Ravenglass Roman fort: Project to unearth civilian settlement

image captionIt is believed the bathhouse might have been reused in the medieval period as a house

Archaeologists are to explore the remains of a Roman naval base in Cumbria in the hope of finding evidence of a civilian settlement from more than 1,800 years ago.

The fort, often referred to as Glannaventa, was built to protect the North West from Irish invasion and was occupied from AD 120 through to the 4th Century.

Sited at the edge of an eroding cliff overlooking the River Esk, parts of the fort and settlement are believed to have been reused to build the village of Ravenglass and the early Muncaster Castle.

Over the centuries the Roman remains have been damaged by a railway cutting and by coastal erosion at the western end.

All that is left today is an earthwork platform overgrown by trees and shrubs.

But this is not the case for the fort's bathhouse, also known as Walls Castle, which survives today as standing masonry.

Modern-day spa

Archaeologists believe the bathhouse might have been reused in the medieval period as a house, which is why the ruins remain today.

The ruins were first recognised as Roman in 1876, but they were thought to be of a villa rather than a bathhouse.

It was not until 1919 that Walls Castle was identified as a bathhouse.

The building provided relaxation for the Roman soldiers and for civilians who lived in the settlement outside the fort.

Much like a modern-day spa, it would have been used for swimming and bathing as well as various sports.

Over the years excavations at the site have uncovered finds such as a piece of samian ware (a type of luxury Roman pottery), fragments of a mortarium (a kitchen vessel similar to a mortar) as well as fused glass, bones, tiles and bricks.

But little is known about the site's history.

'Leave a legacy'

Now, a project involving both the Lake District National Park and the local community aims to uncover the history of the settlement and unearth evidence of occupation at the site.

Geophysical surveys and excavations will be carried out on the undisturbed grazed land to discover the extent of the civilian settlement.

image captionRoman soldiers and civilians would have used the bathhouse for relaxing and sporting activity

Archaeology and heritage assistant Holly Beavitt-Pike said: "The project is really important.

"People have wanted to find out about the area for a long time and discover its wider context and involvement with Hadrian's Wall.

"The west coast is often overlooked and we hope to encourage people to find out about the area.

"We want to leave a legacy so that people in the future will know what happened at the site.

"It is the community's heritage and we hope that will encourage local people to get involved."

The three-year project, which has received £125,000 of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund Copeland Community Fund and the Lake District National Park Authority, will begin in September.

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