Beacon (Fingringhoe Wick) Port
Minor Settlement and Port
The Fingringhoe Wick was a small Romano-British Port river port on the Colne estuary served the legionary fortress and later Roman colony at Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex). On the evidence of Roman military equipment and coinage recovered from gravel workings on the Fingringhoe headlands, it is thought that this port was operational very early during the Roman occupation of the Islands, and enabled direct communication with the seaports near the mouth of the Rhenus (Rhine) on the other side of the Oceanus Britannicus (English Channel), where it is known that contemporary storage depots and other Roman naval installations existed. (Webster)
Sea-going Roman merchant and supply-vessels were reliant on wind power for propulsion and, given the shallow, tidal nature of the River Colne, any progress upstream would necessarily have required the use of oars and the men to handle them; this level of manpower was not generally available to the average merchantman, the biremes and triremes which sported multiple tiers of oars were in general use only by the military. Given the lack of any proven Roman road between Fingringhoe and Colchester, it would appear that the large sea-going vessels of the Classis Britannica were obliged to moor at Fingringhoe and offload their cargoes, which would be transferred onto a fleet of much smaller craft for further riverine transport along the Colne to the ancient capital. (Mason; OS)
The Roman Archaeology of Fingringhoe Wick
Fingringhoe Wick is traditionally the site of a Roman settlement known locally as Bacon (or Beacon) Town which occupied a flat bluff of ancient riverine gravel, where LPRIA and Roman material has been found spread over several acres.
Gravel workings started in 1928 uncovered an area of about two acres delimited by a ditch (TM04951943; no rampart is recorded) which enclosed numerous parallel rows of “rubbish pits”, containing coinage (including a silver of Cunobelinus), pottery (mainly Samian but with some ‘Gallo-Belgic’ wares), also a deal of bronze-work including brooches and pieces of military equipment dating mostly to the Claudio-Neronian period. The coinage and Samian-ware sequences both span the period from c.40AD until c.120AD, after which there is very little dating evidence and a dearth of material from the late-4th century onwards. All of the finds recovered from the gravel workings are now stored at the Essex and Colchester Museum.
The so-called ‘Beacon Hard’ (TM052192), a 40-foot wide bank of clay embedded with pieces of Roman pottery and tile, probably represents the remains of the Roman landing. Several other substantial Roman buildings have been recorded in the immediate area (for relative locations see the embedded Ordnance Survey map at top-right of this page):
- Roman Building A (TM05101934) – with well-built masonry footings was uncovered on the river-bank in 1929 beside the hollow track leading up from the ‘Beacon Hard’. This building had a semi-circular apse with a radius of 8½ feet, a concrete floor and many hypocaust and flooring tiles were found in association.
- Roman Building B (TM052195) – comprising several rectangular rooms was discovered in 1950 and displays at least two building periods, with one rooms foundations being built upon the walls of an earlier room which had painted wall-plaster and a tessellated floor.
- Roman Building C (TM04701942) – was actually discovered in 1936 (i.e. before building B) and was excavated by M.R. Hull. This building apparently re-used materials from a previous (unlocated) and more opulent construction.
References for Fingringhoe Wick
- Roman Britain and the Roman Navy by David J.P. Mason (Tempus, Stroud, 2003; p.84);
- The Roman Invasion of Britain by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1993; p.130).
Map References for Fingringhoe Wick
NGRef: TM047194 OSMap: LR168