Longovicium (Lanchester) Vicus
Aqueduct, Fort and Roman Fort
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 Magis (Burrow Walls, Cumbria) and Derventio (Malton, North Yorkshire), while in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#133) it is listed as Lineoiugla – probably corrupt – between the Vindolanda (Chesterholm, Northumberland) and Vinovivm (Binchester, Durham) 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.
RIB1093 - Building inscription of the Twentieth Legion
XX V V
RIB1095 - Centurial stone of Oppius Proculus
𐆛 OPPI PROCVLI
RIB1083 - Altar dedicated to the Divinity of the Emperor and the Genius of the Cohort
GEN COH I F
C R EQ â†€ SVB AN
TO LEG AVG PR P[...]
F TITIANVS TRIB
D S Ḍ
The First Cohort of Vardulli is attested at several forts in the north of Britain; at Castlecary (Central; RIB 2149; 138-61AD) on the Antonine Wall, here at Longovicivm (Lanchester, Durham; RIB 1083; c.175-8AD) and at Bremenivm (High Rochester, Northumberland; RIB 1279; 216AD). There are also undated inscriptions at Corstopitvm (Corbridge, Northumberland; RIB 1128) on the Stanegate, at milecastle 19 on Hadrian’s Wall (RIB 1421) nearby, and at Cappuck (Borders; RIB 2118) on Dere Street.
RIB1075 - Dedication to the Genius of the praetorium
I LING V L P M
RIB1091 - Building dedication to Emperor Gordian III
NVS P F AVG BALNEVM CVM
BASILICA A SOLO INSTRVXIT
PER EGN LVCILIANVM LEG AVG
PR PR CVRANTE M AVR
QVIRINO PREF COH I L GOR
RIB1092 - Building dedication to Gordian III
GORDIANVS P F AVG
PRINCIPIA ET ARMAMEN
TARIA CONLAPSA RESTITV
IT PER MAECILIVM FVSCVM LEG
AVG PR PR CVRANTE M AVR
QVIRINO PR COH I L GOR
The First Cohort of Lingones is known from inscriptions at Bremenivm (High Rochester, Northumberland; RIB 1276; 139-43AD), Longovicivm (Lanchester, Durham; RIB 1091/1092; 238-44AD), and possibly also at Corstopitvm (Corbridge, Northumberland; RIB 1186; undated) which, unfortunately, is missing the unit number.
RIB1074 - Altar dedicated to Garmangabis and to the Divinity of the Emperor
ET N GOR[...]
ANI AVG N PR[...]
SAL VEX SVEBO
RVM LON GOR VO
TVM SOLVERVNT M
Numerus Longovicanorum – The Company of Longoviciani
“The prefect of the Company of Longovicians at Longovicium“
This unit is identified only in the Notitia Dignitatum of the fourth/fifth centuries (vide supra), where the appear under the overall command of the ‘Duke of the Britains’. The numerus was an irregular auxiliary unit prevalent towards the end of the Roman empire (there are several listed in the Notitia), they were part-mounted and seem to have been commanded by Roman knights (prefects and tribunes), but most of their internal organisation and command structure remains unknown.
The Gods of Roman Lanchester
RIB1072 - Altar dedicated to Aesculapius
A profusion of altars dedicated to the gods, both classical and Germanic, have been unearthed at the Lanchester site; five or six dedicated to the Roman war god Mars, two to the supreme Roman god Jupiter, two to the Germanic god Vitirus, a double altar to Ã†sculapius, and sole altars to Fortune, Silvanus, Victory, Regina/Juno, the Germanic goddess Garmangabi, the Genius of the Praetorium and the Spirit of the Emperor.
RIB1076 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus
[   ] VARD[...]LOR
C R EQ â†€
V S L L M
Other Roman Sites in the Neighbourhood
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.
RIB2295 - Milestone of Gordian III
IMP M ANT
Many thanks to Dave W. for supplying the following information:
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.
References for Longovicivm
- 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);