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Ward Law

Temporary Camp (Roman)

Site Name Ward Law

Classification Temporary Camp (Roman)

Alternative Name(s) Ward Law Hill

Canmore ID 66098

Site Number NY06NW 4

NGR NY 02400 66870

NGR Description Centred NY 02400 66870

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/66098

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Caerlaverock
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Nithsdale
  • Former County Dumfries-shire

Treasured Places (1 August 2007)

The Roman temporary camp at Ward Law was first recorded as an earthwork in 1772 but is now only visible as a cropmark. The camp is rectangular in form and displays the distinctive 'playing card' shape associated with Roman military sites. Several entrances to the camp are protected by additional lengths of ditch, known as 'tituli', but that on the NW is protected by four tituli. Excavation at the site showed that the ditch cuts through bedrock, the expense of manpower perhaps indicating that the camp had a longer occupation than that traditionally associated with temporary camps.

Information from RCAHMS (SC) 1 August 2007

Jones, R H 2006

Archaeology Notes

NY06NW 4 centred 02400 66870

(NY 02400 66870) Roman Fort (R) (Site of)

OS 6" map (1957)

This Roman fort, first noted by Pennant in 1772, was excavated in 1939 and 1949-50, when its position as shown on OS plan was confirmed. It measures 655' E-W by 510' transversely (over the centre of the 15' wide rampart). Beyond a 4' berm, there lay a 13-15' wide rock-cut ditch, 7-8' deep. A gate was found in the centre of the E ditch, where there was a 30' wide causeway over the ditch, and a heavily cobbled road led through the rampart, but no tutulus was found. The position of the other gates could not be ascertained by surface inspection, but a W gate may be assumed in a corresponding position. No small finds were made.

J K St Joseph 1952; A E Truckell 1952; 1950; J Roman Stud 1940; 1952

The portion of the N rampart to the W of the modern stone dyke is visible as a low, much spread mound, impossible to survey. Otherwise there are no traces of this fort visible. Mr Truckell, Dumfries Museum, states that the course of the road leading up to this fort is visible on RAF APs, to the S of the fort.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 11 August 1965

Aerial observation in 1976 has shown that this fort is linked to the fort to its S (NY06NW 5) by a ditch system broken by a titulum-type entrance. This suggests that the hill fort was incorporated as a defensive feature for a brief period, perhaps during Agricola's invasion. (Information from G D B Jones, Manchester University)

R Goodburn 1978

Possibly at most some kind of semi-permanent work, if not indeed designed for use on manoeuvres.

G S Maxwell and D R Wilson 1987

The identification of titula (as many as 4 at one gate) on AP's of 1984 gives good grounds for questioning the traditional identification of this site as a fort; a more ephemeral purpose would seem to have been served.

Information G S Maxwell 1990.

Activities

Aerial Photography (1946)

Field Visit (11 August 1965)

The portion of the N rampart to the W of the modern stone dyke is visible as a low, much spread mound, impossible to survey. Otherwise there are no traces of this fort visible. Mr Truckell, Dumfries Museum, states that the course of the road leading up to this fort is visible on RAF APs, to the S of the fort.

Aerial Photography (1975)

Aerial Photographic Interpretation (1976)

Aerial observation in 1976 has shown that this fort is linked to the fort to its S (NY06NW 5) by a ditch system broken by a titulum-type entrance. This suggests that the hill fort was incorporated as a defensive feature for a brief period, perhaps during Agricola's invasion. (Information from G D B Jones, Manchester University)

R Goodburn 1978

Reference (1978)

Possibly at most some kind of semi-permanent work, if not indeed designed for use on manoeuvres.

G S Maxwell and D R Wilson 1987

Aerial Photography (1979)

Aerial Photography (1984)

Aerial Photography (1988)

Aerial Photography (1989)

Aerial Photographic Interpretation (1990)

The identification of titula (as many as 4 at one gate) on AP's of 1984 gives good grounds for questioning the traditional identification of this site as a fort; a more ephemeral purpose would seem to have been served.

Aerial Photography (26 July 1999)

Magnetometry (June 2009)

NY 0240 6687 A magnetic survey in June 2009 in the two fields containing the northern part of the camp revealed part of the ditch. Unfortunately a large geological anomaly obscured part of the camp including the multiple tituli at its N entrance. However, the survey did confirm that there was no break in the ditch at the western entrance where the titulus was also recorded, confirming the interpretation from air photographs. This suggests that the camp may have been re-used at some point, and the entrance either opened or closed; the ditch does not appear to narrow at this point. No obvious internal features were recorded.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut

C-M Hüssen, Rebecca Jones and WS Hanson – Römisch-Germanische Kommission (RGK)/RCAHMS/Glasgow University Archaeology Department

Publication Account (17 December 2011)

First recorded in 1772 as a Roman fort by Pennant (1776), this camp is now known only as a cropmark lying just north of the hillfort which crowns the summit of Ward Law hill. The fortlet at Lantonside lies just over 1km to the WSW, the two overlooking the confluence of the River Nith with the Solway Firth.

The camp measures 225m from WSW to ENE by 171m transversely and enclosed 3.8ha (9.4 acres). Excavations on the ditch have suggested that it was rock-cut in places, up to 2.4m in depth (cut through 1.8m of rock) and 4.5m in width, with a gutter measuring some 0.3m wide and 0.15m deep (Truckell 1952: 142).

A titulus is visible in the WSW side, but there is no entrance gap at this point, suggesting either that this was reused at some point and the entrance either opened or closed, or that there was an additional ditch through the entrance obscuring the cropmark, which does appear to narrow slightly at this point. These observations were confirmed by geophysical survey in 2009 (Hussein et al 2009b). However, the earlier excavations on the site, while revealing evidence for the ditch cutting though the natural rock, were not recorded as demonstrating evidence for recutting of the ditch. The cutting of a ‘temporary’ camp ditch through rock demonstrates a significant expense of manpower.

On the NNW side, there is a break in the ditch for an entrance which is protected by four tituli. It was this discovery which led to the reclassification of the site as a camp rather than a fort (Maxwell and Wilson 1987: 23–4). Indeed, no such complex arrangement is known from forts or camps in Britain.

Immediately south of the camp, running from its SSE side close to the south corner, there is a further linear cropmark running to the hillfort which is sited less than 50m away. This linear cropmark has a clear entrance gap, protected by a titulus to its west. G D B Jones suggested that the hillfort was incorporated as a defensive feature for a period (Goodburn 1978: 419), and Truckell postulated that a signal station may have been built on the hillfort (information from RCAHMS). The site is also proposed as a 15th-century beacon height (Hewison 1912: 99). While the cropmarks are clearly visible, the ‘signal station’ on the hillfort has not been confirmed. The presence of this outwork, if Roman in date, the rock-cut ditch and the additional tituli confirm the site as one of the more unusual camps in Scotland, and suggests perhaps a longevity in its occupation. No internal features were recorded during geophysical survey in 2009, although an underlying geological anomaly meant that only limited evidence could be recorded (Hussen et al 2009b).

R H Jones.

Reference

This Roman fort, first noted by Pennant in 1772, was excavated in 1939 and 1949-50, when its position as shown on OS plan was confirmed. It measures 655' E-W by 510' transversely (over the centre of the 15' wide rampart). Beyond a 4' berm, there lay a 13-15' wide rock-cut ditch, 7-8' deep. A gate was found in the centre of the E ditch, where there was a 30' wide causeway over the ditch, and a heavily cobbled road led through the rampart, but no tutulus was found. The position of the other gates could not be ascertained by surface inspection, but a W gate may be assumed in a corresponding position. No small finds were made.

J K St Joseph 1952; A E Truckell 1952; 1950; J Roman Stud 1940; 1952

References

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