Roman Marching Camp

Rey Cross, Durham

NGRef: NY9012
OSMap: LR91/92
Type: Roman Marching Camp
Roads
W (6½) to VERTERIS (Brough-under-Stainmore, Cumbria)
E (6½) to LAVATRIS (Bowes, Durham)

The Rey Cross Marching Camp

N.G.REFDIMENSIONSAREA
NY900124c.655 x c.985 ft
(c.200 x c.300 m)
20 acres
(8.1 ha)

"One of the most impressively defended camps in Britain"

Above quote from Roman Camps in England by the RCHME (p.57).

The Roman marching camp at Rey Cross lies along the Vale of the River Greta at Buzzard Hill in Stainmore Forest. It is cut across its southern half by the Roman military road between the forts at Bowes in Durham and Brough Castle in Cumbria, and the position of camp and road prove that the former preceeded the latter, which is here overlaid by the modern A66 trunk road. The south-western corner of the encampment has been damaged by quarrying, and the north-western corner by the encroachment of blanket-bog. A circle of stones lies in the north-east corner of the camp and is probably prehistoric in date.

This marching camp is trapezoid in outline, its northern and southern defences being roughly parallel, and encloses an area of about 20 acres (8.1ha). The north, east and west sides are all roughly equal in length at about 985 feet (300m), while the southern side measures only about 655 ft (200m). There are three visible gateways in the nothern defences, and two in each of the other sides, all protected by external extensions of the rampart called tituli. The ramparts and gateways of this encampment may still be viewed and are in places almost six feet (1.8m) high. They were not constructed in the normal manner from the upcast out of the ditch, which is for the most part absent, but were instead formed from soil and turf scraped-up from the camps interior.

"a superb example of castra aestivalia ('temporary encampment'), placed at the gate
of Cumbria by an army intending to march deep into that territory the next day."

Above quote by Richmond from Roman Camps in England by the RCHME (p.59).

This large temporary marching camp and other similarly-sized fortifications at Crackenthorpe and Plumpton Head have all been attributed to the campaigns of governor Quintus Petilius Cerialis against the Brigantian dissident Venutius sometime around AD72/73. Another camp dating to this particular campaign may be awaiting discovery at Carlisle.

Milestone from Rey Cross, Stainmore, Durham

... CARO PIO FEL E INV AVG
"[For Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius] Carus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus¹"
(RIB 2282; milestone; dated: AD282-283)
  1. The evil emperor Carus was formerly the praetorian commander of emperor Probus who succeeded to the empire after engineering the latter's death in September AD282. He died near Ctesiphon on the banks of the Tigris in July/August AD283, reputedly "killed by lightning" - a bolt no doubt wrought of iron and wielded by a praetorian fist. Another milestone of emperor Carus has been unearthed at Vale House, Stainmore, near the fort at Lavatris/Bowes, which lies only 5 miles to the east.
See: Roman Camps in England - The Field Archaeology by the R.C.H.M.E. (H.M.S.O, London, 1995);
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

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