Chesters Roman Fort NHLE Data

Chesters Roman Fort is listed on the National Heritage List for England with the following data. Some information may have become outdated since the date of listing. Text courtesy of Historic England. © Crown Copyright, reprinted under the Open Government License.

Listed Building Data

List Entry ID
Great Chesters Roman fort and Hadrian's Wall between the Caw Burn and the track to Cockmount Hill farm in wall miles 42 and 43
National Park
Grid Reference
NY 70450 66650

Reasons for Listing

Hadrian's Wall marks one of the frontiers of the Roman Empire. The international importance of the surviving remains has been recognised through designation as a World Heritage Site. The military importance of the Tyne-Solway route across the Pennines was recognised by the Romans during their early campaigns through northern England and into Scotland in the second half of the first century AD. At this time a military road, the Stanegate, was constructed along with a series of forts. Subsequently the Romans largely withdrew from Scotland and there is evidence that the Tyne-Solway route was being recognised as a frontier by the start of the second century AD. This position was consolidated in the early second century by the construction of a substantial frontier work, Hadrian's Wall, under the orders of the Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius, subsequently attempted to establish the boundary further north, between the Clyde and the Firth of Forth, but by c.AD 160 growing unrest amongst the native populations of northern Britain and pressures elsewhere in the Empire caused a retraction back to the Hadrianic line. Hadrian's Wall was then the frontier of the Roman Empire in Britain until c.AD 400 when the Roman armies withdrew from Britain. Stretching over 70 miles from coast to coast, Hadrian's Wall was a continuous barrier built of stone in the east and, initially, of turf in the west. The stone wall was originally designed to be ten Roman feet wide and sections of this width are termed broad wall. A change of plan shortly after construction began led to a reduction in the width of the Wall to eight Roman feet, such sections being termed narrow wall. Today, stretches of both wall types survive, including some sections of narrow wall built on broad wall foundations. For most of its length a substantial ditch on the northern side provided additional defence. Where the Wall crossed rivers, bridges were constructed to carry it across. Construction of the Wall was organised and executed by legionary soldiers. From the beginning the barrier was planned to comprise more than just a curtain wall. At regularly spaced intervals of about a mile along its length lay small walled fortlets known as milecastles. These were attached to the southern side of the Wall and most had a gateway through the Wall to the north. Hence they controlled crossing points through the Wall as well as affording space for a small stable garrison. Between the milecastles were two equally spaced towers known as turrets. Together the milecastles and turrets provided bases from which the curtain wall could be watched and patrolled. Both the turrets and milecastles are thought to have been higher than the Wall itself to provide suitable observation points. It is often assumed that a platform existed on the Wall so that troops could actually patrol along the wall top; it is however far from certain that this was the case. At the western end of the Wall a system of towers, small fortlets and palisade fences extended the frontier system another 30 miles or so down the Cumbrian coast and helped control shipping moving across the estuary of the Solway Firth. As originally planned, and apart from whatever space there was in the milecastles, provision for the accommodation of garrison troops manning the Wall was left with the line of forts which already lay along the Stanegate. At some point a fundamental change of plan took place and forts were constructed along the line of the Wall itself. There are now known to have been 16 forts either attached to the Wall or in close association with it. Some overlay earlier features such as turrets or milecastles. At this stage another linear element, the vallum, was also added to the defensive system to the south of the Wall. This was a broad flat-bottomed ditch flanked by a pair of linear banks. It shadows the course of the Wall for almost all its length, sometimes lying very close to it but sometimes up to a kilometre

Listed Building Details

The monument includes the section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum and the Roman fort at Great Chesters and their associated features between the Caw Burn in the east and the track to Cockmount Hill farm in the west. All the upstanding remains of Hadrian's Wall, the milecastle and turrets are Listed Grade I. Hadrian's Wall survives as a low stony mound throughout much of this section. It is visible as a turf-covered scarp 0.2m high with a modern field wall overlying its course. The farm buildings at Great Chesters east of milecastle 43 partly overlie the Wall in this area. West of Great Chesters fort the course of the narrow wall survives as an amorphous rubble strewn mound 3m to 4.8m wide and 1.1m high. In addition the line of the broad wall here survives as a separate north facing scarp. Excavations here in 1925 revealed that the narrow wall runs south of the broad wall foundation from Great Chesters as far as turret 43a where they converge. Beyond turret 43a they run parallel again as far as Cockmount Hill Wood where their courses again converge. To the west of Burnhead camp a section of unconsolidated exposed Wall, 38m long and 1.8m wide, stands between two to six courses high being up to 1.5m high on the inner face. The wall ditch survives a visible earthwork throughout most of this section. It averages between 0.8m and 2m in depth with near vertical sides in places. Large boulders protrude from the scarps intermittently along its length. The ditch at Great Chesters is overlain by farm buildings which are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. The ditch is not visible either side of turret 43a, suggesting that it has silted up leaving no trace on the surface. The ditch upcast mound, usually referred to as the `glacis', survives to the west of Great Chesters fort as a broad low mound, 0.3m high and 8m wide, on the north side of the wall ditch. Milecastle 43 is situated on a ridge later occupied by the fort of Great Chesters which commands views to Chesters Pike in the north, the Stanegate Roman road to the south and the Caw Burn to the east. The milecastle survives as a buried feature below the turf cover. It was located during excavation at Great Chesters in 1939 by Simpson and Richmond. Turret 42b is situated on a gentle east facing slope to the west of the Caw Burn. It survives as an uneven turf-covered platform, up to 0.6m high. The surface remains show evidence of digging and stone robbing. The turret was first located in 1912 by Simpson. Turret 43a is thought to be situated about 150m east of Cockmount Hill farm. There are quantities of wall debris strewn over the grass-covered bank of the Wall at this location which may obscure any slight surface remains of the turret. The site of the turret was first suggested in 1912 by Simpson, but its position has not yet been verified. The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which ran along the corridor between the Wall and the vallum linking the turrets, milecastles and forts, survives intermittently as an upstanding feature throughout this section. Its course from the Caw Burn is known where it survives as a low turf-covered mound, 6m to 8m wide and 0.2m to 0.5m high. Occasional sections of this low turf-covered causeway reappear on the line up to the east gateway of Great Chesters fort. Beyond the field boundary west of the fort the Military Way is visible again as a discontinuous terrace with a slightly sinuous course which avoids the rock outcrops. Field gates are positioned on its course at the east and west end of this stretch. A road linking the Military Way and the Stanegate Roman road to the south via Great Chesters fort is overlain by the modern trackway to Great Chesters Farm which enters the fort through the south gateway. The vallum survives as an upstanding earthwork in the west half of this section, but in the east half it is only recognisable as an intermittent mound and ditch and by occasional discolourations in