Ravenscar Signal Station

North Sea Watch Towers

The site of a Roman signal station at Ravenscar.

RIB721 - Inscription

Justinianus, commander Vindicianus, magister, built this tower and fort from ground-level.
IVSTINIANVS PP
VINDICIANVS
MAGTER TVRR[...]
M CASTRVM FECIT
A SO
For magister as a low rank in the army of the later fourth century Goodchild cites CIL v 8750 (ILS 2801), v 8988c (Concordia), CIL xiii 8262 (ILS 790) (Cologne). For turris he cites CIL viii 22774, Insrcr. Rom. Trip. 876. For castrum see ILS 859, 8937; the phrase turrem et castrum is a very exact description of a Yorkshire coastal signal-station.Sir Arthur Evans (Num. Chron. 3rd ser. vii (1887) 207), following Young loc. cit., conjectures that this Justinianus is to be identified with the general whom Constantine III in 407 sent from Britain to Gaul. Haverfield considered this identification to be acceptable. Collingwood (JRS) says that if the inscription dates from the foundation of this signal-station about a.d. 370, the identity of names may be a coincidence. Alternatively, it might mark a rebuilding about 395, but he regards any identification as hazardous. Stevens (in 1940, loc. cit.) says that there is no need to identify the two persons, but (orally in 1957) he considers that they may be identical. Goodchild points out that elderly generals were not unknown in the field-army of the later Empire.

A sandstone slab was found in 1774 alongside the minor road from Scarborough to Robin Hood’s Bay, about 9 miles north of Scarborough, while digging foundations for the Raven Hall Hotel at Ravenscar. This stone represents concrete evidence of a small Roman “fortification with [watch] tower” on the cliff-top here. The stone now resides in the Yorkshire Museum, York.

References for Ravenscar

  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
  • Roman Britain by Peter Salway (London 1981) p.384 fn.

Map References for Ravenscar

NGRef: NZ9801 OSMap: LR94

Roman Roads near Ravenscar

Possible Military Road: NW (9) to Whitby (North Yorkshire) Possible Military Road: SE (9) to Scarborovgh (North Yorkshire)