RIGODVNVM

Roman Fort, Fortlet

Castleshaw, Saddleworth, Greater Manchester

NGRef: SD9909
OSMap: LR109
Type: Fort, later Fortlet.

Plan of the fort at Rigodunum
(adapted from Collingwood, fig.7)
Roads
NE (7) to CAMBODVNVM (Slack, West Yorkshire)
WSW (12) to MAMVCIVM (Manchester, Greater Manchester)

Rigodunum - The Fortress of the King

The only classical reference we have for the Roman name of Castleshaw is Ptolemy's Geography of the second century, where it appears among the nine poleis attributed to the Brigantes tribe of northern England. The 'town' is named Rigodunum and is listed between the entries for Isurium Brigantum the tribal capital, and the auxiliary fort at Olenacum.

The Roman name for Castleshaw is purely Celtic in origin, from the words rigon 'king' and dunum 'fortified encampment', easily translated as 'the King's Fort', although it is not known which Celtic monarch is implied in the name. The name cannot apply to the Roman fort, which was probably built here in order to mount an offensive against a nearby Brigantian stronghold, and it is this unknown native fort after which the Roman site was later named.

The Flavian Auxiliary Fort

This fort measures 360 by 300 feet inside the defences giving an occupation area of just under 2½ acres. The rampart is 18 feet wide on average, and constructed partly of turf and partly of clay. There is a 15 foot wide ditch close to the rampart, with an outlying, smaller, second ditch on the weaker sides. All four gates were of timber construction, the main eastern and western gateways were double. Originally built during the Flavian period, the fort was abandoned for some time before the site was later re-used.

Cohors Tertiae Bracaraugustanorum - The Third Cohort from Bracara Augusta

COH III BR[A?]
"[Property of] the Third Bracaraugustan Cohort."
(Burn 30b)

The only evidence for the name of the auxiliary regiment which occupied the Castleshaw fort comes in the form of roofing? tiles bearing the stamp of Cohors III Bracaraugustanorum, a Hispanic regiment from a town in the Roman province of Lusitania, now Braga in northern Portugal. The regiment is also recorded on tiles recovered from the fort at Manchester (Burn 30a).

The Trajanic Fortlet

The original fort was demolished in the second century and replaced by a much smaller fort or fortlet, on the same site. The "Castleshaw II" fort measured 160 by 190 feet outside the defences, which consisted of a 13 feet wide turf rampart, probably having a timber walkway and palisade along the top, with a timber double-gateway in each of the longer sides. Internal buildings were mainly of timber but at least one stone building is indicated. Artifacts found on the site suggest an occupation date of c.AD100-120. With an internal area of just half an acre, this fortlet was, in the words of R.G. Collingwood; "obviously a block house for a handful of men policing the road".

This fort was first erected during Flavian times, and continued occupation possibly into the early-third century, as attested by Hadrianic samian ware and Antonine pottery recovered from the site. The timber defences and many of the interior buildings of this fort were never replaced in stone.

Roman Silver Plate from Tunshill Park

VICTORIAE LEG VI VIC VAL RVFVS VSLM
"For Victory [and] the Sixth Legion Victrix, Valerius Rufus willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow."
(RIB 582; silver plate)

Tunshill Park, Lancashire, lies about 4 miles north-west of the Rigodunum fort.

The roman road from Castleshaw to Slack was identified in 1969 to the north-east of the fort (@ SE003098), climbing Standedge Ridge by means of a graded terraceway. The road was originally more than 22 feet (6.7m) wide but has been considerably eroded.

See: Britannia ii (1971) p.253;
The Romans in Britain - An Anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1969);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
Roman Roads in Britain : Volume II North of the Foss Way - Bristol Channel by Ivan D. Margary (London 1957);
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

Rigodunum Related Lynx

Tunshill Park, Nr. Rochdale
Tunshill Golf Club Ltd, Rochdale
Castleshaw Roman Camp (Rigodunum) from the website MysteriousBritain.co.uk
Saddleworth Historical Society
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