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Chesters Roman Fort

Known by the Romans as  Cilurnum

nr Chollerford, Northumberland

Featured Location Guide

 

Said to be the best preserved remains of a cavalry fort in Britain. Built to guard a bridge, that carried the wall and military road,  just after the wall was completed in about 123AD.

There is more stonework exposed at some other sites, but of all the roman remains in Britain this is probably the best overall coverage of the component pieces that show how the military buildings, bathhouses and forts were constructed. This also makes it an ideal site to introduce and explain roman structures to children, and this could be supplemented with a trip to a villa to see mosaics.

The Bathhouse

It has a well-preserved commandantís house and a bathhouse which offered customers hot, cold or steam baths. The site museum displays a wide  collection of Roman finds retrieved by the local antiquarian John Clayton, covering finds from many sites along the wall. These include important early archaeological discoveries relating to the central section of the Wall.

Aerial photo by Simon Ledingham used with permission. Previously on www.visitcumbria.com

In the photograph above the outline of the fort is visible with gateways, corner turret nearest to you and this side two other turrets, the gate nearest to you is the south west gate, traditionally called the south gate, and we are looking North. The separate building downhill to the right of the picture is the bathhouse. In the centre of the fort you can see the headquarters building and to the right of it the commandants house. Beyond the commandants house are the barrack blocks. Above the corner turret you can just see a line of column bases. outside this photo to the right is the river and on the other side the bridge base remains.

The wall joined the fort from the left joining where you can see a piece of stonework pointing out of the gateway towards the trees, and also right just before the second gate on the right hand side of the fort in the photo, and above and to the left of the bathhouse you can see a small section of wall uncovered, also shown in the picture left.  This wall continued down and over the bridge. The fort had 6 gates, 3 the far side of the wall and 3 this side.  Just this side of the fort the vallum ran, and below this stretching to the river on the right but keeping this side of the vallum was a civil settlement.

See Larger Image

Wall Section

The fort had  6 gates, 3 the far side of the wall and 3 this side. This arrangement is typical

of forts built for cavalry, as it allowed large numbers of cavalry to leave the fort very quickly.

The picture above, of a model in the museum, shows how it's thought to have looked and is a fairly standard layout for a roman cavalry fort, with barrack blocks left and right, headquarters building in the middle, commanders house the other side  and grain storage this side of the headquarters building. The bathhouse is shown in the model near the bridge.

Beyond the bridge would be milecastle 27, and beyond this Brunton Turret, where the next piece of wall is visible today.

Known to the Romans as 'Cilurnum', Chesters Fort was built to guard the Roman bridge which carried Hadrian's Wall and the military road south of the wall, over the River North Tyne. Its bridge abutments can still be seen. This was a cavalry fort, its foundation.

The earliest known military presence was a wing of cavalry, ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata ("named Augusta because of its valour"). Inscriptions have also been found showing the First Cohort of Dalmatians and the First Cohort of Vangiones from Upper Rhineland in Germany were also stationed here. It was occupied for nearly three centuries, it housed a garrison of some 500 troops, by the 3rd century, a cavalry regiment from Asturias in northern Spain.

There is much still to see here, including the remains of all four principal gates, the headquarters building with courtyard, hall and regimental shrine, and the elaborate and luxurious commandant's house.

Bridge Remains

 

Secure vault underground

Hot bath in the bathhouse

Even better preserved, between the fort and the river, is the garrison's bathhouse. This displays the complex of rooms which offered soldiers hot, cold or steam baths, as well as a changing room cum club house with niches for statues or altars of gods, including Fortuna, patroness of Roman gamblers. The original main entry to this would have been a door to the north, entering a large changing room, latrine off to the left, and lobby ahead. From the lobby right would be the dry rooms, including hot room, ahead hot steam room, and right a cold bath room and cold plunge bath, the cold room leading to warm rooms. Coming off the middle of the steam rooms was a hot bath. There is a reproduction of a roman bathhouse at Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum at Wallsend.

Part of the museum collection

The museum here contains altars and inscriptions to the many deities of the Roman Army and are among the hundreds of archaeological discoveries from the central section of the Wall, including Vindolanda, Housesteads and Carrawburgh forts. These were collected by the Victorian antiquarian John Clayton, their setting has now been restored to its appearance in 1900. The large house next to the site was the family home of John Clayton, who dug out this fort, his father having covered it to form a parkland setting. He also excavated the Temple of Mithras, Housesteads Roman Fort,  Carvoran Fort next to the Roman Army Museum amongst others.

Above gateway nearest to the barrack block below

Part of the barrack block

Supports for floor in the commanders house that was heated with under floor heating..

See more images in the


Further information Grid

 

Location:

Chesters Roman Fort, nr Chollerford, Northumberland

Ceremonial County: Northumberland

Grid Reference:

NY911702

Map Link:

Multimap

Aerial photo: Multimap      Google 

Route(s):

Hadrian's Wall Route Guide

Best Times to Visit:

many events - see EH events page.

E-mail:

 

Website:

EH  (corrected)

Other useful websites:

Wikipedia   Geograph

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

Roman Frontiers    

Hadrian's Wall  

Hadrian's Wall - Featured Places

 

.


Planning Grid

Location:

Chesters Roman Fort, nr Chollerford, Northumberland

Grid Reference:

NY911702

Getting there:

1⁄4 mile W of Chollerford, on B6318

Access:

Access from car park, museum is by entrance, fort is a pleasant short levelish walk.

Parking:

Parking not far from entrance

Facilities:

 

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Roman remains, museum exhibits, often events. The roman bathhouse is outstanding.

What to take:

 

Nature highlights:

By river setting, also farm animals in fields around.

Address:

 

Postcode:

NE46 4EU

Telephone:

01434 681379

Opening times:

October-March 10am-4pm, April-September 10am-6pm

Charges:

FREE to English Heritage members

Adults £4.80, Concessions £4.10, Children £2.40

Photo Restrictions:

None

Other Restrictions: None I am aware of
Special Needs Access: Most of site is flat with short grass, access to bathhouse is down a steep slope.
Special Needs Facilities:  
Children Facilities: Ideal site for children
Dogs Allowed:  

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

 


By:  Keith Park   Section: Roman Key:
Page Ref: Chesters_Roman_fort Topic: Roman Britain Last Updated: 05/2010

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