Dalswinton, Bankfoot Forts I & II

Fortlet and Roman Fort

The Dalswinton Military Complex

The first Roman encampment at Dalswinton was a large installation built on the banks of the River Nith during the early campaigns of Agricola sometime around 80AD. The occupation of this ‘vexillation fortress’ was short, very likely only a single winter, after which the fortress was considerably reduced in size as the campaigns of this intrepid general moved the scene of fighting away to the north. The reduced fort was itself abandoned after a short period, probably due to flooding, to be replaced by another, slightly smaller fort on higher ground to the north-east. This second site was completely rebuilt and considerably enlarged during the tenure of governor Sallustius Lucullus, Agricola’s successor c.90AD, in order to house two auxiliary cavalry units. It is likely that the complex at Dalswinton, in at least two separate phases during the Flavian and Trajanic periods, constituted the Roman military headquarters in south-west Scotland.

The Agricolan/mid-Flavian Forts at Dalswinton Bankfoot Farm

Probable Vexillation Fortress (Agricolan) Dalswinton Bankfoot I

OS National Grid Reference: NX933840
Dimensions: c.1,315 x 715 ft (c.400 x 218 m)
Area: c.21½ acres (c.8.7 ha)

Bankfoot I: The first semi-permanent military site in the Dalswinton area was built on the flood-plain of the Nith south of Dalswinton and west of Dalswinton House. Since discovery from the air by Professor St. Joseph in 1972, it has always been known that a large fort lay on the river holms at Bankfoot, but it was not until the north angle was discovered from the air in 1984 that the fort’s very-large size became apparent. The encampment defined by its double ditch system measures about 1,315 feet by 715 feet (c.400 x 218 m), enclosing an area of around 21½ acres (c.8.7 ha); this is sufficiently large enough to have housed a considerable proportion of a Roman legion, plus a couple of auxiliary cavalry units, a combined force of 2,000+ infantry and 1,000 cavalry. An establishment of this size and character is known as a ‘vexillation fortress’.

Large Auxiliary Fort (Mid-Flavian) Dalswinton Bankfoot II

OS National Grid Reference: NX933840
Dimensions: c.715 x 570 ft (c.218 x 174 m)
Area: c.9¼ acres (c.3.7 ha)

Bankfoot II: After a short period of occupation the fortress (Bankfoot I) was reduced in size to that of a large fort. This second fort measured around 715 ft by 570 ft (c.218 x 174 m) and enclosed an area of 9¼ acres (c.3.7 ha). It was abandoned after a short time in favour of the site at Bankhead, situated on higher ground some 500 ft. (152 m) to the north, probably after severe flooding one Winter.

References for Dalswinton

  • Air Reconnaissance of North Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xli 1951 pp.58/9;
  • Roman Britain, 1910-1960 by I.A. Richmond in J.R.S. l (1960) p.183;
  • The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
  • Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1969-72 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lxiii (1973) p.217;
  • Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1973-76 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lxvii (1977) pp.131-3 & fig.5;
  • Roman Britain by Peter Salway (Oxford 1981) p.151;
  • Air Reconnaissance in Roman Britain 1977-1984 by G.S. Maxwell & D.R. Wilson in Britannia xviii (1987) p.27.

Roman Roads near Dalswinton

NW (3) to Barbvrgh Mill NNW (12) to Drvmlanrig (Dumfriesshire) ESE (13) to Ladyward (Dumfries & Galloway) Possible Road: SW (20) to Glenlochar (Dumfries & Galloway) Probable Military Road: SW (20) to Lovcovivm (Glenlochar, Dumfries & Galloway) possible road: E (6) to Mvrder Loch