Lanchester (Longovicium) Vicus


Remains of a nearby vicus have been found, and its traces can be seen through aerial photography. A cemetery was also discovered in the 20th century to the southwest of the fort, with examples of stone-lined burials and cremations sites. The fact that the fort is located on fields that have not been ploughed means its condition is remarkable, although stone robbing has taken its toll. A column, probably from the colonnade of the Commandant’s House, can be found in the nearby All Saints’ Parish Church, as can an altar dedicated to the goddess Garmangabis.

Aqueducts and reservoirs at Lanchester (Longovicium) Vicus

Longovicium is also interesting in having had a copious water supply from two aqueducts, one of which was fed from an impounded source to the west. The dam harnessed the water of 21 springs and was 20 feet (6 m) high and 110 yards (100 m) in length, being stone faced and clay lined on the inside. Despite not being on the scale of those supplying cities, the Longovicium aqueduct was nevertheless a significant feat of engineering, being considered one of the best preserved aqueducts in Britain. There is also a receiving reservoir near the fort itself. The Dolaucothi Roman Mine had a larger number of aqueducts, and numerous reservoirs, which are also very well preserved. The water supply at Dolaucothi was used for hydraulic mining and hushing gold deposits, while that at Longovicium is currently unknown.

Industry at Lanchester (Longovicium) Vicus

The above-average usage of water might be attributed to the demands of the baths, latrines and the possible Armamentarium, although industrial usage is more likely, since all forts would have baths and latrines. Large-scale smithing or smelting is assumed to have been carried out within the fort or the associated vicus judging by the large quantities of slag and cinders found at the site. This would seem to support the thesis that this particular fort was home to an Armamentarium, or arms store, where weaponry was fabricated and stored. This would supply not only Longovicium but other nearby forts.[11] However, the site is almost unique in Britain for the size of its water supply, and the remains imply large-scale iron smelting, perhaps assisted by watermills for forging iron products.

Much of what is known about the site is due to the large number of altars, dedication slabs and a milestone dedicated to emperor Gordian III found half a mile away from the fort on the path of Dere Street. Gods worshipped include traditional Roman deities such as Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Silvanus and Celtic and Germanic ones such as Garmangabis. From such stones and building inscriptions it is known who built the fort and eventually garrisoned it.

Professor Andrew Breeze, of the University of Navarra, has argued that the Battle of Brunanburh took place at Longovicium. He interprets Brunanburh as meaning ‘stronghold of the Browney’, the river which passes the fort.

Calssical references to Lanchester (Longovicium) Vicus

Longovicium – The place of the ship-fighters – The Roman name for the fort at Lanchester is known from two classical sources; in the Notitia Dignitatum the name appears Longouico between the entries for Burrow Walls (Magis) Roman Fort andMalton (Derventio) Roman Fort, while in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#133) it is listed as Lineoiugla – probably corrupt – between the Chesterholm (Vindolanda) and Binchester (Vinovia) Fort entries.

The name Longovicium is possibly a compound word derived from the Welsh/Gaelic longo- ‘ship’, or Old English “Long” and Latin vicium ‘street-settlement’, which seems to imply that the Roman inhabitants of the place perhaps had some connection with the Classis Brittannica (the British fleet), or had seen praiseworthy action against a sea-borne attack on a previous posting; a possible translation might be ‘the place of the ship-fighters’. The modern name is first recorded on a document dating to 1196, where it appears Langecestr ‘the long Roman fort or stronghold’, from Old English lang+ceaster, however, the first element may be a contraction of the original Roman name for the fort.

References for Longovicivm (Lanchester)

  • Historical Map and Guide – Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001);
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);

Roman Roads near Longovicivm

SSE (13) to Binchester (Vinovia) Fort (Binchester, Durham) Dere Street: NW (6) to Vindomora (Ebchester, Durham)

Sites near Lanchester (Longovicium) Vicus