Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Imperial Roman marching camps; Cawthorn Yorkshire England.

The Cawthorne camps is a group of four military fortifications constructed by the Roman army 1,900 years ago in North Yorkshire England. Consisting of a very clear earthen rampart fort to the west, butting up to an elongated camp to its east, there is a small gap of a forty or so yards then another fort and annexe were constructed to the east of these. It will not be obvious on satellite images of the very steep slope to the north dropping a few hundred feet!

Below are a  few pics of a Roman marching camp in North Yorkshire I visited today. There are really clear aerial pictures available on the internet of these four Roman camps circa 90AD to 130AD on google maps satellite view grid reference SE 782 893 east of the village of Cropton and 4 miles north east of the village Pickering, North Yorkshire, England.
Aerial view of two of Cawthorns four Roman camps.
Constructed of earth, these ramparts would have been topped off with sharpened wooden stakes, considering they are almost 2000 years old they've survived the times as well as WW2 tank drivers using them as practice slopes, the ramparts to the northern drop off to the valley below are still quite high in places  over 10 foot from top of rampart to bottom of ditch .

Info board at the site

bracket fungi
 An interesting foot note is that edible snails can often be found in England very close to the sites of Roman villas, a case of the Romans importing a cultural food delicacy.

the Roman camps are easily denoted by dry grass in winter  
Wooden stakes carried by each soldier would have topped the bank of earth, along with these stakes a Roman soldier would carry his armour usually chainmail (lorica hamata), a helmet, spear, shield (scutum), sword, dagger, mattock, turf cutter, skillet, mess can.kit bag and pole then be expected to build a temporary marching camp like this one at the end of the days march.
curved gateway or clavicula.

Ditch and banks still evident.

South facing rampart on the left of the picture

Rampart rounds corner

Eddie historically rein-acts the part of a Roman guard dog on patrol in one of the ditches of the camp

The camp is denoted by the dry grass area in winter
Rampart looking south
Ditch and rampart looking north

Wheeldale moor has a Roman road leading from this Roman camp to a possible Roman station on the coast maybe at Whitby.

The northern slope to the left drops a few hundred feet to the valley below
The Roman Empire succeeded in invading Britain in 43AD under the Emperor Claudius (Julius Caesar tried it twice but failed!) Invited in by the Belgae tribes already in Britain they spread north rapidly. The occupation of northern Britain held by the Celtic Brigantes tribe began in 71AD. Roman legions advanced to York (Eboracum) where they built a legionary fortress.   From there they set out to conquer northern Britain constructing a network of forts connected by military roads such as that at Wheeldale moor.

Wheeldale moor Roman road
With a great deal of difficulty we eventually found the Roman road coming from the opposite end from where the sign posts said it was i.e. near Goathland North Yorkshire Moors, the existing road lasts about  half a mile from Keys Beck and Wheeldale roads west of Cropton Forest.

Goathland is more famous for the setting of the English T.V. period drama programme 'Heartbeat' and also its Steam Railway station was used as Hogwarts Railway station in the first Harry Potter movies. A really pleasant area, I would live there if I could afford it though it was blooming freezing that day :)

The Roman road crossing Wheeldale moor.
Although I was sceptical as regards the Wheeldale Moor road being Roman, it isn't a coincidence that it falls along a line directly from York (the Roman city of Eboracum) the Cawthorne forts and Whitby one of the coastal stations on the east coast of northern Britain and a perfect port.

There are good pictures of this road on the internet, they have been allowed to be overgrown to protect them from erosion etc.

A comprehensive booklet detailing the 'Cawthorn Roman Camps Trail' can be obtained  from the 'New Inn' at Cropton village or The tourist information centre at Pickering priced £2.30

My next post will detail 15th century frescos of men at arms and archers of the time of Edward IV and the wars of the Roses, photographed from fresco paintings on the walls of the church of St.Peter & St.Paul Pickering North Yorkshire.

Cheers for now.


  1. Beautiful country Peter, I live in the Arizona desert and not as green. Great picture of the dogs.


    1. Hi Joe, I just caught it before the weather changed and the snow kicked in :) l'll post some more Roman stuff when I visit Hadrian's wall again this Sunday coming.
      All the best Peter.

  2. Very interesting post. Roman roads of Wales are going to be my retirement project!

  3. Hi Mike,
    re: Roman roads, I think the Ordinance survey maps are phasing out mapping old Roman roads in the U.K. unfortunately. Best of luck with your Roman roads of Wales project.


Make your comments here :)