Roman signal stations were rectangular towers of stone or wood situated within ditched, embanked, palisaded or walled enclosures. They were built by the Roman army for military observation and signalling by means of fire or smoke. They normally formed an element of a wider system of defence and signalling between military sites such as forts and camps and towns, generally as part of a chain of stations to cover long distances.
Signal stations survive as low earthworks, or their below ground remains may be identified on aerial photographs. Fewer than 50 examples have been identified in England.
In northern England stations were used in particular to augment the main frontier formed by Hadrian's Wall, but elsewhere stations were constructed along the coast to keep lookout over the sea and to signal information both along the coast and to inland sites..
Signal stations were constructed and used in Britain mainly during three distinct periods:
- Period 1: The earliest examples were built between AD 50 and AD 117 for use during the earliest military campaigns during the conquest period. Signal stations at this period took the form of a wooden tower surrounded by a ditch and bank and possibly a slight timber palisade.
- Period 2: After AD 117 towers were more usually built in stone, some on the same site as earlier timber towers.
- Period 3: The latest series, in the mid-4th century AD, were more substantial stone signal stations built mainly along the Yorkshire coast. These had a tower up to 30m high which was surrounded by a curtain wall and external ditch.
Locations of Signal Stations in Roman Britain
- Appleby In Westmorland Roman Signal Station
- Barcombe Roman Signal Station
- Barrock Fell Roman Signal Station
- Barron's Pike Roman Signal Station
- Brithdir Roman Signal Station
- Brownhart Law
- Cae Gaer Roman Fort
- Caer-Y-Twr Signal Station
- Castrigg Signal Station and fortlett
- Eildon Hill
- Hadleigh Roman Signal Station
- Hadrian's Wall - Fort - Birdoswald (Banna)
- Hirfynydd Ridge Fortlet
- Mains Rigg Signal Station
- North Stainmore Roman Signal Station
- Redhill (Uxacona) Roman Settlement
- Robin Hood's Butts Signal Station
- Rubers Law
- Stonybeck Signal Station
- Thornham Signal Roman Station
- Wreay Hall Signal-Station