Watercrook Fort

Fort

The Watercrook fort is situated on the east bank of the River Kent just south of Kendal in the southern Lake District. It was thought that this fort, and others at Ambleside, Hardknott and elsewhere in the north, were all built just before the turn of the second century AD to police the Cambrian hill country. ‘Scarcely stratified’ excavation evidence from Watercrook has tentatively dated the construction of this turf and timber fort to ‘shortly before AD 100’ (Higham & Jones, p.20).

The fort was established as a turf-and-timber structure in c.A.D.90, and rebuilt in stone probably in the middle years of Hadrian’s reign (c.A.D.130). It was then abandoned during the Antonine re-occupation of southem Scotland (c.A.D.L42-165), rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius and held probably until the 270s. A fresh coin of A.D.320, found at the very top of the in-filled inner ditch suggests that formal military occupation had ceased by that time. Despite the occasional discovery of coins and pottery of the later-fourth century, there is no indication that the fort was ever formally re-occupied. This does not, however, preclude the presence of civilian squatters utilising the buildings; indeed, the discovery of industrial waste in one of the ditches suggests that this may have happened.

Excavations in 1975 established that the stone-built fort-wall was shown to have been preceded by a rampart of clay and turves, although there was no sign of the expected post-holes which will have marked the timber gateway of this first phase.

RIB752 - Altar dedicated to the gods and goddesses

[...] DEAB[...]
[...] SACRV[...]
[...] VALENS
[...] AVG V S
L M
Sacred to the gods and goddesses ... Valens ... imperial ... willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
The dedicator may well have been procurator Augusti R.P.W.

RIB753 - Fragmentary dedication

DEE N
AELIT
VV
To the goddess ..
Horsley suggests Deae Nymphae, but quotes Ward’s suggestion of Minervae. Nothing is certain R.G.C.

RIB754 - Funerary inscription for Publius Aelius Bassus

[...] P AEL P F SERG BASS[...]
[...] QD C LEG XX V V VIX AN[  ...]
[...]S ET PRIVATVS LIB ET HER [...]
[...]VM C LEG VI VIC F C SI Q[...]
[...] SEPVLC ALIVM MORT[...]
[...]ERIT INFER F DD NN [.  ...]
INS AEL SVRINO [...]
[Sacred to the spirits of the departed] Publius Aelius Bassus, son of Publius, of the Sergian voting-tribe, [from Mursa], once centurion of the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, lived ... years .[...] and Privatus, his freedmen and heirs, through Aelius Surinus, centurion of the Sixth Legion Victrix, had this erected. If anyone brings another corpse into this tomb, let him pay to the treasury of our Lords [...] set up under the direction of Aelius Surinus, [..
Line 7 is in taller lettering than l. 6, and may have been indented. If so, there was presumably l. 8, expressing, as Birley suggests, the status of Surinus as praepositus cohortis.Birley dates this inscription ‘as early as possible in the third century … when there were joint emperors’. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): Alföldy, Review questions the restoration of Mursa in 2 (there were other cities enrolled in Sergia), but note Bassus’ possible descent from a Hadrianic colonist: cf. RIB 894, with note below. This epitaph contains the only British instance of the formulaic fine for violation or re-use of a tomb.

Alavana / Alone ?

This fort may be Alone mentioned in Iter X of the Antonine Itinerary, 18 Roman miles from Galava (Ambleside, Cumbria) and 19 miles from Calacvm (Burrow in Lonsdale, Lancashire). The name also appears as Alunna in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#110), between the entries for Mamvcivm (Manchester) and Cambodvnvm (Slack, West Yorkshire).

Despite the evidence of Antonine Iter X the nearest known Roman road lies almost 8 miles (c.13km) east of the Watercrook fort near Sedburgh, running north-south between the forts at Low Borrowbridge in Cumbria and Calacvm (Burrow in Lonsdale) in Lancashire. It is possible, however, that there was a direct road link north-eastwards to the Low Borrowbridge fort.

References for Watercrook Fort

  • Air Reconnaissance of North Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xli (1951) pp.52-65;
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
  • The Carvetii by Nicholas Higham and Barri Jones (Sutton, London, 1985);
  • Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
  • Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980); 

Roman Roads near Watercrook Fort

Iter X: N (9) to Ambleside (Ambleside, Cumbria) Iter X: SE (15) to Calacvm (Burrow in Lonsdale, Lancashire) Probable road: NE (10) to Low Borrowbridge (Cumbria)