Galava (Ambleside) Vicus

Roman Settlement

The vicus extends to the north and east of the Galava Fort. Its existence is confirmed by limited excavations, aerial photographs and chance finds over a wide area. Cropmarks photographed in 1955 in the field to the south of Ambleside Rugby Club show features resembling a temporary Roman camp and the presence of buried structures.

Roman pottery was found in the field north of Galava Gate in 1875. Limited excavations to the north of the fort in a flat area between rocky knolls in 1920 located a road laid on a timber corduroy.

To the east of this road, in an area measuring some 60m north-south by 18m east-west, were floor levels with charcoal and pottery of 2nd and 3rd century date.

Limited excavations and watching briefs during the 1980’s and early 1990’s in the fields north of Galava Gate and east of the rugby club, and beneath Borrans Road during widening operations and service trench refurbishment, have located areas of industrial tipping, occupation floors, a frequently repaired road surface up to 1m thick, cobbled areas, a slate floor on timber rafting, and remains thought to be consistent with wattle and daub buildings. This evidence has been taken to indicate that the main focus of the vicus lay in this area, perhaps with buildings fronting onto the Roman road which ran to the north-east of the fort.

It should be noted that further evidence of buildings were found a little to the south, outside the area of the scheduling, during excavations in the early 1960’s prior to the construction of a new housing estate east of Borrans Road and north-east of the fort. A substantial ditch 3-4m wide running east-west and situated at the north-west corner of the field east of the rugby club, some 350m north of the fort, has been interpreted as marking the northern limit of the vicus.

To the east of the fort the agger, or raised causeway, of a Roman road is clearly visible for some 100m running from Borrans Road, through Borrans Park, and entering the fort through its east gate. As a linear earthwork it measures up to 10m wide and 0.3m high.

Walling revealed in the lake side to the south-east of the fort infers the presence of dock facilities. The view that the vicus clustered around main access roads into the fort is supported by evidence from the majority of other comparable sites, particularly those associated with the northern frontier line.

The extent of the vicus at Ambleside indicated by these various finds demonstrates that while the origins of the settlement probably began as a cluster of buildings grouped around an access road it must have expanded considerably to occupy a much greater area.