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Record Details

HER Number:01771
Type of record:Monument
Name:Chesterton Roman Fort and Settlement


The partially excavated site of 1st or 2nd century roman fort and settlement complex. Various excavations during the 20th century have revealed evidence for a large rampart and associated ditches and produced finds of 1st century AD date. The full extent of the fort has, however, only been conjectured. Other features, including a possible oven have also been encountered.

Grid Reference:SJ 8309 4904
Map Sheet:SJ84NW
Parish:Newcastle under Lyme, Newcastle Under Lyme Borough
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Monument Type(s):

  • FORT (ROMAN - 43 AD? to 199 AD?)
  • VICUS (ROMAN - 43 AD? to 199 AD?)
  • OVEN (ROMAN - 43 AD? to 199 AD?)

Associated Events:

  • EST164 - An archaeological excavation at Chesterton Roman Fort by FH Goodyear in 1969. (NRHE Name - Chesterton)
  • EST240 - An archaeological excavation at Chesterton Roman Fort by Thomas Pape in 1933. (NRHE Name - Chesterton 2)
  • EST968 - An archaeological evaluation at Chesterton High School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, April 1996. (NRHE Name - Chesterton High School) (Ref: Report No. 49)
  • EST970 - An archaeological evaluation at Mount Pleasant, Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, December 1998. (NRHE Name - Mount Pleasant, Chesterton)
  • EST971 - An archaeological watching brief at Mount Pleasant, Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Jan to Feb 2000. (NRHE Name - Mount Pleasant, Chesterton)
  • EST3207 - An archaeological excavation at Chesterton Roman Fort by WH Dutton in 1895. (NRHE Name - Chesterton)
  • EST3209 - An archaeological excavation at Chesterton Roman Fort by Thomas Pape in 1925. (NRHE Name - Chesterton 1)
  • EST3212 - An archaeological excavation at Chesterton Roman Fort by JH Kelly in 1956. (NRHE Name - Chesterton)
  • EST3213 - An archaeological excavation at Chesterton Roman Fort and settlement in 1977. (NRHE Name - Waterhays Farm)

Full description

Fort / Settlement: Roman site of late 1st or early 2nd century (AD) date. Samian ware, pottery torso of Venus, bronze bell, glass bead and other Roman pottery has been found during excavations. <1>

The name is suggestive or Roman origin. The north 'vallum' and fosse still remain and the east and west defences can be traced. The camp forms a parallelogram measuring 365 yards by 300 yards (outside measure) and encloses upwards of 20 acres, the ditch being 20 metres wide. So far as is known no Roman or other relics have been found upon the site. Erdeswick, writing in 1603, mentions remains of masonry which were seen in his time in sufficiently good preservation for them to be perceived as 'walls of marvellous thickness'. The site was excavated in 1905, with the only result being the recovery of some pieces of flat red sandstone joined with mortar (although earlier scholars did not necessarily perceive this mortar to be Roman). (SB, 12-Jan-2012) <2>

A Roman site of uncertain character. Some antiquarian writers have suggested that a camp existed on the site and that it was the 'Mediolanium' of the Antonine Itinerary. There have been numerous excavations on the site although they have added little to our knowledge and understanding.
Excavations in 1892 made no finds, while in 1895 excavations for the British Archaeological Association revealed only undated masonry. In 1925 T. Pape undertook excavations at eight points within the camp but made no finds.
In 1933 building work and excavations revealed an occupation level. Finds included 1st Century (AD) samian, Flavian pottery, including rusticated ware, and a lead weight. Excavations near Old Hall Farm in 1956 revealed a pit and a hearth and produced a quantity of samian and coarse pottery and a pipe-clay figurine and in the same year further finds were made during the building of the new school. (SB, 12-Jan-2012) <3>

An archaeological excavation was undertaken on the site of the Roman fort at Chesterton in the summer of 1969, during the demolition of a row of 19th century houses on Mount Pleasant. These houses had obscured the only remaining surface evidence of the fort defences, a high bank running parallel to the farm lane to the north-west of the site.
Confirmation of the position of the south-eastern defences was quickly identified. The rampart occupied a width of 25ft (circa 8 metres) and was seen to have consisted largely of sandstone fragments between substantial turf walls (with some of the individual turves showing up quite clearly).
The innermost defensive ditch was a good example of its type, here cut into the sandstone bedrock. Originally it probably formed a barrier about 15 ft (circa 5 metres) wide by 5 or 6ft (circa 2 metres) deep, with a square-cut drainage ditch at the bottom. The careful siting of the fort is illustrated by the way in which the ramparts were erected close to the edge of a rocky outcrop, but leaving room for the inner ditch to be cut into the bedrock to provide drainage and further defence.
A structure identified immediately behind the rampart has been interpreted as a baking oven, with the collapsed dome of burnt clay clearly distinguished from the clay base of the oven by a black line of charcoal between them. Behind the working area and stoke-holes of the ovens a gully cut had been cleanly into the sandstone, probably to drain the 'intervallum' road. This road separated the ovens from the barrack blocks and other (timber) buildings which would have occupied the centre of the fort.
Although a precise date for the construction of the fort could not be established from these excavations most of the pottery recovered suggest a date of some time in the last quarter of the 1st century AD. (SB, 12-Jan-2012) <4>

An archaeological evaluation was undertaken in April 1986 on the site of a proposed new sports hall at Chesterton High School. The evaluation comprised of the excavation of three small trenches, two of which (Trench A and Trench B) produced well preserved structural features indicative of past activity on the site. A linear feature and the posthole (in Trench A) and a paved surface (in Trench B) indicate the presence of buildings, probably related to the functioning of the Roman fort. Roman pottery recovered from Trench A appears to confirm a Roman date for the features, while the paved surface is certainly of pre-18th century date and its position within the fort and its similarity to other identified Roman surfaces would seem to suggest a Roman date for the paved surface as well.
Considerable recent disturbance was identified across other areas of the fort meaning that the full extent of the fort has still not been defined. (SB, 12-Jan-2012) <5>

An archaeological evaluation was undertaken in 1998 in the (projected) area of the southern corner of Chesterton Roman fort (off Mount Pleasant). No evidence of the fort rampart or associated ditches were revealed within the evaluation trench and although there was evidence of later (Victorian) disturbance the depth of it was unlikely to have been enough to completely obscure evidence of earlier activity. It is therefore considered unlikely that the fort rampart and ditches extended into the area of the evaluation and the extent of the fort is therefore still undefined. (SB, 12-Jan-2012) <6>

An archaeological watching brief at Mount Pleasant in early 2000 failed to reveal any firm evidence for surviving archaeological deposits relating to the south-west corner of Chesterton Roman fort and no finds datable to this period were recovered. The site appears to have been heavily truncated in this area by the construction of housing in the nineteenth century, by subsequent demolition of the housing in the 1970s and by work associated with the construction of Chesterton Secondary Modern School in the 1950s. (SB, 12-Jan-2012) <7>

The Roman fort at Chesterton has been located and sections dug across the defences. The well preserved, timber-laced
rampart was 20 ft wide and supported by turf walls; the inner ditch was cut 4 ft deep into sandstone bedrock. Advantage had been taken of the well drained, steeply dipping sandstone for the fort site, but just beyond the first ditch this is replaced by a clay sub-soil in which the second ditch was cut 17 ft from the first. Pre-Flavian and early Flavian artefacts were found, along with some later sherds. The inner ditch had been deliberately filled and the front of the rampart cut away. There had also been some early c14 interference. (SB, 12-Jan-2012) <8>

Exhibited at a meeting of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire. 'A bronze fibula, found at the Roman camp of Chesterton near Newcastle under Lyme.' (RH, 4-July-2016) <9>

Recent excavations (1892 or earlier) had produced no evidence of Roman occupation. (RH, 4-July-2016) <10>

Excavations at eight points inside the boundary of the north west area of the camp failed to produce any evidence of Roman occupation. (RH, 4-July-2016) <11>

"The rectangular enclosure, twenty acres in extent, at Chesterton has long been regarded as a Roman site, but no definite evidence has hitherto been forthcoming. In June 1933 a part of the rampart immediately west of the north angle was levelled by the farmer for the purpose of erecting a shed, and a layer of red clay containing potsherds and charcoal was encountered. A rubbish pit was also discovered containing pottery of Favian date, together with a small bead weight, weighing 40 grains" (RH, 4-July-2016) <12>

Excavation and observations were made on the site at Chesterton in two distinct areas. A) At a point 19yds west of the western corner of Old Hall farm. An area 15' x 15' was excavated and the remains of a pit and a small hearth was found. Potter fragments, a pipe clay Venus and a glass bead were found. B, The site of a school. Pottery and a fragment of a bronze bell were found during levelling for the school building. These occurred in that was probably an occupation area. (RH, 4-July-2016) <13>

Sources and further reading

---SST2439 - Descriptive text: Michael J Jones. 1975. 'Roman fort-defences to AD 117, with special reference to Britain' British Archaeological Reports (British Series) 21. Page 143.
<1>SST286 - Index: Stoke-on-Trent City Museum Field Archaeology Unit. Card Index (Stoke-on-Trent City Museum Field Archaeology Unit).
<2>SST3636 - Published Book: The Victoria History of the Counties of England. 1908. (VCH volume 1) A History of the County of Stafford, Volume I. Pages 189-190.
<3>SST2033 - Serial: University of Keele. 1964. North Staffordshire Journal of Field Studies Volume 4 (1964). 'An Archaeological Gazetteer of Staffordshire: Part ' by A.J.H. Gunstone - page 30 - Newcastle.
<4>SST3709 - Written: University of Keele. 1970. North Staffordshire Journal of Field Studies Volume 10 (1970). 'The Roman Fort at Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme' by F.H. Goodyear (Pages 103-105).
<5>SST3358 - Evaluation Report: Noel Boothroyd (Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeology Unit). 1996. Archaeological Evaluation at Chesterton High School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. Page 5.
<6>SST3442 - Evaluation Report: Gary Coates (Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit). 1998. Mount Pleasant, Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme: An Archaeological Evaluation 1998. Page 4.
<7>SST3819 - Watching Brief Report: John Halstead (Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit). 2000. An Archaeological Watching Brief at Mount Pleasant, Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire.. Page 2.
<8>SST2193 - Serial: Council for British Archaeology West Midlands (J. Gask - Editor). 1969. West Midlands Archaeological News Sheet Number 12 (1969). 'Chesterton Roman Fort, Staffs' by Frank Goodyear (Keele and Newcastle Arch. Soc.) - Pages 25-26.
<9>SST3824 - Index: Keele University. Keele University Card Index. SJ 84/2 (Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, V, 1852, 1852,99).
<10>SST3824 - Index: Keele University. Keele University Card Index. SJ 84/2 (North Staffordshire Field Club, XXVI, 1892, 139/40).
<11>SST3824 - Index: Keele University. Keele University Card Index. SJ 84/2 (North Staffordshire Field Club, IX, 1925/6, 184/5, T.Pape).
<12>SST3824 - Index: Keele University. Keele University Card Index. SJ 84/2 (Multiple sources, refer to card).
<13>SST3824 - Index: Keele University. Keele University Card Index. SJ 84/2 (North Staffordshire Field Club, XCI, 1957, 96).