Lanchester Roman Aqueduct


Roman aqueduct system (North and South and Humber Hill Feeder) largely destroyed by ploughing and opencast mining. Slight traces remain. A northern channel ran from a low earth dam and may have run around the north side of Humber Hill, with the northern route being the feeder channel. Existence of a `higher dam’ feeding the lower dam has also been identified. The southern channel appears to have been fed by a spring. Both channels are thought to have converged and a single channel fed into a reservoir to the south-west of the fort.

The fort is also interesting in having a larger supply of water, from two aqueducts, one of which was fed from a source to the west. The dam is said to harness the water of 21 springs and was 20 ft.  high and 110 yards in length, being stone faced and clay lined on the inside. Despite not being on the scale of those supplying cities, the aqueduct was nevertheless a significant feat of engineering, is considered one of the best preserved aqueducts in Britain. There are also 2 receiving reservoirs near the fort itself. The excess of water suggests iron smelting and manufacture, with coal readily available in the area and lead smelting could also be a possibility. Iron and lead ore would be available not far from the site. In the Archaeological Journal of 1895, it was reported that 1,000 carts of dross were removed from 2 spoil heaps on site for road making.

The essential OS Historical Map and Guide to Roman Britain shows two aqueducts to the west of the Longovicium fort, though a close inspection of the Landranger map of the same area (#88) reveals no traces. It would appear that the fort was supplied from the headwaters of the Backgill Burn (NZ1047) 3 miles to the west-north-west, and from the Rippon Burn (NZ1146) 2½ miles due west. These aqueducts were probably no more than shallow troughs, which originally followed the contours of the land, and are now lost for the most part to the plough.

RIB 2295 - Milestone of Gordian III

For our Lord the Emperor Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius Felix Augustus.

[...] N

Huebner wrongly thought Surtees meant the village of Ford, near Sunderland, and quoted Surtees’s reading as if it referred to a different inscription.Gordian III, A.D. 238-44. See also RIB 2289, 2294.

The 1861 map shows a ‘subterranean passage’ at the SE corner of the fort. There is a reservoir at the SW corner. The course of the aqueducts is partly shown on this (6 inch?) map. The local council is trying to raise millions to excavate the site. The family, who have owned the site for centuries now seem to be interested in developing the site. From the road, what is left is quite impressive, and it is largely undisturbed apart from early stone robbing. There is also a vicus and at least one cemetery, all on agricultural land, mostly unploughed.

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