Bridlington Roman Port

Probable Port

Bridlington was the probably site of a Roman Port and station, however coastal erosion would have destroyed any evidence of the Roman harbour installation. Evidence of Romano-British occupation can be found all over the East Riding. It lies between the military sites of York and Malton, the coastal signal towers, and the civitas capital of Brough in the south.  There were at least four villas in the Gypsey Race area, leading to a possible harbour in Bridlington Bay. The area was good agricultural land, with clay for potting, and good road links to the south and the west. The remains of a paved road between Bridlington and Sewerby may have led to a signal tower at Flamborough. This road running thorough the Gypsy Race area could have led to the harbour and Praesidium itself.

South of Sewerby House, near where the steps lead down the cliff Roman pottery and querns have been found. Nearby were discovered the remains of a building and enclosure, but these have been lost to erosion. However fourth century coins found on the beach below can date the site to our period of interest. In 1846 twenty skeletons were found to the west of Sewerby village during digging related to the railway. They were irregularly aligned suggesting they are Roman or pre-Roman. Lack of grave goods suggest they are not pagan Saxon, and later Christian burials would be orientated East-West. Further Roman finds were made to the South East of Sewerby House, and medieval earthworks to the north of the House over lie a Roman quarry. Two crop marks in the Parish showing enclosures are also probably Roman.

It is interesting to note that although Bridlington Bay was endowed “with many harbours” in the second century, there are no known physical remains anywhere along the current coastline of north-east Humberside. The most likely explanation for this lack of supporting evidence is probably due to a gradual westward shift in the coastline since Roman times, which would mean that these second-century harbours may now lie miles out to sea. The Roman signal-station at Scarborough north of Flamborough Head is particularly interesting because it shows these same forces at work, whereby the eastern side of this defensive enclosure has been lost to the eroding effects of the North Sea (Oceanus Germanicus), and the structure now stands precariously on the edge of sea-cliffs.

By the fourth century the area would be dominated by the fortress in York, under the Dux Britanniarum. Malton had been destroyed in the raids of 367-69, but had been rebuilt. Brough was suffering from the increased flooding of the Hull Valley. Roads and harbours were becoming blocked, and communications to the south were becoming more difficult.

There are a number of Roman signal stations strung out along the North Yorkshire coast at Filey (TA1281), Scarborough (TA0589), Ravenscar (NZ9801) and Goldsborough (NZ8315), also further along the coast at Huntcliff (NZ6821) in Cleveland. Aside from the signal stations to the north of Bridlington and the “many [missing] harbours” to the south, there are two Romano-British villas about seven miles west along the road to Delgovicia, at Rudston (TA0866) almost a mile north of the road, and at Harpham (TA0863) about ½ mile south.

Ptolemy’s Description of the Area

“description of the eastern and the southern side [of Britain] next to which is the Oceanus Germanicus
  • Dunum Sinus 20*15 57? Tees bay, Cleveland
  • Gabrantuicorum Sinus with many harbors 21*00 57? Bridlington Bay, Humberside?
  • Ocelus Promunturium 21*15 56? Spurn Head, Humberside?
  • ostium Abi Flumen 21*00 56? River Humber, Humberside

Above extract from Geography of Ptolemy of the early-second century

References for Bridlington

Historical Map and Guide – Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001).

Sites near Bridlington Roman Port
  • Lease Rigg Roman Fort
    Flavian Auxiliary Fort (AD 69–96)
  • Cawthorn A Roman Fort
    Flavian Auxiliary Fort (AD 69–96)
  • Malton (Derventio) Vicus