Volunteers Looking For Stone Circle Uncover Roman Fort In Cumbria

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 04 August 2008
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a group of people looking at documents spread out on the bonnet of a red Land Rover

Mark Graham (right) with Bassenthwaite Reflections volunteers. © Lake District National Park Authority

A team of volunteers searching for a lost stone circle and a 14th century castle in Cumbria have uncovered what could be a nationally significant Roman encampment.

The Roman camp, thought to date back to the first century, was discovered by a team working on the Lake District community project, Bassenthwaite Reflections, at a dig on the Castlerigg prehistoric site near Keswick.

Armed with magnetometers - instruments which can detect buried walls - the team stumbled on a giant enclosure which experts say is probably a missing link in a jigsaw plotting the Roman occupation of Cumbria.

Measuring 200m by 200m (656 feet), with interesting curved corners, archaeologists believe the enclosure was a temporary camp, capable of holding large numbers of Roman troops.

“It could have been an important part of the first push to ‘Romanise’ the area, perhaps as early as 70 AD – a militarisation that extended across the county for 300 years,” explained archaeologist Mark Graham, of Grampus Heritage and Training.

a photograph of a hill next to a lake with a blue sky above

Photo © Michael Turner

(Above) Cloud over Dodd above Bassenthwaite: the Bassenthwaite Reflections project allows community members take an active role in protecting and understanding the Bassenthwaite landscape.

It will however require further work to accurately date the structure as nothing is visible above ground, but Mark, who led the team of volunteers on the project, believes further exploration could reveal important artefacts.

“There is quite literally nothing to see above ground,” added Mark. “In fact, the land was ploughed until 30 years ago and is now used for hay and grazing. But standing on the site, it’s clear to see why it was chosen.”

“In sight of Castlerigg Stone Circle - which was already 3,000 years old at the time of the Roman occupation - the elevated position was strategically well placed for defence. It also has lovely views over Bassenthwaite and to other Roman camps at Troutbeck.”

The discovery was made as part of the Unlocking Hidden Heritage scheme, which is part of the wider Bassenthwaite Reflections project.

Bassenthwaite Reflections is a Heritage Lottery Funded project that seeks to engage the local community by allowing them to take an active part in protecting and understanding the Bassenthwaite landscape. Find out more at:
www.bassenthwaite-reflections.co.uk

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