort, Basilica
Object Type : COIN, STATUE, VESSEL
Object Material :

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : CU 28
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Hadrian's Wall Project Number
External Cross Reference Number : NY 6166/18
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 26073
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 80
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Cumbria)
External Cross Reference Number : 343
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : NY 66 NW 14
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 13992
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 14072
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1030997
Relationship type : Is referred to by
Associated Monuments : 1007800
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1449652
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1449868
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 13987
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1612294
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1612388
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1612674
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 13954
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 947610
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 14058
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 14077
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1449652
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 14026
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 14023
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1831-01-01
End Date : 1831-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1850-01-01
End Date : 1852-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1859-01-01
End Date : 1859-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1949-01-01
End Date : 1950-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1952-01-01
End Date : 1952-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1967-01-01
End Date : 1968-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NY 66 NW 14
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1971-11-03
End Date : 1971-11-03
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1986-01-01
End Date : 1986-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: BIRDOSWALD SURVEY
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1987-02-23
End Date : 1987-10-05
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: HADRIAN'S WALL PROJECT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1993-08-01
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD SPUR
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD STUDY CENTRE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (TIME TEAM)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD (BANNA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: HADRIAN'S WALL WHS MAPPING PROJECT, NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2002-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD WATER PIPELINE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2003-01-01
End Date : 2003-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD FORT SIGNAGE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD WATER MAIN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BIRDOSWALD WATER MAIN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT UNDERHEUGH FARM
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2013-01-01
End Date : 2013-12-31