Galava (Ambleside) Fort

Fort and Minor Settlement

Picturesquely situated on the northern edge of Windermere, nothing much remains of the early-2nd century auxiliary fort at Ambleside apart from the faint outline of its defences in the sheep-shorn grass and the consolidated stone foundations of the central range of buildings, here arranged north-south with the main gateway on the east, the barrack-blocks of this latest fort evidently being made of timber. Galava, could mean ‘fort besides a vigorous stream’.

The Galava Roman Fort

Near Ambleside (Fig. 8), at the head of Windermere, a Flavian fort was found whose rampart, of puddled clay, on a cobble foundation, was 12 feet wide; outside this was a berm of 5 feet or less, and then a double ditch 25 to 30 feet wide. In shape it was a somewhat irregular quadrilateral about 300 by 250 feet internally (1¾ acre). It probably had two gates of timber; the chief gate had guardrooms with glazed windows; and there were wooden towers at the corners and elsewhere on the rampart.” (Collingwood 1930 p.32)

This Flavian fort was superseded on the same site by another fort during the early-2nd century:

The site of the early fort was converted into a platform raised above flood level: on this was built an entirely new fort, conforming in type to the ordinary Trajanic-Hadrianic pattern, with 10-foot clay rampart revetted by a 4-foot stone wall (C.W.², xv, 5). The porta praetoria is double, with guard-rooms (ibid., xxi, 7); the other gates are single, without guard-rooms. Outside the porta praetoria a paved area represents a parade gound (ibid., xiv, 448). The central buildings are of stone, the barracks of wood. The internal dimensions are 395 by 270 feet, or close upon 2½ acres.” (Collingwood 1930 p.39)

A number of lead sling-shot have been recovered from the Ambleside fort, which points to the Auxiliary garrison being trained in their use, perhaps at Burnswark in Dumfries & Galloway, where it is thought such a training-camp once existed.

Galava – The Archaeology

Epigraphic Evidence from Ambleside

Only two inscriptions on stone have been recovered from the Galava fort, neither of which provide any information about the garrison units or the date of construction. The first of these reads VVE VV CHO SAN (RIB 755), which defies translation though may refer to an auxiliary cohort (CHO=C[o]HO[rtis]). The second inscription is a tombstone bearing two epitaphs which is shown below.

The possibility exists that the two men mentioned on the stone were related, as they shared the same genus or clan-name of Flavius, and indeed, shared the same tombstone. This supposition cannot be proven though.

Numismatic Evidence from Ambleside

There are 16 coins recorded for Ambleside, including 3 which cannot be identified. The rest range from Augustus (2) to Valens, including a copper of Claudius, a gold and a copper of Hadrian, also silver coins of Faustina II and Julia Domna (2).

Classical References for Galava

The name Galava appears as the second station in Iter X of the Antonine Itinerary, where it is listed eighteen miles from Glannoventa (Ravenglass, Cumbria) and twelve miles from Alavana (Watercrook, Cumbria). The Gallunio (R&C#113) entry of the seventh century Ravenna Cosmology has also been identified with the Watercrook fort, and is listed between the entries for Calvnivm (Lancaster, Lancashire?) and Mediobogdvm (Hardknot, Cumbria).

References for Galava

  • The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930);
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
  • Roman Coins from North-West England by David Shotter (Lancaster 1990) pp.48-49.

Map References for Galava

NGRef: NY3703 OSMap: LR90

Roman Roads near Galava

NE (20) to Brocavvm Iter X: W (10) to Hardknott (Hardknot, Cumbria) Iter X: S (9) to Alavana (Watercrook, Cumbria)