Northwich (Condate) Roman Fort

Flavian Auxiliary Fort (AD 69–96), Salt working and Vicus

Condate (Northwich) is the site of a Flavian Roman fort, either of two phases or two separate forts; the latter one being 2nd century, which may possibly connected with the abandonment of Scotland. An associated civil industrial settlement dates from the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD.

Classical References for Condate

The Roman name for the Northwich settlement is recorded in two separate itinera of the Antonine Itinerary, a the late-second century document which records all of the major road-routes within the Roman Empire. The second itinerary in the British section of this document is entitled “the route from the Vallum to the port of Rutupiae” and details the road-stations between Hadrian’s Wall in the far north of England and Richborough on the Kentish coast. Towards the middle of this itinerary the station Condate is listed 18 miles from Mamucium (Manchester, Greater Manchester) and 20 miles from Deva (Chester, Cheshire). Iter X is entitled “the route from Glannoventa to Mediolanum” and details the road-stations between the fort at Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coast and the market town of Whitchurch in Shropshire. In this itinerary Condate is the penultimate entry, listed 19 miles from the route’s terminus at Mediolanum (Whitchurch, Shropshire), and again listed 18 miles from Manchester. All these measurements (recorded in Roman miles) place the Roman settlement of Condate squarely at Northwich.

Another classical geography which mentions the Northwich settlement is the 7th century Ravenna Cosmology, wherein the name is again listed as Condate (R&C#91), this time between the entries for Salinae (Middlewich, Cheshire) and the capital of the Coritani tribe at Ratae (Leicester, Leicestershire).

Condate, thought to be a Latinized form of a Brittonic name meaning “Confluence”, and Northwich being the confluence of the rivers Weaver and Dane.

There are no Latin inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Northwich.

The Local Salt Industry

Salt extraction was one of the most profitable industries of the Cornovii tribe and was carried out at several sites in Cheshire, notably at Middlewich, known in Roman times as Salinae ‘the Salt Pans’. In addition to these main works there is evidence of considerable Romano-British salt production here in Northwich and also at the recently-discovered salt-working settlement at Nantwich.

The Salt Museum at Northwich is part of the Cheshire Libraries and Museums and have produced an excellent little leaflet entitled ‘Roman Salt Making’, which concentrates primarily on Cheshire.

Excavations at Northwich

… further traces were found at Castle Hill of Flavian timber buildings, presumed to be military, and of 2nd-century industrial settlement with timber buildings, bowl furnaces and pits. An updraught kiln producing orange-buff ware is ascribed to the 1st century AD.” (Britannia, 1970)

SJ656737 – A section through the northern defences to the north of Waterloo Road was undertaken in 1970. This revealed tha the original defences had comprised a gravel rampart backing a single ditch, 14 feet (4.3m) wide and 5 feet (1.5m) deep with stakes set in its outer lip. A stone wall was later revetted onto the front of the rampart and the ditch re-cut to a width of 17 feet (5.2m). The interior buildings of the fort likewise showed 2 phases of construction, the earlier phase associated with Flavian pottery, the latter possibly dates to the early Antonine period. A heavilly-corroded Roman auxiliary helmet of iron was discovered during sewer-pipe laying in 1969. [The pottery kiln reported in Britannia I is now dated to the Trajanic/Hadrianic period and was used by a potter named MACO.]

The Salt Museum 162 London Road, Northwich, Cheshire, CW9 8AB, U.K.

References for Condate

  • Britannia ii (1971) pp.255/6, fig.6 & pl.XXXVIIa;
  • Britannia i 1970 pp.282/3.

Roman Roads near Condate

N (8) to Wilderspool (Cheshire) Itinera II et X: NE (20) to Mamvcivm (Manchester, Greater Manchester) Iter II: King Street: WSW (17) to Deva (Chester, Cheshire) SSE (6) to Middlewich

Sites near Northwich (Condate) Roman Fort