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Historic England Research Records

Piercebridge Roman Fort

Hob Uid: 23638
Location :
Darlington
Piercebridge
Grid Ref : NZ2100015750
Summary : The site of the earthwork and consolidated foundation remains of Piercebridge (?Morbium) Roman fort and the excavated site of its bath house, probably built around 270 AD. It is nearly 11 acres in area. The north-east corner and parts of the central east defences have been excavated and consolidated. The west defences survive as earthworks; the south-west corner is defined by a scarp surviving to a height of 0.6 metres. In the adjacent field to the north the central section of the west defences is now much reduced and stands no more than 0.4 metres high; and finally the north-west corner - which is best preserved - has a maximum height of 2.7 metres. Partly overlying the north-west corner is an angular scarp up to 0.4 metres in height, its function unclear. A hoard of 100 silver coins, deposited circa AD 260, has been found here. The fact that buildings in the vicus area pre-date this fort and finds of Flavian material may indicate an earlier fort on this site, though no trace of it has been found yet.
More information : Centred NZ 2100 1575 ROMAN FORT (R)
NZ 2100 1568 ROMAN BATH (R) (1)

Piercebridge on the north bank of the Tees is a large fort, nearly 11 acres in size, which has been shown by excavation during the past twenty years to have been built c.300 A.D. It lies about 200 yards west of Dere Street and the intervening space was apparently occupied by an extensive civil settlement (NZ 21 NW 41). Casual finds include material as early as the Flavian period, but the Flavian Fort which may be postulated here has not yet been found. (2-2e)

Piercebridge Roman Fort - `Magis'. (3)

The southern and eastern boundaries of the fort have been located during recent excavations - which also revealed two centrally placed opposing entrances, on the east and west sides. No entrances on the north and south side have yet been located. The rectangular depression outside the north-west angle of the fort is of uncertain purpose, but it may represent a reservoir. Excavations carried out by the Ministry of Works in 1934 unearthed the stone built rampart in the north-east angle. Two building foundations and a conduit were also uncovered. Built into the rampart is a circular Medieval kiln. No traces of the bath house remain, but hypocausts found in the gardens near the south-east angle of the fort [at NZ 2104 1565] tend to denote the site. (4-4a)

Only fragments of the perimeter of the fort are now visible. At the north-west angle the rampart is a prominent earth bank, the upper surface of which has been slightly dug into. The rectangular depression outside this angle is possibly a later addition, and may well have been a reservoir, as suggested by authority 4. The north-east angle has been preserved in its unearthed state since the excavation of 1934. The stone rampart, 3 metres wide stands to a maximum height of 1.5 metres. Bounding it is an outer ditch 3 metres wide and 0.7 metres deep. Within the cover of the rampart and following its curve are the foundations of a building, with entrances 1 metre wide at each extremity. A wall, representing the north-east angle of another building protrudes through a garden wall into the excavated area. These walls vary in height between 0.6 metres and 1 metre and are 0.6 metres wide. The circular kiln referred to by authority 4 is of the same height as the rampart, and has a diameter of 3.2 m. A fragment of the south-west angle is visible, consisting of a spread scarp 0.7 metres high. On the west wide, only traces of the rampart remain, and these are too vague to be surveyed, or even recognised with certainty. Of the east side there is nothing visible. No traces of roadways or building foundations are now visible in Tofts Field which is under pasture. A scatter of stones covers the whole surface area. (5)

Resurveyed at 1/2500. (6)

Excavations in 1974 revealed part of a barrack block just inside the east defences of the fort at NZ 211 157. The centurion's quarters included two rooms with hypocausts and others with painted wall plaster. The latter also occurred in the men's portion of the barrack, mostly on the exterior wall beneath the veranda roof. A drainage culvert, 1 m wide, ran at the back of the building. The excavations also revealed the three corners of three poorly constructed buildings on the north side of Piercebridge Beck at NZ 211 159. These had been roofed with stone tiles and stood on a raised platform revetted by a wall circa 0.6m high. A floodbank, 3 m wide and 2 m high, ran between the platform and the beck and a section through this bank revealed a hoard of about 100 silver coins, thought to have been deposited circa 260. All other dateable finds from this area were of the second half of the 3rd century. (7)

Name `MAGIS', possibly accepted for 4th edition Romano-British Map. Rivet transfers the name `MAGIS' to Burrow Walls Roman fort, Cumbria (NY 03 SW 3) and very tentatively ascribes the name `MORBIUM' to either Piercebridge or Greta Bridge (see NZ 01 SE 2). (8)

NZ 2119 1567. Excavations within the fort that have been in progress for seven years are now to be consolidated with a view to giving access to the public. Remains uncovered include the east walls and defensive ditch; a courtyard building, two contiguous blocks, once thought to be barracks but now in question, and parts of two vicus buildings which impinge of the fort wall. (9)

Work on the berm to the south of the East gate revealed a lilia system consisting of pits c 0.75 m in diameter and c 0.5 m deep. There were two rows of somewhat obliquely places pits and a continuous small ditch cut into the inner lip of the main defensive ditch. The lilia system is a late example certainly not earlier than 270 AD and probably dating to c. 350 AD. (10-13)

Excavation at the East gate showed three phases : (1) c 270 AD a double-portal gate with both carriageways in use; (ii) c 300 AD a small drain was cut diagonally across the road emptying through the south carriageway and the road resurfaced; (iii) c 350 AD the south portal was blocked a large main latrine from the north-east corner was cut through the earlier roads and drain and the road was resurfaced for the last time. Within the SE corner of the fort were found the well preserved remains of the bath building including a cold plunge-bath and a hot room. Further excavation showed that the barrack block of earlier reports (7) had been wrongly identified: it now seems more likely to have been the E. wing of a courtyard building, which occupied most of the SE corner of the fort. To the north of the road outside the East gate a series of post-holes and trenches was discovered. Sufficient survived to suggest a timber granary c. 5 m wide by over 10 m long. The building pre-dated the late fort of c.270 A.D. but whether it was civil or military in character is unknown. The coin evidence now suggests that the fort was built c 270 AD. (14)

In 1982 excavations were carried out in the western part of the late fort, revealing evidence for several Roman buildings separated by cobbled streets. One wall had cut through an earlier clay floor containing coarse-ware sherds of the second century, thus indicating occupation earlier than the late fort. At No. 8 The Green, the SW corner of a building lined up with one recorded in 1940, and suggested a possible stable measuring c. 37.5 x 4m. (15)

NZ 209 157. Piercebridge. Roman fort listed under Roman remains. Sheduled No 28. (16)

Some pagan Anglo-Saxon pottery was recovered from the fort. (17)

The coin hoard found in 1974 consisted of 1 Maximinus I denarius and 130 Philip I to Postumus antoniniani. (18)

NZ 210 158 (1021). Altar 10 x 15 ins, found in 1934 in disturbed soil inside the north-east angle of the fort. Now in Piercebridge Museum. Drawn by RGC, 1936. Richardson Durh. NAAS vii (1936) 255 (without reading), Ioui[.|...]L[.|.]R[.]ONI|S u(otum) s(oluit) l(ibens) m(erito) `To Jupiter . . . willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow'. (19)

Additional references. (20-23)

Existing survey revised by RCHME during a project on scheduled monuments in County Durham. The archaeological history of Piercebridge Roman fort is summarised in sources 1-16. The north-east corner and parts of the central east defences have been excavated and consolidated. The west defences survive as earthworks; the south-west corner is defined by a scarp surviving to a height of 0.6 m; in the adjacent field to the north the central section of the west defences is now much reduced and stands no more than 0.4 m high; and finally the north-west corner - which is best preserved - has a maximum height of 2.7 m. Partly overlying the north-west corner is an angular scarp up to 0.4 m in height, its function unclear. (24-24a)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" 1954
Page(s) :
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : (E Birley)
Page(s) : 195
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 111, 1954
Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 DAD 24-MAY-57
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F3 RWE 19-MAR-62
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 234
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 6, 1975
Source Number : 8
Source : The place-names of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 420
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F4 RE 23-OCT-81
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : (S Frere)
Page(s) : 381
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 8, 1977
Source Number : 11
Source : University of Durham and University of Newcastle upon Tyne archaeological reports
Source details : (PR Scott and S Large)
Page(s) : 11-Dec
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1979
Source Number : 12
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : (R Goldburn)
Page(s) : 285
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 10, 1979
Source Number : 13
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : (FO Grew)
Page(s) : 362
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 11, 1980
Source Number : 14
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : (NB Rankov)
Page(s) : 345-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 12, 1982
Source Number : 2a
Source : Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland
Source details :
Page(s) : 235-77
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 7, 1936
Source Number : 15
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details : (S Frere)
Page(s) : 292-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 14, 1983
Source Number : 16
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : DOE (IAM) Monuments in England 1 1978
Page(s) : 22
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 17
Source : Settlement in North Britain 1000 BC - AD 1000 : papers presented to George Jobey, Newcastle upon Tyne, December 1982
Source details :
Page(s) : 214
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 118
Source Number : 18
Source : Coin hoards, volume 2
Source details :
Page(s) : 70
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 19
Source : The Roman inscriptions of Britain, 1. Inscriptions on stone
Source details :
Page(s) : 340
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 20
Source : Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland
Source details : (G Keeney)
Page(s) : 27-44
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1, 1968
Source Number : 21
Source : The journal of Roman studies
Source details : (G Keeney)
Page(s) : 165-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 30, 1940
Source Number : 22
Source : Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland
Source details : (MG Jarrett)
Page(s) : 27-44
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1, 1968
Source Number : 23
Source : University of Durham and University of Newcastle upon Tyne archaeological reports
Source details : (PR Scott)
Page(s) : 16-21
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1977
Source Number : 24
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Peter Topping/05-SEP-1991/RCHME: Durham SAMs Project
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2b
Source : Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland
Source details :
Page(s) : 43-68
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 9, 1939
Source Number : 24a
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Scott, P, 1977. Guide to the Visible Remains of Roman Piercebridge (published privately, Durham City)
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : Piercebridge/ink survey
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2c
Source : Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland
Source details :
Page(s) : 127-38
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 9, 1939
Source Number : 2d
Source : Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland
Source details :
Page(s) : 285-309
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2e
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Wooler, 1917. Roman Fort at Piercebridge
Page(s) : 46-50, 114
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Ordnance Survey Map of Roman Britain, 3rd Edition 1965
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 DAD 24-MAY-54
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4a
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Mr GA Richardson Amateur Archaeol, Ivy House, Piercebridge.
Page(s) :
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 270
Monument Start Date : 250
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Find
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 400
Monument Start Date : 270
Monument Type : Fort, Bath House
Evidence : Ruined Building, Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Flavian
Monument End Date : 96
Monument Start Date : 69
Monument Type : Fort
Evidence : Conjectural Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Medieval
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Kiln
Evidence : Structure

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : COIN HOARD
Object Material : Silver

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DU 29
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Durham)
External Cross Reference Number : 1537
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : NZ 21 NW 2
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1031405
Relationship type : Is referred to by
Associated Monuments : 23766
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 23671
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 876837
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 23771
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1933-01-01
End Date : 1934-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1935-01-01
End Date : 1935-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1938-01-01
End Date : 1938-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, VILLAGE GREEN, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1948-01-01
End Date : 1949-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NZ 21 NW 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1954-05-24
End Date : 1954-05-24
Associated Activities : Primary, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1957-01-01
End Date : 1957-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NZ 21 NW 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1957-05-24
End Date : 1957-05-24
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NZ 21 NW 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1962-03-19
End Date : 1962-03-19
Associated Activities : Primary, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1964-01-01
End Date : 1964-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, KILNGARTH FIELD, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1974-01-01
End Date : 1974-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CULVERT OUTFALL, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1975-01-01
End Date : 1975-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1976-01-01
End Date : 1979-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NZ 21 NW 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1981-10-23
End Date : 1981-10-23
Associated Activities : Primary, 8, 10 & 11 THE GREEN, PIERCEBRIDGE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1982-01-01
End Date : 1982-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: DURHAM SAMS PROJECT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1991-06-01
End Date : 1991-12-01
Associated Activities : Primary, PIERCEBRIDGE ROMAN FORT
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MILL HOUSE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, PIERCEBRIDGE FORT
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT PIERCEBRIDGE FARM
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, PIERCEBRIDGE (TIME TEAM)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT 16 THE GREEN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT 10 THE GREEN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31