Tunnocelum (?) Roman Fort

Auxiliary Fort

The Notitia Dignitatum , a document which purports to give information on military dispositions from the late-fourth or early-fifth century, assigns Cohorts I Aelia Classica to a site narned Tunnocelum. The entry above, work the is the only classical reference which mentions the name of this fort. Judging from its location in the N.D. under the Duke of the Britains, the fort perhaps lies somewhere in north-east England, possibly on the coast of Cumbria. Why on the coast? Merely because the name of the unit suggests that they were marini or milites classicorum, in other words ‘marines’. This is only an assumption of course, for there was nothing to prevent the Roman high-command from posting the regiment anywhere that circumstances dictated.

  • Tribunus cohortus primae Aeliae classicae Tunnocelo
  • “The tribune of the First Cohort of the Aelian Fleet at Tunnocelum.”
  • (Notitia Dignitatum xl.51; 4th/5th C.)

Cohors Primae Aeliae Classicae – The First Cohort of the Aelian Fleet

The Juliocenon Entry of the Ravenna Cosmography

The seventh century work, the Ravenna Cosmology, contains an interestingly named station Iuliocenon (R&C#116), between the entries for Glannoventa (Ravenglass, Cumbria) and Gabrosentum (Moresby, Cumbria). The position of this entry within the document makes it clear that the station was situated somewhere in Cumbria, quite possibly on the Cumbrian coast. Given even this sparse evidence, coupled with the phonetic correspondence of the names from the two geographies, Tunnocelum – Juliocenon, it seems likely that they refer to the same location.

Located Somewhere near Beckermet or Calder Bridge in Cumbria

The most-likely location for the Juliocenon/Tunnocelum site appears to lie along the line of a suspected Roman road from Papcastle to Ravenglass near the mouth of the River Ehen south of Egremont, close to the nuclear power station at Sellafield. However, aside from a few curiously-aligned Roman finds, there is no known Roman settlement or military encampment in the area.

RIB 796 - Altar dedicated to Hercules and Silvanus

To the gods Hercules and Silvanus Primus, custos armorum, made this altar for himself and his detachment, paying his vow willingly and deservedly.


A custos armorum was the soldier in a century or a turma responsible for the arms and armour.

In 1883 a fragment of red-sandstone inscribed in Latin was noticed built into Haile Church – where the stone still remains – some 7 miles south-east of Whitehaven and only two miles from Beckermet and Calder Bridge. The stone (vide infra) is the die of an altarstone dedicated to a pair of Roman gods, the lower part of the pedestal and the capital having been removed to “square-off” the piece prior to it being incorporated within the structure of the church. The dedicator would appear to be the ‘Chief Armourer’ of a vexillatio or legionary detachment and represents solid evidence for a semi-permanent Roman base in the neighbourhood.


In 1995 on the beach at Ravenglass of bronze fragments of a , Caedicius Severus’ , a Roman soldier’s, military diploma, dated February 27, 158.  The soldier to whom the certificate belonged served in an infantry unit raised by Hadrian from the fleet (Cohors I Aelia Classica). The text of this diploma indicates that Caedicius last served as a rider ( ex equite ).

A lead seal, both found in Ravenglass. Amongst the finds from the excavations of 1976-77 was a lead sealing (from an official package) which bore its name in an abbreviated form.

References for

The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).

Sites near Tunnocelum (?) Roman Fort