BIRDOSWALD ROMAN FORT
Gilsland, Cumbria, CA8 7DD

Banna, now known as Birdoswald Roman Fort, was a fort, towards the western end of Hadrian's Wall, in the Roman province of Britannia. Today the site is occupied by a former farm called Birdoswald. As of 2005, it is the only site on Hadrian's Wall at which significant occupation in the post-Roman period has been proven, and it is subject to a long-term archaeological programme under the directorship of Tony Wilmott.

It is one of the best preserved of the 16 forts along Hadrian's Wall. The fort is situated in a commanding position on a triangular spur of land bounded by cliffs to the south and east overlooking a broad meander of the River  Irthing in Cumbria. In Roman times, the fort was known as Banna ("horn" in Celtic), reflecting the geography of the site.

 

In the initial plan for the frontier there was no fort at Birdoswald and instead Turret 49A and a Signal Tower were built on the site as was a temporary Roman camp which was probably used to support the construction of the Wall. 

The fort has been extensively excavated for over a century, with twentieth century excavations starting in 1911 by F.G. Simpson and continuing with Ian Richmond from 1927 to 1933 .The gateways and walls were then re-excavated under the supervision of Brenda Swinbank and J P Gillam from 1949–1950.

Excavations between 1987 and 1992 showed an unbroken sequence of occupation on the site of the fort granaries, running from the late Roman period until possibly 500AD. The granaries were replaced by two successive large timber halls, reminiscent of others found in many parts of Britain dating to the 5th and 6th centuries. Tony Wilmott (director of the excavations) has suggested that, after the end of Roman rule in Britain, the fort served as the power-base for a local warband descended from the late Roman garrison and possibly deriving legitimacy from their ancestors for several generations.

Extensive geophysical surveys, both magnetometry and earth resistance survey, were conducted by TimeScape Surveys (Alan Biggins & David Taylor, 1999 & 2004) between 1997 -2001. These surveys established that the sub-surface remains in the fort were well preserved. The later surveys detected two vici (civilian settlements) of different characters on the eastern and western sides of the fort. The surveys by TimeScape also determined the location of a bathhouse in the valley of the River Irthing.

Roman control of Britannia broke down in the early fifth century AD severing Birdoswald's garrison from the Imperial supply chain and the money that flowed from the central treasury which paid the soldiers. Despite this, life in the fort seems to have continued although it was undoubtedly on a smaller scale. Little is understood about life in the fort at this time but it is telling that as the Granary buildings decayed they were replaced by long timber halls with hearths suggesting a high status residence. It is tempting to imagine that the Roman garrison simply morphed into a war band and its commander into a chieftain. As the economy moved towards a barter basis, perhaps some trappings of Roman grandeur helped legitimise this chieftain’s grasp on the local area.

 

Occasional references are made to Birdoswald in the Middle Ages as part of the Barony of Gilsland. Certainly in the thirteenth century one Radulpho de Birdoswald owned the site and his surname suggests it was also his residence. However, by the fifteenth century the area was plagued by the Border Reivers. These thieves, murderers and bandits used the rough terrain of border country to raid and pillage. By this time Birdoswald was owned by the Vaux family who built a tower house near the west gate. This was replaced by a bastle house, a defendable farmhouse, during the sixteenth century. The accession of James I (VI of Scotland) in 1603 saw the Border Reivers suppressed and antiquarians had started to take an interest in the ruins. The farmhouse was added in 1745 and extended in 1858.

 


Entry Prices... Visit website for prices and visiting Birdoswald click HERE


Parking...Parking Areas for Disabled Visitors.

Nearby.. Harrows Scar Milecastle and Willowford Wall Bridge and Turret


Slide show - 33 photographs taken at Birdoswald Roman Fort.
 
How to get to Birdoswald Roman Fort
 
Thanks to Wikipedia & English Heritage