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Ardoch Roman Fort

Ardoch Roman Fort



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Ardoch is a Roman fort in Central Scotland, in Perthshire. Situated on a windswept moor, it is one of the best preserved Roman forts in Britain and the best preserved of its kind anywhere in Scotland.

History of Ardoch

The first fort at Ardoch was constructed during the Flavian Period, in the latter half of the 1st century AD. Although no artefacts uncovered from Ardoch have been able to provide a precise date for its founding, construction likely dates to between 79 and 83 AD, when the Roman governor Agricola campaigned in Northern Britain with the intent of conquering the whole of the island.

The ditches and the rampart of the Flavian fort are still visible to this day.

Ardoch was soon abandoned by the Romans following Agricola’s campaign, but it was later reoccupied in the mid-2nd century, when the Romans returned to this area and constructed the Antonine Wall at the Forth-Clyde isthmus (c.142 – 154 AD). Positioned north of the Antonine Wall, Ardoch’s new purpose was to serve as a frontier outpost for the Wall. The Antonine Fort at Ardoch was different in size to the preceding Flavian fort, smaller in size with its own ditches. A key reason why Ardoch has so many ditches visible today is because of the site’s multiple uses by the Romans in antiquity.

There was possibly even a third Roman fort constructed at Ardoch in the early 3rd century AD, when Septimius Severus marched a massive army into the Scottish midlands on a punitive expedition against troublesome peoples in the area. Whether Severus built a new fort at Ardoch is debated, but we do know that his army was active in this area.

In the area around Ardoch would have been several marching camps and a watchtower, the latter watching over a crucial road network that connected Ardoch with other forts and defences in the area. Archaeologists have dated the watchtower to the 1st century AD, but the date of the marching camps vary. Some are Flavian, while others may well date as late as Severus’ campaigns in the area more than a hundred years later.

Ardoch today

Today, only the ditches and ramparts of Ardoch Roman Fort can be clearly seen. In the middle of the fort is a slightly elevated area, but don’t be mistaken. This feature is not Roman, but medieval. The site of a medieval chapel, constructed on the site centuries after the Romans left Britain.

The ditches that survive are some 6 metres deep, steep on either side. From ground level, it is sometimes difficult to get a clear sense of how incredible the remains of this site are. By walking to the top of what was the Antonine earthworks however, you start to get a sense of the site’s majesty.

The land is owned by Blackford Estates, who you will need permission from if you wish to fly a drone at the site. Admission to the moor is free.

Getting to Ardoch

Ardoch is situated a few miles north of Stirling, not far from the A9. Although there is no dedicated parking at Ardoch, there is a large layby close by along the A822. You can also park in the nearby village of Braco. The nearest train station is Dunblane.


Ardoch Roman Fort - History

Blackhill Ramparts . The surviving ramparts of one of the marching camps at Blackhill. This was probably built by the army of Emperor Septimius Severus in the early third century AD.

Occupying a key strategic route through Perthshire and into North East Scotland, the site of Ardoch Fort regularly hosted a Roman military presence in the first to third centuries AD. The fort itself was rebuilt twice whilst Emperor Severus built a vast marching camp here for an army over 30,000 men strong.

HISTORY OF ARDOCH ROMAN FORT AND BLACKHILL CAMPS

The Roman conquest of Britannia, started by Emperor Claudius in AD 43, had taken longer than anyone expected. Rebellion and resistance, particularly in Wales and Northern England, had tied down military resources for decades. Accordingly it wasn't until the late AD 70s that Roman forces were ready to penetrate into modern day Scotland. By this time the Governor of Britannia was Gnaeus Julius Agricola - an experienced military commander with extensive knowledge of the province having served there during the Boudica revolt (AD 60). His first years were spent in campaigns against the Welsh and the Brigantes tribe (Northern England) but by AD 80 he invaded deep into Scotland proceeding along the East coast as far as the River Tay. As the Romans advanced they would have passed through the site of the later Ardoch Fort - a key strategic route towards the North East of Scotland - and it was probably at this time the that first of at least six marching camps was built.

Roman marching camps were used by the army as a means of penetrating deep into hostile territory. Roman tactical thinking assumed that any enemy could be defeated in the field by the superior training and equipment of the Legionaries but, like any regular army, they were vulnerable to unconventional attack particularly at night. The defence to this was the marching camp - a makeshift fortification that could be dug by the soldiers in a few hours at the end of a day's march. A ditch, perhaps only 1 metre deep and 2 metres wide, provided spoil for a rampart. This was then topped with stakes - the Legionary marching equipment included two per soldier - which were lashed together to form caltrops. The camp would be a configured into a 'playing card' shape although, unlike their forts, this was regularly modified to suit the local terrain. Within the enclosure the same layout of tents would be used each time enabling every soldier to know where they were accommodated and, more importantly, where their station was in the event of attack. A significant gap between ramparts and the tents enabled a mustering area and ensured the accommodation was out of range of any projectiles thrown over the ramparts. There were no gateways but entrances to the camp were protected by an additional earthwork. The net effect of these defences was a not a camp impenetrable to attack - but one that would slow an enemy down sufficiently for the Romans to form up in battle order and defeat them. Using such techniques the Romans could advance their armies into enemy territory.

Over the following two years (AD 81-2) Agricola consolidated his advance on the Clyde/Forth isthmus establishing many of the forts later rebuilt for the Antonine Wall whilst concurrently eliminating resistance in Southern Scotland. But by AD 83 he was ready to move north again against the Caledonian tribes who had formed themselves into a confederation headed by Calgacus to repel the invaders. Possibly building another marching camp near Ardoch on his way north, Agricola engaged and defeated Calgacus' force at the Battle of Mons Graupius. With every expectation that the defeated Caledonians would now shift tactics to guerrilla strikes from the comparative safety of the Highland massif, construction started on a militarised frontier aimed at separating this vast geographical area from Fife and the land in the East. The spine of this new frontier was a new Roman Road that ran from Camelon on the Clyde/Forth line, via Doune and then north-east towards Aberdeenshire passing by the new Legionary fortress at Inchtuthil - the base of the Twentieth Legion who forced the standing expeditionary army in the north. For day-to-day policing and security duties though forts, fortlets and watchtowers were built along the road's length including an unusually dense concentration of the latter along a ten mile ridge of high ground running east/west near modern day Perth - now christened the Gask Ridge frontier. Ardoch was established as a permanent fort around this time positioned between Doune Fort (on the River Teith) and Strageath Fort (at the start of the Gask Ridge). Known to the Romans as Alauna Veniconum , this fort housed a 500 strong detachment with some evidence suggesting this was the First Cohort of Spaniards ( Cohors I Primae Hispanorum equitata) - a part mounted, part infantry Auxiliary regiment. Both the defensive rampart and the internal structures were timber. A signal station linked it to a communication network that extended along the frontier to Inchtuthil.

In AD 86 Rome shifted from a four to three Legion policy for Britannia with the Second Adiutrix Legion ( Legio II Adiutrix Pia Fidelis ) redeployed to Dacia (modern day Moldova). With the removal of the 5,000+ man Legionary force plus a large number of supporting Auxiliary regiments, sustaining an occupation of Northern Scotland was no longer viable. The Romans commenced a phased withdrawal to the Solway-Tyne isthmus which was eventually consolidated into Hadrian's Wall in AD 122. Ardoch was abandoned as part of this general drawdown.

Emperor Hadrian died in AD 138 and his successor, Antoninus Pius, was not content to leave the Roman frontier on the Solway/Tyne line. Even after decades of retrenchment, the Roman policy of imperium sine fine - empire without limits - was a popular concept. The Romans advanced back to the Clyde/Forth isthmus and built the Antonine Wall re-using many of the forts of Agricola's campaigns from the AD 80s. Although north of the Wall, Ardoch was rebuilt at this time albeit it was reduced in size the fort was scaled back on its northern side with the earlier earthworks being incorporated into the complex system of defensive ditches seen today. The fort acted as an outpost similar to the role performed by Bewcastle, High Rochester and Risingham north of Hadrian's Wall. But the Roman presence in Scotland was once again short-lived - by AD 160 they withdrew back to Hadrian's Wall and Ardoch was again abandoned.

In AD 208 the Romans once again advanced into Northern Scotland under the personal direction of Emperor Septimius Severus. He was responding to a request from the Governor of Britannia for military aid against raids from north of Hadrian's Wall. The Emperor responded on a significant scale arriving with an army possibly as large as 50,000 men strong. Advancing north of the Wall he campaigned against the Maetae of Southern Scotland and the Caledonians of the Highlands. During his tenure he re-established many of the Clyde-Forth forts and advanced towards the River Tay. Near Ardoch a marching camp - some 131 acres in size (compared to a permanent Legionary base of just 50 acres) - was established. The war petered out as Severus' forces suffered extensively at the hands of guerrilla raids with a peace treaty concluded in AD 209. The death of the Emperor in AD 211 (at York) brought hostilities to a close as his heirs, Caracalla and Geta, were more interested in securing the succession. The end of their operation marked the final Roman use of this key strategic site.


Ardoch Roman Fort- Castle Semple

If you are interested in learning a bit more about one of the largest Roman stations associated with historic Britain, then read further to encounter information on the Ardoch Roman Fort. Additionally, you will also find out what has been stored in the Castle Semple Collegiate Church that may pique your archeological interests.

Dunblane, Perthshire is the site where you will find the Ardoch Roman Fort. The story behind this attraction begins about 80 AD, where 40 years into history marks the start of construction for Hadrian’s Wall. At the time, a collection of forts and watchtowers were built along the Gask Ridge, which consisted of high ground that traveled between Perth and Dunblane.

During this time, the land and its structures were constantly changing. The frontier shifted. The Antonine Wall was built. Former Gask forts that were once abandoned now became reoccupied. One of the early Gask structures was called Ardoch Fort. It is believed that it was built around the same time of the Battle of Mons Graupius , a war that involved the Caledonians and the army of the Roman Governor of Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola. In the 140s, it was reoccupied and later became one of the largest Roman stations to thrive in Britain.

Keep in mind that when paying a visit to this site, you will not encounter any buildings, but what you will find is the remains of defensive earthworks that create a rather inviting sight to see.

Castle Semple Collegiate Church

Visit Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire and make a note to seek out the Castle Semple Collegiate Church, which involves the land of Robert and Thomas Sempill, who received their space as a reward for lending their support to Robert Bruce during his 14th century. In return, they became the owners of large tracts of land that once belonged to the family of John Balliol , a prominent figure during English and Scottish times who at one time became the joint protector of Alexander III , the young king of Scots. The Sempills also inherited the region located about Loch Winnoch.

Another Thomas within the Sempill family (of Eliotstoun) would later gain the estates of Loch Winnoch and when the Battle of Sauchieburn took his life in 1488, the land became the property of his son John. John then became known as ‘Lord Semple.’ In 1505, John Semple was in charge of building the Castle Semple, which was constructed at the eastern end of Loch Winnoch. Today, it is known as Castle Semple Loch. The loch shore also served as the site for the collegiate church that he founded.

The late Gothic style was attractive , showcasing a rectangular body and square tower. At the east end of the church, a three-sided apse (half-cone or half-dome) was present. As for the school liked to the church, it earned the reputation as one of the best in all of Scotland. At the eastern end of the church, John was laid to rest after he passed away at the battle of Flodden in 1513. The body of the church is also home to the tombstone of one of his kin (Gabriel Semple), who died in 1587. A handful of 19th century graves are also located at the church.


Contents

The remains consist of grass-covered earthworks, and are considered among the best preserved Roman earthworks in Britain. [2] The site, which has a complex history, comprises two intersecting forts. [3] The earliest fort is believed to be associated with the campaigns of Agricola (1st century). [3] The later fort was apparently reconstructed within two outer ditches so that this later fort was protected by five ditches on both the east and north sides. [2]

The field to the north is the remnant of a large annexe. [4] Archaeology has demonstrated the existence of a watch-tower (or signal tower) and at least six overlapping marching camps to the north and northeast. [4]

Ardoch was one of a chain of camps separated by one-day marches in a generally north–south direction. Other Roman camps in this chain include Strageath, Inchtuthil, Battledykes, Stracathro, Raedykes and thence taking the Elsick Mounth trackway to Normandykes. [5]

The fort has sometimes been identified with the "Alauna" mentioned in Ptolemy's Geography. [6] Ptolemy placed Alauna in the area occupied by the Damnonii tribe, [7] and the name may be associated with the River Allan which flows about one mile to the south of the fort. [8] However the identification of Ardoch with Alauna is considered tentative. [3]

The site was reused in the medieval period when a chapel was built near the centre of the fort. [9] The remains of the graveyard enclosure and the site of the chapel are the only archaeological remains which are visible within the fort. [9]

A hoard of Roman silver coins was found four miles north of Ardoch in 1671. At that time, Lord Drummond wrote that the ditches were deep enough to hide a man on horseback. Other trenches to the northeast had been damaged by cultivation against his grandfather's orders. [10]

In 1726 Alexander Gordon claimed that at Ardoch Roman Fort a subterranean passage was said to run from the fort, under the River Tay to the fort or 'Keir' on Grinnin Hill. This tunnel was said to contain a great deal of treasure. [11]

Ardoch was visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1842, although only Albert investigated the earthworks, Victoria preferred to remain in their carriage. [12]

Ardoch Roman Fort is part of the Ardoch estate, and is in private ownership, although access is allowed at reasonable times. To the north, the earthwork remains of two Roman marching camps, known as Blackhill Camp, are in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. [13]

Whitley Castle in Northumberland, also known as Epiacum, is a Roman fort that also retains a remarkable series of ditches and ramparts


Ardoch Roman Fort is part of the Ardoch estate, and is in private ownership, although access is allowed at all reasonable times. To the north, the earthwork remains of two Roman marching camps, known as Blackhill Camp, are in the care of Historic Scotland. Γ]

  1. ↑http://www.roman-britain.org/places/alauna_veniconum.htm
  2. ↑Ardoch Roman Camp
  3. ↑C. Michael Hogan, Elsick Mounth, Megalithic Portal, ed A. Burnham
  4. ↑ Alexander Gordon, (1726), Interarium septentrionale, London. p. 41.
  5. ↑Roman Site: Blackhill Camp, www.historic-scotland.gov.uk

Discover Celtic and Roman Stirling

The people that lived in Scotland 2000 years ago are often called Celts but in Stirling we know the name of their tribe: the Maeatae, because it survives in Stirling’s most prominent hill Dumyat (Dun Maeatae: Fort of the Maeatae), just look north. One of the key fortifications of the Maeatae was Stirling’s Mote Hill, which controlled the crossing point of the Forth and was destroyed by fire around AD250. Mote Hill is at the northern tip of Gowan Hill at the bottom of Lower Bridge Street, just look for the pair of cannons above Sainsburys and the Beheading Stone. The Romans tried to conquer Scotland at least three times and each time they ultimately failed and withdrew.

In the first century AD they established the first boundary in the Empire which ran from Doune to the River Tay and is known as the Gask Ridge. One of the Roman Forts on the Gask Ridge at Ardoch is the best preserved example of a timber fort in the world.

Travel north from Stirling on the A9 to Greenloaning and carry on to Braco. The fort is to the north east of the village and on the east side of the A822. There is parking in a layby on the left just after you cross the bridge and the fort is on your right. You can see the fort’s ramparts from the road and it’s easy to imagine the hustle and bustle of the legionaries and their barracks. This general location was used again in the 3rd century AD when the Emperor Septimius Severus invaded Scotland. At this point in the Roman Empire, its capital was where the Emperor was and so we can say that Braco was the capital of the Roman Empire for a few weeks!

The network of Roman roads that supplied the frontier connected Ardoch to Stirling and eventually to Rome and was the main Scottish road network for the next 1800 years, only being fully replaced in the late 1700s! A section of the Roman road runs through Stirling’s Beechwood Park on the west side of the B8051. This road was used by every army to ever invade Scotland from the Romans to Bonnie Prince Charlie and was also used by Robert the Bruce and William Wallace!

Another key Maeatae site is Torwood Broch which is the largest prehistoric building in Southern Scotland and represents the remains of a Celtic tower, built in the 1st century AD before the arrival of the Romans and surviving to over 3m high. The broch is surrounded by a series of later defences and contains a 4-5000 year old spiral decorated stone in the stair way, you have to crouch to see it. Leave Stirling from the south and take the A872, and then take the second left to Plean, you are now driving on the Roman road, built nearly 2000 years ago. Keep on this road until you get to Torwood village, take the first right in Torwood into the car park. Opposite the car park is a small wooden bridge which is the start of the path to the broch, which is just over a third of a mile long and climbs gently as it twists and turns though the dense growth of conifers. The broch is at the summit of the hill so keep walking uphill.

The Romans tried to conquer Scotland again in the second century AD when they built the Antonine Wall, the largest archaeological monument in Scotland and a World Heritage Site. The best preserved section is at nearby Rough Castle and it is possible to stand on what was the edge of the civilised world and glare into wild untamed Celtic Scotland. Leave Torwood car park and turn right, travel through the village and turn right onto the A9. Join the M876 and turn right towards Bonnybridge and the Antonine Wall is signposted at Bonnybridge. From Bonnybrudge take the B816 between Bonnybridge and High Bonnybridge which is also signposted for the wall.


Archaeologists amazed by 'fascinating' feature at ancient Roman site in UK

The Romans conquered Britain around 2,000 years ago. While Julius Caesar first stepped foot in Britain in 54 BC, it would be another 100 years before the conquest began. The first place the Roman Empire’s soldiers are believed to have landed is at Pegwell Bay in Thanet, Kent.

From this point onwards they would force their way north, staying for 400 years.

While England is famed for its numerous Roman structures like Hadrian’s Wall and Vindolanda, Scotland has its fair share of Roman buildings.

The Empire called Scotland “Caledonia”, the Latin name that researchers believe is from a Celtic source.

Here, workers built one of the Empire’s largest and most intricate sites, Ardoch Fort.

Archaeology: Researchers have been stunned by the multiple layers of history at Ardoch Fort (Image: History Hit)

Ardoch Fort: The fort is one of a number of Roman sites in Scotland (Image: History Hit)

Its initial construction, in the first century AD, came when the Romans were intent on conquering the entirety of Scotland, a plan they later abandoned.

Ardoch’s “fascinating” nature was explored during History Hit’s documentary, ‘Fortress Britain: Ardoch Roman Fort’.

Tristan Hughes, the show’s presenter and researcher, explained that the fort was layered with the work of Roman soldiers who lived years apart, having been built and reconstructed in two separate dynasties.

Talking through the Flavian Dynasty section of the fort, a period ruled by Emperor Vespaian and later his two sons, Titus and Domitian, Mr Hughes said: “The remains of the Flavian Fort can be seen as very extensive, the far reaches of the ditches visible to this day.

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Roman layers: Two separate dynasties built and repurposed the fort (Image: History Hit)

“Ardoch is a fascinating site because it doesn’t just have the remains of a Flavian Fort, lose run, as the aerial photography shows, the fort has shrunk a little because that is a later Antonine Fort Antonine meaning the period in the mid to late 2nd century AD.”

The Romans would later return to the fort after the Antonine Wall had been built.

It was here that they extended the fort, repurposing it to cater for the Empire’s new ambitions.

Historian Rebecca Jones, speaking during the documentary, explained: “It had a different function at that point.

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Rebecca Jones: The historian said the fort ‘had a different function’ post-Antonine Wall (Image: History Hit)

Antonine Wall: The defensive ditch and rampart of the Antonine Wall (Image: GETTY)

“In the First Century it was a fort where they were planning on conquering the whole of Scotland, that was very much in their mindset, whereas in the Second Century, the line had been drawn across central Scotland between the Firth and the Clyde islands.

“And so it’s an outpost fort to the north, controlling that area north of the Wall.”

Some researchers argue that there was a third fort constructed in the area, although this is hotly debated.

When the Severan campaigns – under Emperor Severus – came along in the Third Century the Roman soldiers didn’t occupy the fort but instead occupied the nearby camps.

Archaeological discoveries: Some of the most groundbreaking discoveries on record (Image: Express Newspapers)

They were not in the region for very long, on a temporary mission to quell disturbances in northern Caledonia, and so used the camps as a base to launch attacks.

Existing forts like Ardoch were left unused in later life.

It is worth noting that the Roman Empire was huge, spanning Scotland to Syria, and at one point parts of Iran.

Maintaining and controlling such a vast area proved difficult, especially with a tense domestic political situation at the Empire’s heart, Rome.

Ancient Rome: The Romans left to defend the Empire’s centre which was under attack (Image: GETTY)

Roman presence gradually began to decline from 370 AD.

Each outpost left at staggered times, believed to be returning to Rome to defend the city as it was under attack.

It’s also been suggested that the Empire could no longer defend itself against external threats posed by Germanic tribes expanding into Western Europe.

After the Romans left, Britain fell into chaos as native tribes and foreign invaders battled it out for power.


Archaeologists amazed by 'fascinating' feature at ancient Roman site in UK

The Romans conquered Britain around 2,000 years ago. While Julius Caesar first stepped foot in Britain in 54 BC, it would be another 100 years before the conquest began. The first place the Roman Empire’s soldiers are believed to have landed is at Pegwell Bay in Thanet, Kent.

From this point onwards they would force their way north, staying for 400 years.

While England is famed for its numerous Roman structures like Hadrian’s Wall and Vindolanda, Scotland has its fair share of Roman buildings.

The Empire called Scotland “Caledonia”, the Latin name that researchers believe is from a Celtic source.

Here, workers built one of the Empire’s largest and most intricate sites, Ardoch Fort.

Archaeology: Researchers have been stunned by the multiple layers of history at Ardoch Fort (Image: History Hit)

Ardoch Fort: The fort is one of a number of Roman sites in Scotland (Image: History Hit)

Its initial construction, in the first century AD, came when the Romans were intent on conquering the entirety of Scotland, a plan they later abandoned.

Ardoch’s “fascinating” nature was explored during History Hit’s documentary, ‘Fortress Britain: Ardoch Roman Fort’.

Tristan Hughes, the show’s presenter and researcher, explained that the fort was layered with the work of Roman soldiers who lived years apart, having been built and reconstructed in two separate dynasties.

Talking through the Flavian Dynasty section of the fort, a period ruled by Emperor Vespaian and later his two sons, Titus and Domitian, Mr Hughes said: “The remains of the Flavian Fort can be seen as very extensive, the far reaches of the ditches visible to this day.

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Roman layers: Two separate dynasties built and repurposed the fort (Image: History Hit)

“Ardoch is a fascinating site because it doesn’t just have the remains of a Flavian Fort, lose run, as the aerial photography shows, the fort has shrunk a little because that is a later Antonine Fort Antonine meaning the period in the mid to late 2nd century AD.”

The Romans would later return to the fort after the Antonine Wall had been built.

It was here that they extended the fort, repurposing it to cater for the Empire’s new ambitions.

Historian Rebecca Jones, speaking during the documentary, explained: “It had a different function at that point.

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[ ANALYSIS]

Rebecca Jones: The historian said the fort ‘had a different function’ post-Antonine Wall (Image: History Hit)

Antonine Wall: The defensive ditch and rampart of the Antonine Wall (Image: GETTY)

“In the First Century it was a fort where they were planning on conquering the whole of Scotland, that was very much in their mindset, whereas in the Second Century, the line had been drawn across central Scotland between the Firth and the Clyde islands.

“And so it’s an outpost fort to the north, controlling that area north of the Wall.”

Some researchers argue that there was a third fort constructed in the area, although this is hotly debated.

When the Severan campaigns – under Emperor Severus – came along in the Third Century the Roman soldiers didn’t occupy the fort but instead occupied the nearby camps.

Archaeological discoveries: Some of the most groundbreaking discoveries on record (Image: Express Newspapers)

They were not in the region for very long, on a temporary mission to quell disturbances in northern Caledonia, and so used the camps as a base to launch attacks.

Existing forts like Ardoch were left unused in later life.

It is worth noting that the Roman Empire was huge, spanning Scotland to Syria, and at one point parts of Iran.

Maintaining and controlling such a vast area proved difficult, especially with a tense domestic political situation at the Empire’s heart, Rome.

Ancient Rome: The Romans left to defend the Empire’s centre which was under attack (Image: GETTY)

Roman presence gradually began to decline from 370 AD.

Each outpost left at staggered times, believed to be returning to Rome to defend the city as it was under attack.

It’s also been suggested that the Empire could no longer defend itself against external threats posed by Germanic tribes expanding into Western Europe.

After the Romans left, Britain fell into chaos as native tribes and foreign invaders battled it out for power.


Ardoch Roman Fort: First and Second centuries AD

At Ardoch the military built one of the Empire’s largest and most intricate sites..

Initial construction, in the first century AD, was undertaken in context of a plan to conquer all of mainland Britain.

Ardoch’s “fascinating” nature was explored during History Hit’s documentary, ‘Fortress Britain: Ardoch Roman Fort’.This was presented and researched by Tristan Hughes. Hughes explained that the fort was layered with the work of Roman soldiers who lived years apart, This was because the fort was built and reconstructed under two separate dynasties.

Talking through the fort’s Flavian Dynasty section, a period ruled by Emperor Vespasian and later his two sons. Mr Hughes said: “The remains of the Flavian Fort can be seen as very extensive.” “The far reaches of the ditches are visible to this day”.

“Ardoch is a fascinating site because it doesn’t just have the remains of a Flavian Fort.”, The fort has shrunk a little because that is a later Antonine Fort. Antonine meaning the period AD 138-161 when Antoninus Augustus Pius was emperor.

The Romans would later return to the fort after the Antonine Wall had been built.It was here that they extended the fort, repurposing it to cater for the Empire’s new ambitions. Historian Rebecca Jones, speaking during the documentary, explained: “It had a different function at that point.” In the First Century it was a fort where they were planning on conquering the whole of Scotland. In the Second Century, the line had been drawn across central Scotland between the Firth and the Clyde islands. “And so it’s an outpost fort to the north, controlling that area north of the Wall.”

Tombstone of Ammonius, a Roman Centurion from Spain, found at Ardoch. Dates from 1st century AD


Description

Off the track from the road to the fort lie the remains of a stone bath house, which provided facilities for the soldiers’ relaxation.

It consisted of four ‘rooms’ – one containing the furnace (at the far end), and the others with hot, warm and cold baths. To the left, a circular room with its own furnace was used much like a modern sauna.

Inside the Fort

The fort is entered through its main (south) gate, which, like those in the eastern and western walls, had two carriageways the north gate had just one, presumably because of its precipitous location.

The walls of the fort are of stone, although an internal bank of earth may have given access to the wall-walk and to the internal guard towers at the four corners, which have no entrances at ground level and were later additions.

Stone Buildings

The lower courses of three stone buildings survive in the middle of the fort.

Directly opposite the south gate is the headquarters building, which comprised a courtyard flanked by narrow rooms, possibly used as armouries.

At the far end of this courtyard was the ‘cross-hall’, where the fort commander dispensed justice to defaulters, while beyond this was a small temple where the garrison’s standards and dedicated altars were housed. On either side of the temple were offices for administration and record-keeping.

To the left of the headquarters building was the commander’s residence normally a large house with a courtyard – as befitted his status – at Hardknott this was left unfinished or possibly made into a smaller residence, reflecting the intermittent use of this fort.

To the right are the granaries, roofed as a single building. The floors were raised on piers to allow free circulation of air and to reduce the risk of infestation by vermin.

The outer walls were buttressed for support against the weight of the roof, while the entrances had raised platforms onto which the carts carrying grain were unloaded.

Soldiers' Accommodation

Barracks normally occupied the remainder of the fort at Hardknott, however, no traces of these remain, although the front of the fort possibly contained barracks of stone and timber.

At the rear, building would have been extremely difficult owing to the uneven ground, and the soldiers may have been housed in leather tents, remnants of which have been recovered in excavations.

The parade-ground, where the garrison exercised and practised drill manoeuvres, lies on a plateau about 218 yards (200 metres) to the east.


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