DERVENTIO (BRIGANTVM)

Fort, Possible Vexillation Fortress
Minor Romano-British Settlement

Malton, North Yorkshire

NGRef: SE792716
OSMap: LR100
Type: Minor Settlement, Vexillation Fortress?, Fort.
Roads
Probable road: N (12) to Cawthorn (North Yorkshire)
Iter I: ESE (23) to PRAESIDIVM (Bridlington, North Yorkshire)
Possible road: W (25) to ISVRIVM BRIGANTVM (Aldborough, North Yorkshire) via Wath
SW (17) to COLONIA EBVRACENSIVM (York, North Yorkshire) via Buttercrambe Moor
Probable road: S (31) to PETVARIA [PARISORVM] (Brough-on-Humber, Humberside)

Derventio - The Oak Tree Glade

By the year AD69 a legionary base half the normal size had been built at Malton on the northern borders of the Parisi. This tribe occupied the Oceli Promunturium in north Humberside and are thought to have offered little or no resistance to the Roman advance through the area, which was made in order to outflank the truculent and troublesome Brigantes tribe to the east. This so-called 'vexillation fortress' was temporarily occupied by a 'flag section' or vexillatio of Legio XIV Gemina before their withdrawal to the continent in 70.

Classical Evidence for the Fort at Malton

The Roman name for the Malton military complex first appears in the Antonine Itinerary of the late-second century, where in Iter I "from the frontier at the Vallum [Hadriani] all the way to Praetorium", which describes the route from Hadrian's Wall to a lost Romano-British port near Bridlington in Humberside, the entry Derventione, is listed 7 miles from Eburacum (York, North Yorkshire) and 13 miles from Delgovicia (nr. Millington, Humberside).

You will be right in thinking that the reported distance of only 7 miles between York and Malton is in error, either that or the identification of Derventio with the Malton complex. It is thought, however (q.v. Margary), that the roman numeral X has been dropped from the York-Malton distance quoted in the First Itinerary, and was transposed further down the list by an unknown scribe at some time in the distant past, thus making the distance between Millington and the terminus station at Bridlington 10 miles too long.

In addition, the Notitia Dignitatum of the 4th/5th centuries lists Deruentione as the last auxiliary garrison "at the disposal of the Right Honourable Duke of the Britains", following the entry for Longovicium (Lanchester, Durham).

The Epigraphy of Roman Malton

There are ten inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Malton, including a statue or altar base dedicated to the god Mars (RIB 711), a dedicatory inscription to the Guardian Spirit of a Goldsmith's shop (RIB 712), the tombstone of a cavalry trooper (RIB 714) and a dedicatory inscription by the prefect of an auxiliary cavalry regiment (RIB 719a).

Aside from the enigmatic stone inscribed simply SANQVS "Sanctuary?" (RIB 718), the texts of all the remaining stones are too fragmentary to be included on this page.

The Derventio Garrison Unit(s)

Alae Gallorum Picentiana - The Picentine Wing of Gauls

... I... CANDIDVS PRAEF ALAE PICENTIAN D D
"[...] J[ulius?] Candidus, prefect of the Picentine Wing, donates this offering."
(RIB 719a; Britannia ii (1971), p.291, no.9)

This wing of Gaulish tribesmen were probably named Picentine after a former commander who hailed either from the Picentes tribe from the Adriatic coast of central Italy, or from the town of Picentia in Campania on the opposite coast of Italy. The unit could not have been recruited from either of these two locations, as the Italian states had been given Roman citizenship in republican times and were thus eligible for entry into the legions. Positively identified on a dedicatory inscription (vide supra). The probability that the Malton fort was purposely built to house cavalry is reinforced by the finding of a tombstone of an eques or 'horseman', which unfortunately does not mention his unit.

Early Tombstone of a Cavalry Trooper

D M AVR MACRINVS EX EQ SING VIXIT
"For the shades of the departed Aurelius Macrinus, former horseman. Sing[ulus?] has made this."
(RIB 714; tombstone)

Numerus Superventientium Petueriensium - The Company of Newcomers from Petuaria

Praefectus numeri superuenientium Petueriensium, Deruentione
"The prefect of the Company of Newcomers from Petuaria at Derventio"
(Notitia Dignitatum xl.31; 4th/5th C.)

The last entry in the list of forces "at the disposal of the Right Honourable Duke of the Britains" mentions an irregular numerus who originally hailed from the town of Petuaria (Brough-on-Humber, Humberside), and may have been recruited from among the British Parisi tribe.

The Fort and Vicus

Excavations were conducted on the vicus outside the S gate of the fort; between 1949-52 in Orchard Field, and during 1968/9 building operations on the site of Orchard Cottage, further to the S. The 1968/9 digs revealed the presence of a further 14 vicus buildings arranged along two roads of limestone rubble leading south to the Derwent. The eastern-most of these was the earliest, probably being constructed in the late-2nd century, while the road to the west, carried on an embankment to a probable river crossing at Malton New Mills, was built at the beginning of the 4th. Flavian ditches, buildings and hearths were found sealed beneath the late-4th/early-5th century rampart. The area to the north was built-up of successive occupation layers of rubble and earth containing 2nd & 3rd century pottery, and on top of these layers were found stone buildings dating to the early-4th. The eastern road was out of use by the mid-4th century, to be replaced by crudely-built stone structures, possibly out-houses of the buildings fronting the road to the west.

The Gods of Roman Malton

Statue or Altar Base to the God Mars Rigisamus

DEO MARTI RIGAE SCIRVS DIC SAC VSLM
"To the god Mars the King, Scirus the Decurion¹ willingly and deservedly fulfils his sacred vow."
(RIB 711; base)
  1. Based on the assumption that DIC should be read DEC and expanded to Dec[urio].

The gods, classical Roman or otherwise, are sparsely represented at the Malton fort; aside from the base dedicated to Mars (vide supra) and the inscription invoking the Genio Loci (vide infra), there are in addition, a couple of illegible altarstones (RIB 713 et 717; not shown).

Inscription Hailing the Genio Loci from a Derventio Goldsmith's

FELICITER SIT GENIO LOCI SERVVLE VTERE FELIX TABERNAM AVREFICINAM
"Good luck be with the Guardian Spirit of this place, little-slave, use well this gold-working shop."
(RIB 712)

A small sea-jet carving of a bear was found at Malton which may have been manufactured at Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast nearby.

Excavations in 1970

SE792716 - Several buildings of timber and of stone were identified during further work on the Orchard Cottage site in 1970. A complex building sequence was revealed, with major phases occurring during the Trajanic, Severan, Constantian and Theodosian periods. The earliest building identified was associated with an inscription by the Ala Picentiana (Vide RIB 719a supra; also Britannia II (1971) p.291). The south and west defences of an early Roman military work were confirmed beneath the vicus buildings, very likely a southern annexe of the known fort. These additional defences comprised a turf rampart 16ft (4.9m) wide, backing a ditch 6ft (1.8m) wide and 3½ft (1.2m) deep.

Other Roman Sites in the Neighbourhood

Aside from the fort, probable fortress and minor settlement at Malton itself (SE7971), there is a substantial Roman building at Roughborough (SE7670), and Roman potteries nearby at Norton (SE7970) about 1½ miles to the south, and on the River Derwent 5 miles upstream at Crambeck (SE7367). There is a Romano-British villa at Langton (SE8167) about 3 miles to the south. About 7 miles to the west of the Malton fort and settlement there is a temporary marching camp at Wath (SE6774) nearby a villa (SE6675) and Romano-British barrow (SE6775) at Hovingham, and another villa at Pond Head (SE5674) a further 7 miles west, all these sites lying on the line of the road west out of Malton, the latter villa within sight of the main north-south road between Newcastle and York. The newly-discovered camp at Muttercrambe Moor lies a short way further along this road.

See: Britannia ii (1971) pp.252/3, 291, 302/3;
Britannia i (1970) p.280;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
All translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

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