Bainbridge Roman Fort Geophysical Survey

Cumbria

Client

NAA

Services

Geophysics

Community and outreach

The Roman fort at Bainbridge, Wensleydale, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, has long been a point of curiosity in the village and surrounding areas. Early excavations (sporadically between 1925 and 1977) of the interior of the fort revealed two phases of occupation. The first phase dates to the late 1st century AD, but abandonment early in Hadrian’s reign resulted in the fort being demolished and the buildings being burned down. The second phase of occupation lasted from the early 3rd century until the early 5th century (YDNPA 2019; Bidwell 2012). A survey of the fort was undertaken by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME 1994), which aimed to identify the locations of the excavation trenches of previous archaeological work and determine the potential for useful results from a geophysical survey. The survey determined that there was “little information to gain from prospecting in areas where there is known or suspected excavation” (RCHME 1994, 15).

"We are hopeful that this research will add some insight into the fort at Bainbridge and why the Romans may have chosen to construct a fort in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales"

NAA is undertaking an ongoing research project to determine whether there is information to be gained by performing a gradiometer survey of both the interior and exterior of the fort. The aims of this work are to ascertain the level of survival of features within the fort and to discern the extent of archaeology surrounding the fort. This research was prompted by an archaeological test-pitting project that was undertaken in 2017 by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the local community (https://blog.yorkshiredales.org.uk/category/historic-environment/we-dig-community/). During these excavations, a complete (albeit broken) Black Burnished Ware pot was recovered from close to the fort, but outside of the scheduled area. So far, we have completed two weekends worth of geophysical survey, one of which involved volunteers being able to try their hand at gradiometer and topographic surveys. The preliminary results are very promising, and while the interior of the fort is very noisy, archaeological features can be identified.

Whilst the work on the interior of the fort has been completed, there is still work that needs to be done to verify the extent of archaeology that surrounds the fort. This is especially clear with regards to an annex to the eastern end which appears as though it may be more extensive than previously thought. There also appear to be two roads leaving the eastern entrance that could answer long-standing questions about where the Roman roads traversed Wensleydale. We are hopeful that this research will add some insight into the fort at Bainbridge and why the Romans may have chosen to construct a fort in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales, a question that has been debated for quite some time.

 

Bidwell, P. (2012) The Roman Fort at Bainbridge, Wensleydale: Excavations by B.R. Hartley on the Principia and a Summary Account of Other Excavations and Surveys. Britannia, 43, 45–113.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) (1994) Bainbridge Roman Fort. Newcastle: RCHME.

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) (2019) Bainbridge Roman Fort. [Online] Available at: http://www.outofoblivion.org.uk/record.asp?id=116 (accessed on 31/01/2019)

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