Roman Fort and Gyrus

The Lunt, Baginton, Coventry, Warwickshire

NGRef: SP344752
OSMap: LR140
Type: Forts, Gyrus.
Roads
none

The Lunt - The Wooded Slope

The site was first confirmed as Roman when "vast quantities" of Roman pottery were discovered during gravel-working in the village in the 1930's. Excavations conducted in the 1960's uncovered the defences and interior buildings of a sequence of Roman military camps on the site which excavators have grouped into four major phases of development and occupation:

Occupational Phases of the Lunt Fort

PeriodDimensionsAreaDateNotes
I??c.AD60-64Only the eastern defences of this timber-built fort have so far been uncovered, lying in undulating ground to the east of the visible defences. The western rampart and ditch lie under developed land adjacent to the modern site, the southern defences probably lie beyond the modern road to the south as much Roman material has been recovered from the grounds of the Church here, while the northern defences of this and subsequent camps have all been lost to natural erosion of the scarp. This original large camp was seen to have four subdivisional building periods, all in timber, and during the latest of these rebuildings a large circular horse-training ring or gyrus was erected.
II300 x 550 ft
(c.91 x 165 m)
3¾ acres
(1.5ha)
c.AD64-78Shortly after the Gyrus had been built, the original fort had its defences contracted on all sides save the north, where the natural scarp gave excellent protection from this quarter. This turf and timber fort had most of its interior buildings rebuilt in stone, aside from the three timber-built granaries and the gyrus, which now lay in the central area of the new fort adjacent to the eastern defences. On this side of the fort the defences departed from the usual straight lines normally employed in Roman military camps, and instead curved closely around the training ring. It is the defences and interior buildings of this fort that are on display at the modern site (see below).
III300 x 370 ft
(c.91 x 113 m)
2½ acres
(0.9ha)
c.AD78-80The fort was shortened during Period III by abandoning the area to the south of the Period II via principalis and building a rampart along the southern edge of this road; the gyrus and other internal buildings to the north of the road were retained. This fort was abandoned after a short period of use.
IV300 x 550 ft
(c.91 x 165 m)
3¾ acres
(1.5ha)
c.AD260-?This fort was built on the same alignment as the Period II camp after about 180 years of desertion. No interior buildings dating to this period have been found, which probably indicates that occupation did not last long, the troops living in field conditions in tented accommodation. Evidence for the dating of this occupation period is a single coin of Gallienus (Imp. AD260-280) and some third-century pottery.
"Exotic pottery from far off places has occasionally been found on early military sites in Britain and the most astonishing is perhaps the plain black colour-coated bowl, with a central finial, from the post-Boudican fort at the Lunt, for which there are two known parallels, one in Gaul and the other in Spain." (Webster, p.101)

Post-Boudican Horse-Training Centre

The forts of Periods I-III included many stable-blocks in their internal arrangements, and the recovery of many pieces of bronze horse-harness and a large, circular horse-training ring or corral during excavations confirm the presence of cavalry on the site. This undoubted equine association, coupled with dating evidence which places the foundation of the first fort at about the same time as the revolt of Boudica AD60/61, has led to the conclusion that the camp was constructed specifically in order to deal with the large number of horses and ponies which were presumably taken as booty following the defeat of the British army, this battle perhaps occurring somewhere near Mancetter.

Baginton then, is thought to have started-off life as a large encampment known to archaeologists as Period I, which was used to house a mixed regiment of cavalry and infantry known as a cohors equitata, perhaps two, together with an unknown number of captured horses obtained during the campaigns of governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus against Queen Boudica of the Iceni.

Probably Garrisoned by a Cohors Equitata

The soldiers in this type of regiment would all have been accustomed to the care and use of horses and would have been the logical choice to garrison the Lunt Fort, able to care for the animals as they were rounded up, also to train suitable specimens. The unfit would be weeded-out and probably sold into the civilian market, while those suitable would be graded for use within the Roman military. The finest horses would go into the cavalry alae, the equine elite, while the smaller, stockier breeds would be employed by the equitata regiments who required less-spirited animals able to cope with the presence of foot-soldiers and trained to perform a number of specialised manoevers, including rapid mounting and dismounting, swimming across rivers in the company of infantry, also able to negotiate rougher ground than the cavalry thoroughbreds. Finally, the horses unsuited to mounted use would be employed as baggage or draft animals.

Following the initial large number of animals the supply of captured horses would soon have petered out, and a strong military presence at the site would be no longer required, so the original defences were levelled, and the much-smaller Period II fort was built within the first camp. The fort of Period III likely represents further scaling-down of operations at the fort which continued to operate with a reduced garrison for a short time before the defences were finally demolished and the site abandoned during the administration of governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola, its garrison possibly withdrawn for use in his northern campaigns.

The Gyrus or Vivarium

The circular structure at the Lunt fort has been described as a gyrus or horse-training ring, or perhaps a vivarium or animal corral, but whatever its original function it remains the only known example within an auxiliary fort throughout the whole of the Roman empire. The structure was formed from fifty semicircular cut timbers set upright in a circular trench, probably supporting a framework of cross-timbers. A single funnel-shaped entrance passage adjoined the structure on the north-east which had gates at both ends, presumably to control the animals entering or leaving the ring. It is probable that both horses and men were trained within the gyrus, the instructor most likely remained in the centre of the ring while the trainee was walked around the perimeter on the end of a leash.

See: Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1993);
Britannia ii (1971) p.262 & pl.XXXVIb.

Click here for a map of Baginton from StreetMap.co.uk

Baginton Today

The Lunt Roman Fort
Entrance Fee Charged Car Parking Facilities for the Disabled Opening Hours: 10am - 5pm Information Available Nearby Pub Public Conveniences Site Museum
Modern visitors to The Lunt at Baginton should be suitably impressed with the reconstructions built upon the original Roman foundations by the officers and men of the 31 Base Workshop Squadron, Royal Engineers. Using Roman methods and materials wherever possible this modern regiment reconstructed the eastern defences in 1971, basing the timber-built gateway on ones depicted on Trajan's Column at Rome, one of the military granaries was rebuilt in 1973 on the site of the original timber building and now houses the site museum, and finally, the gyrus was erected in 1977. In addition to these excellent reconstructions many of the original Roman stone foundations have been uncovered and are now on display. These include the principia or regimental headquarters in the centre of the fort next to the granary, an ablutions block, the praetorium or commanding officer's house, also many of the barrack-blocks and stables.
Opening Times: April to October - Saturday / Sunday & Bank Holidays; July to August - open daily.
Charges: Adults 2.50 Children 1.25 (2002 prices).
WebSite: www.army.mod.uk
Telephone: 024 7683 2565

Baginton Related Links

Roman Military Research Society based at the Lunt Fort
LUNT ROMAN FORT Department of Classics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver - No need to SHOUT Guys!
Lunt Roman Fort site from the BBC - To their usual high standard.
The Lunt Roman Fort - A bunch of pix from the Coventry Kid
Coventry - Lunt Roman Fort from romans-in-britain.org.uk - I'll have to keep my eye on this geezer.

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