Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Roman Fort in Borrans Park, Ambleside, England

One of our first adventures in Ambleside was to walk up the street from our youth hostel to Borrans Park which is the site of an ancient Roman fort.

First prohibition of metal detectors I have witnessed

The park is mostly grass with scattered trees

The Romans originally built a fort of timber here in the first century A.D. It had a garrison of 200 men but was soon abandoned. They didn't give up, however. In the early 100s (second century A.D.) the timber fort was torn down and a larger stone fort was built. A cohort of 500 men occupied the fort until the fourth century. A civilian community sprang up around it, probably to provide the soldiers aid and comfort, and a way to spend their valuable Roman coins.

The remains were excavated in the 1910s by R. G. Collingwood and they are now under the care of both the National Trust and English Heritage. And the local cows!

National Trust must have paid for the signs

Field of cows

Lazy afternoon for the cows

As we approached the excavations, J and L discovered an underground stream that was probably part of the Roman irrigation and sanitation for the fort.

J and L make a discovery

The stream by itself

The first of the ruins we came across was the Porta Praetoria, or main gate for the fort. The gate had double portals and two guard towers flanking the entrance. This would have been the main entrance to the fort and it led directly to the headquarters. The other three gates (one on each wall) had single portals.

Porta Praetoria

Off to the left is the grassy corner of the fort where one of the angle towers would have stood. The fort was made in the shape of a playing card with rounded corners. Each corner had a small tower allowing soldiers a good view of the countryside and the two adjacent walls. A walkway along the walls connected the towers. These great defenses weren't a perfect guarantee of safety since a gravestone found near the fort indicates that a records clerk named Flavius Romanus was "killed inside the fort by the enemy." Bummer!

Angle Tower sign with no sign of the actual tower

Around by the south gate was a slightly more substantial gate with pivot holes for the doors. The gate faces Lake Windermere. The Romans probably used boats to move supplies and men north along the lake.

Foundation for the south gate of the fort

The next site still visible is the Praetorium or headquarters building. The commander would issues his orders from here and conduct any ceremonies necessary. The back rooms would have had the garrison's standards and an altar to the emperor or other favorite god. Accessible by stairs was the sacellum or strong room, where money was kept.


The cellar, now full of water

On the north side of the fort was the Horrea or the Granaries, where two storage buildings held the grain that was the staple of the soldiers' diet. J and L assumed it was a maze and began running back and forth, refusing to pose for a picture.

The granaries

The nearby cows were also interesting to the kids. L claimed that this cow was the biggest cow that ever was!

Largest cow ever

The cows also provide the new defenses for the site now that the Romans have gone. They have turned the field into a veritable minefield--a minefield of cow patties!

Watch your step!

We were able to avoid those weaponized biological hazards going back and forth from the fort. We did enjoy the views of Lake Windermere and our hostel from the park.

Lake Windermere

Our hostel across the water

More from the Lakes District tomorrow!

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