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Historic England Research Records

Cawthorn

Hob Uid: 60589
Location :
North Yorkshire
Ryedale
Cropton, Pickering
Grid Ref : SE7852090120
Summary : Roman temporary camp and two forts, one with an annexe, surviving as earthworks. Limited finds evidence indicates a late 1st and early 2nd century AD date. Many features, including streets and embanked enclosures, exist in the interiors of the main defensive earthworks, in particular within Fort A, Annexe B and Camp C. Limited excavation in 1999-2000 in Fort A and Annexe B revealed evidence of multi-phase buildings and streets. Roman period pottery and melon glass beads were recovered and one building produced an archaeo-magnetic date of late 1st and early 2nd century date. In addition, there is post-Roman activity on site in the form of probable Grubenhaeuser, a number of which were excavated in the 1920s by Sir Ian Richmond and termed as 'officers' dugouts'. One of these 'dugouts' was re-excavated in 1999 and proven to be, in all probability, a Grubenhaus of Early Medieval date. A number of depressions across the site require investigation as further examples of Grubenhaeuser. Other features, particularly in Camp C, may be of post-Roman date. There is also evidence for pre-Roman activity on site including a barrow in the centre of Fort A (SE 79 SE 55), also a substantial ditch and a pit which were found to underly the north and west ramparts of Fort A in the excavations undertaken in 2000.
More information : (SE 784 900) Roman Camps (R) (1)

The four Roman practice earthworks at Cawthorn were excavated by I A Richmond for the Yorks Arch. Soc. in 1924-29. Two periods of occupation separated by an interval of c. 6-10 years were proved; the mean date for the second period being 100 AD. First Period: Camp 'C' was constructed and used for the legionary forces engaged in building Camp 'A' (See Plan 2) Camp 'A': This palisaded camp, although unfinished, was systematically demolished when abandoned. Second Period: Camp 'B' was a later extension and incorporation of Camp 'A', and was used by the legionaries constructing Fort 'D' (see Plan 1). Fort 'D': An unfinished fort paralleled to Hod Hill (ST 81 SE 20) and abandoned before completion (see Plan 2) Roman pottery fragments from 'B' and 'D' are dated to 80-120 AD. Richmond classifies all these earthworks as practice camps on the basis of their character and unsuitability of site for permanent occupation. Only Camps 'A', 'B' and 'C' show signs of occupation. Although Richmond states that all the works are camps, he parallels earthwork 'D' to the Roman fort at Hod Hill on the basis of construction and layout. Frere refers to all the earthworks as forts but gives no reason for this. Examination of plans of Earthwork 'D' and Hod Hill, together with a re-appraisal of Richmond's report, suggests a classification of practice fort for earthwork 'D'. (2-3)

All the earthworks are reasonably well preserved, but heavily overgrown. Camp 'C' is about 262m. N-S by 104m E-W at the widest point its single bank is 3.0m wide and 0.7m high, and ditch 3.0m wide and 0.5m deep. Internally one or two amorphous banks are discernible under a thick vegetational mat, together with the possible site of a' turf building' at SE 7825 9000 represented by a slightly embanked enclosure 9.0m by 6.0m. Camps 'A' and 'B' together cover an area some 300.0m E-W by 160.0m N-S (see Plan 1 for structural details). As with 'C', little is now visible internally, although a few fragmentary banks and ill-defined enclosures (? turf buildings or windbreaks for tents) are discernable under favourable conditions. Fort 'D' is 132m N-S by 114m. and is formed by a strong double bank and ditch system (average bank 10.0m wide by 1.3m high). On the north side remnants of a bank with outer berm cum ditch skirting the edge of the escarpment appears to turn into the angles of the fort, particularly in the NW, and may represent some form of minor outwork. There are no visible internal remains associated with this earthwork. Published survey (25") revised. (4)

There are doubts about the interpretation of the Cawthorn camps, but the defence construction of two of them, Richmond's A & D, implies that they were practice forts, the former possibly of Flavian date and the latter early Trajanic. (5)

The other camps appear to have been working or labour camps. A good case could be made for labelling all four as practice works, in that practice was the object of the exercise, but the element of uncertainty is such that it may be unwise to distinguish them in this way. In the view of the RCHM a mound outside the S. gate and other mounds outside the E. gate of camp A, and two more outside the S. gate of camp B, should be regarded as excavation spoil heaps. (6)

The sites were labelled A-D by Richmond. His site D is a fort of 1.4ha. This fort impinges at its SE corner on the rampart and ditch of a long narrow irregularly shaped temporary camp C. Further to the NE lies a second fort A extending over 2.65 ha (6.56 acres). Attached to east side of A is a further rectangular fortification B. This was evidently intended not as an annexe, but as an enlargement of A, since the east rampart of A was flattened to give access; moreover the gates of A were originally defended by titula, which have been overlaid by double claviculae on the west and south sides corresponding with double claviculae proveded for B. The combined area of A and B is 4.57 ha (11.3 acres). Cawthorn has long been held to comprise a practice ground where on two occasions legionaries were exercised in the skills of fort construction. Frere and St. Joseph suggest that this identification has been undermined to some extent by the discovery of a Flavian fort at Lease Rigg c. 15 km to the North on the Roman road, which passes Cawthorn. The existence of this fort seems to demand another near Cawthorn to fill the interval between Lease Rigg and the fort at Malton, which lies c.18.5 km further south. They suggest that renewed excavation is called for, especially in the interior of D which was little explored, in order to search more thoroughly for permanent structures. The one fact, which strongly militates against the idea of occupied forts at Cawthorn is the absence of an adequate water supply. Water would have to be fetched from the Sutherland Beck flowing at the foot of a steep slope to the north. Hartley and Spratt voice the suspicion that Richmond's Camp D at Cawthorn was an auxiliary fort, rather than a practice work, although they feel that the other 3 earthworks are clealy connected with field exercises and practice in construction. (7)

Cambell's reappraisal of the evidence for Ballistaria in Roman Britain, suggests that the turf platforms at Cawthorn Camps A & B do not necessarily imply the presence of artillery. This removes the reason for postulating the presence of legionaries at forts: an otherwise unattested class of monument. (8-9)

This camp has been re-assessed in connection with RCHME's survey and publication of Roman Camps in England. The following descriptive account is taken from the published text. NAR Number SE 79 SE 45 retained as parent record for Cawthorn complex; all seperate elements now recorded as unique NAR numbers; children of SE 79 SE 45.
A cluster of military earthworks, exceptionally well preserved, survives at 190 m above OD on the crest of the gentle S-facing dip slope that at this point forms the N rim of the Vale of Pickering. The steep N scarp, known as Cawthorn Banks and as Rawcliff Banks, falls 45 m to the diminutive Sutherland Beck which is dammed immediately to the NE to form Elleron Lake. The outlook to the N over Cropton Forest and Spaunton Moor extends for up to 7 km, and to the S, before the growth of the surrounding forest, most of the W half of the Vale of Pickering would have been in view. The site lies on either side of a small re-entrant valley which provides some access down Rawcliff Banks; this may have been a factor in the choice of location, although similar access could have been achieved no more than 1.5 km to the E or W.
The earthworks consist of four major elements. A camp, C, of unusual polygonal design, is partly overlain by a slightly later fort, D, which is probably datable to the late 1st century (NAR SE 79 SE 45; Jones 1975, 140-1 (see auth 5)). To the E of the camp are two structures which have often been classified as camps; on balance, however, the more westerly of the two is best regarded as a fort, A, which was subsequently provided with an annexe on its E side, thus forming a much larger defended area, B.
The earthworks were excavated between 1923 and 1929 (Simpson 1926 (10a); Richmond 1926 (10b); 1929 (10c); 1932 (10d)). The identifying letters A-D usually ascribed to the earthworks are retained here, but most of the highly speculative functions and relationships put forward by Richmond have now been discarded. Certainly there seems to be no overriding reason to consider the sites as practice works. The few finds suggested that occupation may not have continued later than c AD 120. Full information is included in the NMR Archive. (10)

An air photographic evaluation (11-12) was undertaken by the EH Aerial Survey section as part of a wider research project (13-14) investigating Cawthorn Camps from 1998-2002. In addition to the air photographic work, this research has included geophysical survey, topographic survey of Fort A and Annexe B (16) and two seasons of excavation (17-18).

Photogrammetric survey using specially commissioned, large scale air photographs has enabled the production of a detailed plan of the earthwork remains at a scale of 1:500 and an accuracy of 10cm or below. Rectification of this plan with other photographs for the site has enabled further interpretation of the earthworks. In particular, use of photographs taken in 1925 of the excavations undertaken by Simpson, Kirk and Richmond in the 1920s (see sources 2 and 10a-d), has enabled the positive identification of many extant earthworks on site as remains of the 1920s trenches and spoil heaps. Similarly, features attributable to World War II activity have been identified from photographs dating to 1945 and 1946. New earthwork features, some as little as 10cm in height, have been recorded in the interior of the forts, camp and annexe. Many of the internal embanked enclosures and linear banks, particularly those in Camp C, Fort A and Annexe B, are tentatively thought to be of one general phase and possibly contemporary with the main defences. This theory is based on observations on form, alignment and condition of features. (12)

However, the date of many of the interior earthworks is yet to be proven. Richmond (source 2) considered them to be Roman in date, military in nature and contemporary with the main defensive earthworks. More recent research (15-16) has proposed a post-Roman date for some of the features, in particular, the system of streets and enclosures in the south-east of Annexe B, also certain of the pits excavated by Richmond which he termed as 'officers' dugouts'; these latter features are now considered to represent possible sunken featured buildings or grubenhauser of early medieval date. The air photographic interpretation has identified further depressions across the site which require further investigation as potential sunken featured buildings.

The excavations undertaken in 1999-2000 by Dr P.Wilson (EH) comprised ten trenches investigating the following:- the overlap of the defences of Fort D and Camp C, the defences of Fort A on its north, west and east sides (the trench on the east rampart also included the re-excavation of one of Richmond's 'dugouts' located on the top of the rampart), two trenches were located in the interior of Fort D, three trenches investigated various of the turf structures in the interior of Fort A and Annexe B, and one other trench was located in the area between Camp C and Fort A. The re-excavation of Richmond's 'dugout' has proven it to be a probable early medieval sunken featured building as suspected. The internal turf structures investigated are, in all probability, Roman in date; two of the three trenches produced finds of Roman date (pottery and melon beads), the third trench produced an archaeo-magnetic date of late 1st and early 2nd century AD. The trenches investigating the defences of Fort A on its north and west sides found a substantial ditch and a pit underlying the ramparts, providing evidence for pre-Roman activity on site. (17-18)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" 1958
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Source Number : 2
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : (IA Richmond)
Page(s) : 17-78
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Vol(s) : 89, 1933
Source Number : 10a
Source : The Yorkshire archaeological journal
Source details : Simpson, F G. 1926. 'The Roman Camps at Cawthorn, near Pickering'
Page(s) : 25-33
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 28, 1925-6
Source Number : 10b
Source : The Yorkshire archaeological journal
Source details : Richmond, I A. 1926. 'The Roman Camps at Cawthorn, near Pickering'
Page(s) : 421-6
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Vol(s) : 28, 1925-6
Source Number : 10c
Source : The Yorkshire archaeological journal
Source details : Richmond, I A. 1929. 'The Roman camps at Cawthorn, near Pickering'
Page(s) : 90-6, 225-31, 327-31
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Vol(s) : 29, 1927-9
Source Number : 10d
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : Richmond, I A 'The four Roman camps at Cawthorn, in the North Riding of Yorkshire'
Page(s) : 17-78
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Vol(s) : 89, 1933
Source Number : 11
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Stone, J. 1999. 'Cawthorn Camps, North Yorkshire. Air Photograph Evaluation' (Phase I)
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Source Number : 12
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Stone, J. 2002. 'Cawthorn Camps, North Yorkshire. Air Photograph Evaluation' (Phase II)
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Source Number : 13
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Wilson, P. and Lee, G. 1999. 'Cawthorn Camps, North Yorkshire. Project Design for Trial Excavations'
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Source Number : 14
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Wilson, P. and Lee, G. 2000. 'Cawthorn Camps, North Yorkshire. Assessment and Revised Project Design'
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Source Number : 15
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : Lee, G. 1997. 'Cawthorn Roman Military Complex'
Page(s) : 260-7
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Vol(s) : 54
Source Number : 16
Source : Annexe B, Cawthorn Camps, Pickering, North Yorkshire : earthwork survey, interim report
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Source Number : 3
Source : Britannia : a history of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 226
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Source Number : 17
Source : Ryedale historian
Source details : Wilson, P. and Lee, G. 2000-1. 'Cawthorn Camps; Trial Excavations 1999'
Page(s) : 05-Aug
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Vol(s) : 20
Source Number : 18
Source : Ryedale historian
Source details : Wilson, P. and Lee, G. 2002-4. 'Cawthorn Camps 2000 - Interim Report'
Page(s) : 30-Mar
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Vol(s) : 21
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Source : Cawthorn Camps, North Yorkshire: Air Photograph Evaluation
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Source : Cawthorn, 1992, added detail/pencil survey
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Source : Cawthorn/profiles key
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Source : Cawthorn, 1975-77/pencil survey
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Source : Cawthorn, Camp C/profiles
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Source : Cawthorn, Camp B and Fort A/profiles
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Source : Cawthorn, Roman outwork, tribunal in Fort A, tent-lines in Camp B/profiles
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Source : Cawthorn, 1975-77/ink survey
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Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 RE 23-DEC-74
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Source : Cawthorn, 1992, additional detail within Camp C/ink survey
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Source : Cawthorn, 1975-77, eastern part detail/pencil survey
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Source : Cawthorn, Fort D and Camp C/profiles
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Source : Cawthorn/contour survey
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Source : Cawthorn, Fort D/profiles
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Source Number : 5
Source : Roman fort-defences to A.D. 117, with special reference to Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 140-1
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Vol(s) : 21
Source Number : 6
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Letters (R Farrar, 7.4.76 & 15.6.76)
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Source Number : 7
Source : Roman Britain from the air
Source details :
Page(s) : 109-110
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Source Number : 8
Source : Prehistoric and Roman archaeology of north-east Yorkshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 211-2
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Vol(s) : 104
Source Number : 9
Source : Ballistaria in first to mid-third century Britain: a reappraisal [not artillery platforms]
Source details :
Page(s) : 75-84
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Vol(s) : 15
Source Number : 10
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Humphrey Welfare and Vivien Swan/1994/RCHME: Roman Camps in England Project.
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Temporary Camp, Fort, Fort Annexe, Building, Road
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : Anglian
Monument End Date : 1066
Monument Start Date : 450
Monument Type : Grubenhaus, Settlement
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 : NY 518
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 24436
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SE 79 SE 45
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 60147
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 60148
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1012169
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 60608
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 917009
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 917116
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 917059
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 916866
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 917038
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : CAWTHORNE CAMPS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1924-01-01
End Date : 1928-12-31
Associated Activities : FIELD OBSERVATION ON SE 79 SE 45
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1974-12-23
End Date : 1974-12-23
Associated Activities : RCHME: CAWTHORN ROMAN CAMP, FORTS AND ANNEXE
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1975-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : CAWTHORN CAMP D
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : CAWTHORN ROMAN CAMPS
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1989-01-01
End Date : 1989-12-31
Associated Activities : ANNEXE B, CAWTHORN CAMPS
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : CAWTHORN CAMPS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : ENGLISH HERITAGE: CAWTHORN CAMPS AIR PHOTOGRAPH EVALUATION, PHASE I
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 1999-08-01
End Date : 1999-11-01
Associated Activities : ENGLISH HERITAGE: CAWTHORN CAMPS AIR PHOTOGRAPH EVALUATION, PHASE II
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31