Healam Bridge Roman Fort and Vicus

Trajanic Auxiliary Fort (A.D. 98–117) and Vicus

The site of a Roman fort and its associated vicus at Healam Bridge, built on Dere Street, which runs through the centre of the fort. A geophysical survey and a small-scale sample excavation were undertaken in 1993-4. The fort was found to measure roughly 130 metres by 130 metres internally and the finds recovered dated its construction and occupation to the early-mid 2nd century AD. The vicus seems to have developed soon after the construction of the fort, but it appears to have survived into the 3rd and 4th centuries. The settlement grew up immediately around the fort and extended as ribbon developments along Dere Street to the north and south. The properties forming this development are thought to have fronted onto Dere Street, each set within a ditched enclosure running back from the road. Investigations to the east of the fort uncovered a single human burial and a number of pits, believed to represent further graves.Air photographs taken in 2006 show sections of the fort’s surrounding ditch showing as cropmarks, measuring approximately 10 metres in diameter.

The monument was investigated by geophysical survey and small scale sample excavation in 1993-94. Thirteen trial trenches were excavated, distributed across the monument, representing less than 0.5% of the monument’s total area. These investigations revealed that the fort was approximately 130m by 130m within its defensive ditches, and thus similar, if slightly smaller, than the fort 18km north along Dere Street at Cataractonium on the south bank of the River Swale. Finds from the fort suggested that it was constructed and occupied in the early to mid-second century AD, but then probably abandoned by the Roman army. The associated civilian settlement appears to have developed soon after the building of the fort, but to have also been occupied in the third and fourth centuries. The settlement developed immediately around the fort and extended as ribbon developments along Dere Street, extending at least 400m south and 300m north beyond the fort’s defences. Properties forming this ribbon development are believed to have fronted onto Dere Street, each set within rectilinear ditched enclosures that extended back from the road. The geophysical survey suggests that these enclosures included additional buildings and small industrial areas. Sample excavation also demonstrated the survival of cobbled surfaces, representing yards or secondary streets, and refuse pits. The geophysical survey showed a number of features within the area of the fort which suggests that the civilian settlement extended into this area after its abandonment by the army. However as Healam Bridge lies half way between the Roman towns of Aldbourgh and Cataractonium it may have acted as a posting station for the Cursus Publicus, or Imperial mail service, utilising at least part of the fort. One trial trench was excavated north of Healam Beck, east of the road. This also uncovered settlement evidence from the second and fourth centuries as well as a human burial. The geophysical survey detected a number of pits in the surrounding area which are considered to be further graves forming a cemetery.

The eastern limits of the settlement are believed to have been determined by the geophysical survey and sample excavation. However the full extent of the settlement, especially to the north and west, is not known and it is possible that it extended beyond the area of scheduling. Further nationally important remains may thus lie outside the area of the monument.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are the bridges over Healam Beck, one of which is Listed Grade II, all modern fences, walls, stiles, gates, water troughs, telegraph poles, sign posts and all road and path surfaces; although the ground beneath all these features is included. Fence lines defining the boundaries of the monument lie immediately outside the protected area.

Sites near Healam Bridge Roman Fort and Vicus