Brandon Camp Roman Fort

Neronian Auxiliary Fort (AD 54–68)

Brandon Camp is Neronian period Roman fort that was built around and over an iron age hill fort. The Iron-Age hillfort lies about a mile (1.6km) south of Leintwardine village on Brandon Hill, where two ramparts set to the east and south enclose a triangular area of c.8¼ acres (3.3ha) at the north-western end of the hill, where the natural steep scarp offorded adequate protection from this quarter. The roman defences consisted of an 800 ft stretch of rampart on the east, with a 700 ft bank on the south, and utilising the defences of the hillfort which curved round on the north and west. There is a gateway set in the approximate center of the southern defences and another on the eastern side off-set noticeably towards the south; it is possible that there was one more entrance gap at the north extremity of the eastern rampart.

The fact that there were visible crop-marks within the confines of the enclosure was first recognised on aerial photographs by J.K. St. Joseph taken in 1959, and other photographs taken in 1965 have revealed various crop marks within the defended area. There are two circular crop-marks, the larger c.25m in diameter lying some 200ft south-west of a smaller c.15m circle which was seemingly open to the south, both lying towards the north-western edge of the fort. Two polygonal crop-marks were also identified, one on the north-western edge of the enclosure to the west of the larger circular mark, the other in the extreme south-west corner of the hillfort, possibly underlying the southern rampart.

The feature observed on these A.P.’s which caused the greatest interest, however, was a rectangular area c.14.5m north-south x 32m east-west, which was seen be formed from a series of twenty-one parallel lines arranged east-west and spaced about 1.2 metres apart; the signature of a large timber-built Roman military granary, lying just inside the gateway of the eastern defences and parallel with them.

Air photographs taken in 1965 and 1976 also revealed the distinct likelyhood that the original Iron-Age defences enclosed much of the summit of Brandon Hill, an area of some 100 acres (c.40ha). Archaeologists were thus presented with the intriguing possibility that the visible defences of Brandon Camp were entirely Roman in origin, and that what we have here is a situation somewhat like that at Hod Hill in Dorset, where a Roman fort was sited in the corner of a captured British hillfort.

Excavations at Brandon Camp in the Early 1980’s

The suspected Roman granary was excavated and confirmed in 1981, and other internal features revealed on A.P.’s went under the trowel during digs conducted in 1983-1985 by Sheppard Sunderland Frere and J.K. St. Joseph. The 1983 excavations were conducted in order to assess whether the area to the immediate west of the granary was occupied by military barrack-blocks (centuriae), but instead revealed three small, widely spaced, two-roomed huts (canabae), which were interpreted as accommodation for officers within a military supply depot. Occupation of the area during the Iron-Age was also confirmed by the discovery of a “finger-printed Iron-Age rim” inside one of the larger rock-cut post holes in the area. Activity during the immediate pre-Roman Iron-Age was confirmed by the discovery of two “greatly corroded bronze coins”, one perhaps a plated stater of Tasciovanus, the other a Claudian as. A Roman-period drain was uncovered on the northern edge of the excavated area along the line of the suspected via praetoria of the fort. Fourteen shards of Samian pottery, all Neronian in date, were discovered scattered about a large area. Later or post-Roman occupation was also indicated.

Excavations during the 1984 season were conducted in the area to the immediate north of the previous seasons trenches and the line demarked by the via praetoria drain. A.P.’s taken during this season’s drought conditions also revealed parch-marks of a second ditch lying just outside the remaining visible defences to the east. Again, a number of rectangular huts were identified by their rock-cut foundation trenches, this time nine of them, spaced much closer together than those previously uncovered, and this time dicvided into two distinct areas separated by a strip-like area which may have peen a road, although no road metalling was in evidence. Sparse finds included a scrap of a bowl made of blue glass and eight small sherds of Neronian samian-ware. Iron-Age pottery was very scarce, but one piece was apparently of Malvernian origin.

Excavations in 1985 were conducted in the area of the larger circular feature revealed on A.P.’s, in order to ascertain its nature. They revealed what appeared to be a large courtyard-type building with its southern range of rooms on the same alignment as the via praetoria confirmed on previous digs. The circular crop mark was revealed as a Bronze-Age ring ditch, of uncertain function, and a flint knife blade – perhaps ceremonial – was discovered in the bottom of the ditch. Part of the polygonal feature to the west of the larger circle was also investigated and classified as an Iron-Age enclosure ditch, 9ft wide and 4ft deep, beyond which lay an Iron-Age round-house with a diameter about 22½ feet; all of these earlier features were overlaid by the northern range of rooms of the later Roman courtyard building. Finds included a broken, though complete samian form 29 bowl stamped by SENICIO, an almost whole Spanish amphora of Beltran Form 1, an intact dolabra head, sherds of Lyon-ware and Italian “eggshell-ware” cups, and a rich deposit of decorated samian-ware. These finds, together with the general courtyard layout of the building led the excavators to conclude that this area had contained a combined praetorium/principia, the camp commandant’s house and regimental headquarters, which also included a small cook-house and a latrine.

The excavators recorded that at all locations excavated within the visible defences of the Brandon Camp Roman fort all stratified archaeological deposits above the solid rock had been destroyed by the plough.

Map References for Brandon Camp

OS National Grid Reference: SO401724
Dimensions: irregular
Area: c.8¼ acres (c.3.3 ha)

References for Brandon Camp

  • Aerial Reconnaissance : Recent Results, 47 by J.K. St. Joseph in Antiquity LIII.207 (March 1979) pp.51-55, Plate.VIIIa/b;
  • Hereford and Worcester County Sites & Monuments Record Cat. No. #07526;
  • Air Reconnaissance in Roman Britain 1977-1984 by G.S. Maxwell & D.R. Wilson in Britannia xviii (1987, p.11); 

Map References for Brandon Camp

NGRef: SO401724 OSMap: LR137/148

Roman Roads near Brandon Camp

None identified

Sites near Brandon Camp Roman Fort