Rossington Bridge Vexilation Fort

Pottery and Vexillation Fort

This large fort of 23 acres (9.3ha) lies about 4½ miles (7km) south-west of Doncaster. A fort of this size must have housed a force of some considerable strength, indeed, the area is sufficient to accommodate half a legion at a pinch, around two and a half thousand men. It is more likely, however, that the fort was occupied by a mixed force of legionary and auxiliary cohorts, formed into a task force united under the flag of a single senior commander. A unit of this nature was termed a vexillatio, named after the commanding officer’s pennant or vexillium, and the large defensive enclosures needed to house these formations are nowadays known as ‘Vexillation Fortresses’.

The fortress may have been built in the late A.D. 40’s marking an early thrust toward the north-western border of the Coritani, perhaps conducted by forces under the command of Ostorius Scapula, the second propraetorian governor of Britain. Another scenario involves a campaign orchestrated by governor Vettius Bolanus. In dating this fortress it should be borne in mind that the auxiliary fort at Chesterfield was founded c.55AD and another at Templeborough is thought to be contemporary with it, both forts lying on the line of Ryknild Street to the south west. It is possible that the auxiliary fort guarding the crossing of the River Don at Doncaster may be associated with the same campaign in which these forts were established, so too the vexillation fortress at Rossington Bridge.

Taking these facts into consideration, Sheppard Frere concluded that this site is very likely linked with the problems of governor Didius Gallus in dealing with queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes . In his scenario a carefully selected striking force were housed during the early stages of the operation in the vexillation fortress at Newton on Trent on the old Plautian frontier, which is of a similar size. Once Gallus had advanced his front line, this same task force would have occupied a more forward position and this may well account for the large site here at Rossington.

The Roman Potteries

Aside from the large potteries in Rossington (SK6399) there is another smaller group of pottery kilns nearby at Blaxton (SE6500), but the the largest and most important potteries in this area were those at Cantley (SE6102) near Doncaster. The main product of these second century industries was kitchenware, mortaria in particular. A mortarium is a wide, shallow mixing bowl, often studded on the inner surface with hard ceramic nodules designed to help break up foodstuffs. Several mortaria have been unearthed from the ruins of these potteries, variously stamped, including those of potters SARRIVS and SETIBOGIVS. Sarrius was producing pottery here c.160-85AD, and also had potteries at Hartshill near Manduessedum (Mancetter, Warwickshire) on the Watling Street. It would appear that the potteries here derived at least some of their income by exporting wares outside the area, as mortaria produced here have turned up at several sites in the north of Britain.

Other Nearby Roman Sites

There is a villa two miles to the south-west at Stancil (SO6096), and another at Oldcotes (SK5988) eight miles south. There is also a fortlet at Bawtrey (SK6592) five miles to the south-east, along the road to Littleborough.

Rossington S. Yorks. Rosington c.1190. Probably ‘farmstead at the Moor’. Welsh/Gaelic *ros + OE -ing- + tun.” (Mills)

References for Rossington Bridge

  • Historical Map and Guide – Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001);
  • Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills (Oxford 1998);
  • Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1993).

Map References for Rossington Bridge

NGRef: SK6399 OSMap: LR111

Roman Roads near Rossington Bridge

Itinera V/VIII: NW (4) to Danvm (Doncaster, South Yorkshire) Itinera V/VIII: SW (17) to Segelocvm (Littleborough, Nottinghamshire)

Sites near Rossington Bridge Vexilation Fort