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Historic England Research Records

Branodunum

Hob Uid: 357592
Location :
Norfolk
King's Lynn and West Norfolk
Brancaster
Grid Ref : TF7823044020
Summary : The sequence of events on this site has been summarised as follows:- In the late 2nd century AD a conjectural fort is established in response to coastal raiding. On either side of the fort a settlement, which has been excavated, is laid out in an ordered fashion. In the second quarter of the 3rd century AD the original fort is replaced by the Saxon Shore fort on the same site. The original settlement areas, although undergoing continual redefinition of their enclosures, retain their original alignment. At some point in the second half of the 3rd century AD a quarry ditch is excavated which blocks off the west gate of the fort. This ditch may be associated with internal reorganization of the fort; possibly associated with the change of garrison from the Cohors I Aquitanorum to the Equites Dalmatae of the Notitia Dignitatum (assuming the former's presence on the site was not associated with supposed earlier 2nd century fort. In the 4th century AD it would appear that the western settlement area was largely abandoned and its site was occupied by enclosures associated with the fort in their alignment. The constraints of the excavations means that the above sequence of events is only speculative. The walls of the fort survived up to 12 feet high in the 17th century, but robbing during the subsequent centuries mean that the fort is now only visible as an earthwork and on aerial photographs.
More information : (TF 782440) Branodunum Roman Fort (R) (Site of) (1)

A walled Roman fort identified from the list of Saxon Shore forts in the Notitia Dignitatum as Branodunum. In the 17th Cent. the walls were 12ft high surrounded by an 18ft ditch (Icenia 1698 147-8 Spelman). Destruction of these remains for local building is known to have started c.1770. (2)

In 1846 excavations by Rev Warner revealed footings at the north-east corner, the east gate and various places along the east and north wall. Walls indicating the presence of internal buildings were also located. Excavations in 1935 by Norfolk Research Committee reconfirmed the north east corner and established the line of the north, west and south walls (see plan). Finds of pottery and coins (Norwich Castle Museum) suggest 3rd-4th cent. occupation. J K St Joseph claims that there are earthwork annexes on the north and south sides, but Clarke doubts their existence. The air photographs support Clarke's view; they clearly show ditches round the established wall only; other depression appear to be natural. (3-5)

This site has been arable for some time and the earthworks are well spread. The line of the wall, visible as a soil mark, can be traced clearly on the west, north and east sides and it almost certainly follows the line of the present hedge on the south. Within the walled area is a heavy scatter of occupation debris, oyster shells, pottery, tiles etc. The supposed annexes mentioned by Auths 3 & 4 are natural undulations.
Surveyed at 1:2500. (6)

An extensive area of civilian settlement outside the east gate of the fort is visible as cropmarks on air photos: almost every detail of the street system and house plots can be seen (a). Trial excavations have shown a similar occupation on the west side, almost half of which will soon be destroyed by a new housing project. (7)

Surface finds including building material, Ro pottery and a coin, an antoninianus of Caracalla were found at TF 779439, after ploughing. (8)

What may be part of another earlier fort is visible to the NNW (TF 78154420 approx). (9)

Romano-Saxon pottery has been found within the fort. (10)

Soil marks visible on OS APs 72 033 076-77 are difficult to interpret and do not present a picture as outlined by authorities 7 and 8. Similarly the suggested "earlier fort" to the NNW cannot be identified. (11)

Apart from the earthwork remains of the fort, which are likely to be levelled by continuous ploughing, no coherent settlement pattern or associable earthworks are visible on the ground. There is no surface evidence of another fort to the NNW. A raised level area centred at TF 7814 4416 is largely formed by natural contouring and the near ploughed out fort ditch. Fresh ploughing shows little trace of occupation, and no structural evidence here, but Norfolk Arch Unit hold APs (not seen) showing "a possible military style enclosure" which they do not consider as yet to be a fort (a). The nucleus of the civilian settlement appears to be in the field to the NW and E of the fort, centred TF 784 441. The whole of this undulating field under rolled plough has a dense scatter of building material, pottery and domestic refuse which decreases in distance from the fort. Only isolated finds of tile and pottery were made in the ploughed fields immediately to the S of the fort. The field centred TF 779 440, to the W, is now overgrown rough pasture that is partly developed. The trial excavation in summer 1974 by Norfolk Arch Unit in area TF 7790 4400 confirmed AP and geo-physical survey evidence of settlement and enclosure, but further excavation in the near future is not expected.
Unpublished survey (25") revised. (12)

Name 'BRANODVNVM' accepted for 4th edition R.B.Map.

TF 779440. Excavations on the site of the enclosures to the west of the Saxon Shore fort, showed the earliest occupation consisted of a gully and palisade trench containing 2nd century material. Later a palisaded enclosure was constructed south of the road line, the north west corner being stripped to reveal traces of internal divisions and a hearth but no buildings. In the late 4th century AD these structures were demolished. North of the road 4th century occupation was encountered associated with fragmentry timber buildings. (13)

TF 781441. Using air photographs, further details of the interior of the Saxon Shore fort has shown the 'Principia', of courtyard type, lies in the southern half of the fort. Its position coincides with a dense scatter of rubble in the ploughed soil. The "Via Principia" and the "Via Praetoria" are visible and further structures appear in the northern part of the fort. (14)

Excavations west of the fort revealed more of the complex of enclosures sampled in 1974. As suggested by air photographs, the enclosures related to a ditched trackway emerging from the west gate of the fort. There was evidence for a number of insubstantial timber structures within some enclosures. Preliminary examination of the pottery suggests that intensive occupation began in the second half of the 2nd century and ceased before 300. There was little evidence for 4th century activity in contrast with the apparent situation within the fort and the area excavated to the west. (15)

TF 782440. Scheduled area extended to include the civil settlement and the possible harbour to the north of the fort. (16)

BRANODUNUM - The Roman fort at Brancaster. (17)

Photograph of fort and civil settlement. Description as above. (18)

Excavations to the west of the fort were undertaken in advance of housing development in 1974 and 1977. The excavations demonstrated that the enclosure system was initially laid out to a regular plan. The ditches defining the enclosures were subsequently subjected to frequent clearance, re-definition and re-alignment. The effects of cultivation had undoubtedly led to the erosion of evidence for structures within the enclosures but the quantity of domestic rubbish in the fillings of the enclosure ditches indicates that these are essentially 'houseplots'. Ceramic evidence suggests that occupation of the area began before the end of the second century AD and continued through the third century. Activity in the fourth century seems to have been greatly reduced, at least in the part of the excavated area closest to the fort where the principal west-to-east trackway, which formed the spine of the settlement here, had gone out of use. Later occupation may have been concentrated further to the west. The dating evidence for this settlement area indicates that it predates the shore fort. It is suggested that the external settlement areas relate to a hitherto unidentified military establishment of the second century. The evidence of surface finds of coins and metalwork indicate that occupation within the shore fort continued throughout the fourth century AD. Full excavation report. (19)

Additional references. (20-21)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" 1959
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : (JK St Joseph)
Page(s) : 444-60
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 16, 1936
Source Number : 10
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 7: Bulletin of archaeological discoveries
Source details :
Page(s) : 4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 18, 1971
Source Number : 11
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 FDC 06-JAN-76
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11b
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Oral: D. Edwards, Norfolk Arch. Unit
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F3 JRL 08-JAN-76
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 7: Bulletin of archaeological discoveries
Source details :
Page(s) : 2
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 21, 1974
Source Number : 13c
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : CJS Green & D A Edwards
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : East Anglian archaeology reports
Source details :
Page(s) : 258-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 2, 1976
Source Number : 15
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 448
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 9, 1978
Source Number : 16
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : DOE (IAM) Ancient Monuments Record Form 9.1.74
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 17
Source : The place-names of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 274-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Annotated Record Map
Source details : J K St Joseph Rec 6" (undt'd)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 18
Source : Roman Britain from the air
Source details :
Page(s) : 81-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 19
Source : Excavations at Brancaster 1974 and 1977
Source details :
Page(s) : 1-244
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : no.23
Source Number : 20
Source : Late Roman fortifications
Source details :
Page(s) : 68, 196, 198, 210, 210
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 21
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 6: Bulletin
Source details :
Page(s) : 24
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 30, 1986
Source Number : 4
Source : Annotated Record Map
Source details : R R Clarke Rec 6" (undt'd)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : 9005/60/12 and 9006/60/13
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 JB 02-APR-73
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Current archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 282-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 4, 1974
Source Number : 7a
Source : Aerial photograph
Source details : (Derek Edwards 1973)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 7: Bulletin of archaeological discoveries
Source details : (inf CJS Green)
Page(s) : 2
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 20, 1973
Source Number : 9
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 172
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 10, 1966

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 432
Monument Start Date :
Monument Type : Saxon Shore Fort
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Late C2
Monument End Date : 199
Monument Start Date : 167
Monument Type : Vicus, Fort
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Conjectural Evidence
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 249
Monument Start Date : 235
Monument Type : Saxon Shore Fort
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NF 208
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Norfolk)
External Cross Reference Number : 1001
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Norfolk)
External Cross Reference Number : 1003
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Norfolk)
External Cross Reference Number : 1002
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Norfolk)
External Cross Reference Number : 1004
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TF 74 SE 1
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1043805
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, RACK HILL, BRANODUNUM
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1846-01-01
End Date : 1846-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RACK HILL, BRANODUNUM
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1846-01-01
End Date : 1846-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RACK HILL, BRANODUMUM
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1935-01-01
End Date : 1935-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRANCASTER
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1960-01-01
End Date : 1960-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRANCASTER
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1973-01-01
End Date : 1973-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON TF 74 SE 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1973-04-02
End Date : 1973-04-02
Associated Activities : Primary, BRANCASTER
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1974-01-01
End Date : 1974-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRANCASTER
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1975-01-01
End Date : 1975-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON TF 74 SE 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1976-01-06
End Date : 1976-01-06
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON TF 74 SE 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1976-01-08
End Date : 1976-01-08
Associated Activities : Primary, BRANODUNUM
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1977-01-01
End Date : 1977-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRANCASTER
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1985-01-01
End Date : 1985-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CROSS LANE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRANCASTER (BRANODUNUM)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, HALL FARM, BRANCASTER
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 1 CORNER LODGE, BRANCASTER STAITHE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 'HALF ACRE', CROSS LANE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2011-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRANCASTER/BRANODUNUM (TIME TEAM)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2012-01-01
End Date : 2012-12-31