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Historic England Research Records

Verbeia Roman Fort

Hob Uid: 49938
Location :
Bradford
Bradford
Ilkley
Grid Ref : SE1163047890
Summary : The site of a Roman fort at Ilkley, with the possible Roman placename Verbeia. Excavation indicated that the first fort was timber-built in circa 80 AD, abandoned in circa 100 AD, and reoccupied in circa 169 AD. It was then burnt again in circa 196-7 AD, rebuilt in stone in circa 198 AD, and reorganised and rebuilt in circa 300 AD. Finds from outside the fort show that the vicus lay chiefly to the south and extended for at least 1/2 mile east-west.
More information : [Area centred SE 1163 4789] Olicana Roman Fort [G.S.] Olicana (1-2)

The Roman fort at Ilkley was excavated in 1919-21 by the Yorks Archaeological Society, only the N. part of the site being accessible. The fort was deduced to have measured 324' E-W by 320'N-S (Area 2.23 acres).
The first defences,consisting of a clay rampart resting on cobbles, most probably date to the series of forts established by Agricola (Supported by finds of 2 coins of Domitian and typical 1st cent. pottery). A wooden gateway was contemporary with the rampart. The praetorium and other wooden buildings were apparently destroyed by fire, the latest datable object from the burnt layer or below it being a coin of Trajan struck between A.D. 103-111.
The fort was reoccupied by the middle of the 2nd cent. at the latest (dated by coins and pottery), when the masonry defence wall and towers, and the stone-built commandant's house were erected and presumably the praetorium rebuilt. With the wall are associated the towers flanking the N. gate. The commmandant's house was destroyed by fire shortly before A.D. 300. There are slight signs of re-occupation, in two stages during the 4th cent. the last period of occupation can probably be assigned to Theodosius.
Many finds,including altars and sculptured stones, were made during the excavations. Later finds included a cross-head regarded by Collingwood as of post Conquest date, built into a presumably mediaeval wall on the site of the commandant's house. Large quantities of Md. pottery, mainly of 13th/14th cent. were found, perhaps connected with the building of the church. Finds from outside the fort show that the vicus lay chiefly to the S. and extended for at least 1/2 mile E-W Plan. AO/55/94/1-3. (3)

Survey revised. (4)

Name 'OLICANA'? accepted for 4th edition R.B. Map.
OLICANA listed by Ptolemy has been traditionally accepted as Ilkley but this may have been a metathesis of the name OLENACUM? (now ascribed to Elslack fort - see SD 94 NW 2). The identification of Ptolemy's OLICANA with Ilkley has no etymological basis and Rivet suggests the name VERBEIA instead, this being the Roman equivalent of the River Wharfe, on which Ilkley stands. (5)

B R Hartley conducted excavations on the Roman fort at Ilkley in 1962. In the light of these it was stressed that the plans of earlier excavations were not accurate and that only the structures in the 1962 trenches were certainly in their correct positions on the plans.
The first fort at Ilkley was an Agricolan foundation.
The excavations of 1962 suggested that it may have been roughly square c.375 ft across, and enclosing c 3.2 acres. The defences had turf ramparts 18ft wide with stone underpinning. The evacuation of the fort early in the second century was attested by a break in the pottery record, the levelling of the defences and burning of internal buildings.
By 169 AD at the latest Ilkley had been reoccupied. The new fort was given clay ramparts on the same lines as the first defences on the west and north and presumably round the whole circuit. The garrison was almost certainly a cohors equitata perhaps the Lingones. This phase came to an end in 196-7 AD, when some or perhaps all its buildings were burnt down.
Ilkley was again garrisoned in 197-8 A.D., and the work of rebuilding included the provision of a stone wall fronting the rampart. For the first time the internal buildings were constructed in stone. There was a cohors equitata in garrison, but probably not the Ligones.
The appearance of the fort changed radically in the next period, which was presumed to be part of the general reorganisation under Constantius. The fort wall was certainly now freestanding and the gates seem to have been simplified. Space was available for extension of the buildings towards the defences and a new large praetorium and at least one building in the praetentura were constructed. It is evident from the continued use of the stables that a part-mounted unit was still in garrison.
The fort continued in full occupation in the late fourth century, though it was impossible to be sure how late its use continued. In 1977 the cutting of a narrow trench by the N.E. Gas Board up Castle Hill revealed the western defensive wall of the Roman fort standing 1.5m high. The Antonine clay rampart was cut into by an unidentifiable post Roman wall running parallel to the Roman defences. (6-7)

SE 116 748. Ilkley.
`Fragment of a gritstone dedication slab, 0.33 by 0.89 by 0.37 m, found in 1982 re-usd in the foundations of the west wall of the parish church. It carried a ten-line text, now badly worn, on a recessed panel within a plain moulded border:
[...]/[...] INVICTOS [...]/[...]/[...] JSSIMOA [.../...] MSVORVM [.../...] RINVSV [.../...] ELICIS [.../...] EVLEGA [.../...] ISSIMVSNV [.../...] VMCOM [...' (8)

Fragments of a stone-built stable with a drain running down the interior were found at this site. For a description and plan see article. (9-10)

SE 11644787 Site of Roman Fort, Ilkley. This site occupied a strategically important position in the mid-Pennines at the junction of the Roman roads from Ribchester - York and Manchester - Aldborough. Another road appears to have linked Ilkley with Bainbridge. The fort controlled a crossing point on the River Wharf and lies on a plateau 100m south and about 12m above the present river. The fort displays five building phases and was occupied from cAD 80 until about the end of the 4th century with a forty year period of abandonment during the second century; scheduled. (11)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" 1956
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Annotated Record Map
Source details : Ordnance Survey Roman Britain Map (3rd Ed.) 1956
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 15.10.90
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : The Yorkshire archaeological journal
Source details : (A.M. Woodward)
Page(s) : 137-321
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 28, 1925
Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 RWE 27-OCT-61
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : The place-names of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 43
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society
Source details : (B R Hartley)
Page(s) : 23-72
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 12(2), 1966
Source Number : 7
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 4 Yorkshire Archaeological Register
Source details :
Page(s) : 4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1977
Source Number : 8
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : (M W C Hassall and R S O Tomlin)
Page(s) : 337
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 14, 1983
Source Number : 9
Source : Roman forts of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD in Britain and the German provinces
Source details :
Page(s) : 177-178
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10a
Source : Romano-British urban defences
Source details :
Page(s) : 117, 181
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 126

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Fort, Altar, Vicus
Evidence : Demolished Building, Find, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : C12 to C14
Monument End Date : 1400
Monument Start Date : 1200
Monument Type : Wall, Cross
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Find

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Fort, Altar, Vicus
Object Type : VESSEL, COIN
Object Material :
Period : Medieval
Component Monument Type : Wall, Cross
Object Type : VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 13401
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NY 247
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SE 14 NW 28
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 49841
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : ILKLEY FORT (OLICANA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1919-01-01
End Date : 1921-12-31
Associated Activities : FIELD OBSERVATION ON SE 14 NW 28
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1961-10-27
End Date : 1961-10-27
Associated Activities : ILKLEY FORT (OLICANA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1962-01-01
End Date : 1962-12-31
Associated Activities : ILKLEY FORT (OLICANA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1965-01-01
End Date : 1965-12-31
Associated Activities : ILKLEY FORT (OLICANA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1977-01-01
End Date : 1977-12-31
Associated Activities : ALL SAINT'S, ILKLEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1982-01-01
End Date : 1982-12-31
Associated Activities : DALTON HOUSE, HAWKSWORTH STREET
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : ILKLEY FORT
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND TO THE REAR OF GLOVERS GARAGE, BRIDGE LANE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND AT ILKLEY ROMAN FORT
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2014-01-01
End Date : 2014-12-31