Of­fi­cial: Ro­man fort lies be­neath

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Front Page - BY JAMIE LOPEZ

A1ST Cen­tury fort un­cov­ered at a Burscough farm could be the key to un­der­stand­ing Ro­man ac­tiv­ity in Lan­cashire.

Af­ter years of spec­u­la­tion about the pres­ence of such a fort, ru­ins off Flax Lane have fi­nally re­ceived recog­ni­tion from His­toric Eng­land.

The ru­ins com­prise a 30,000 sq m fort, roads, and a smaller fort­let and ex­perts be­lieve the find will un­lock un­known de­tails of how the Ro­mans set­tled and trav­elled around the area. Con­sid­ered along­side other forts in the re­gion, in­clud­ing those at Wi­gan and Ribch­ester, Burscough’s will pro­vide great in­sight into Ro­man mil­i­tary strat­egy. It is be­lieved that the area was oc­cu­pied mul­ti­ple times over the course of hun­dreds of years, a the­ory which is backed up by the va­ri­ety of pot­tery found at the site.

His­toric Eng­land says the lines of the fort’s de­fences are clearly iden­ti­fi­able on geo­phys­i­cal sur­vey and aerial pho­tos, but the north­west and south-west cor­ners are also vis­i­ble as slight earth­works on Li­dar, which uses laser light re­flec­tions to pro­duce 3D images.

The north-west cor­ner of the fort is vis­i­ble as the slight earth­work of a broad bank about 12m wide, with a reg­u­lar, broad and shal­low ex­ter­nal ditch; the lat­ter is in­ter­preted as a shal­low quarry ditch dug dur­ing the con­struc­tion of the ram­part.

Sev­eral large de­pres­sions vis­i­ble in the wider land­scape are con­sid­ered to be post me­dieval ex­trac­tion, prob­a­bly marl pits: one of these pits sits within the an­gle of the north­west cor­ner of the fort.

The num­ber of ditches is con­sid­ered to in­di­cate more than one phase of oc­cu­pa­tion, and it is con­sid­ered that a later, small fort­let over­lies the east­ern ram­part of the ear­lier fort.

A num­ber of in­ter­nal fea­tures have been re­vealed by geo­phys­i­cal sur­vey in­clud­ing a well-de­fined east­ern gate­way with double gate tow­ers, and nu­mer­ous stone build­ings in­ter­preted as gra­naries or bar­racks. Lim­ited trial trench­ing of the lat­ter has re­vealed the pres­ence of a large stone, but­tressed build­ing typ­i­cal of a Ro­man gra­nary.

The geo­phys­i­cal sur­vey has also re­vealed the buried re­mains of a broad sec­tion of Ro­man road ap­proach­ing the fort on the east side. A sim­i­lar fea­ture is thought to be as­so­ci­ated with the fort’s south­ern en­trance.

For sev­eral years, a non-profit ar­chae­ol­ogy group has been man­ag­ing the site and al­low­ing peo­ple to help with ex­ca­va­tion of the ru­ins but the lo­ca­tion of the fort has largely been kept a se­cret. Those in­ter­ested in vis­it­ing were able to pay to take part in or­gan­ised digs, while items of Ro­man pot­tery have been found on nearby fields by pass­ing walk­ers.

The fort had sur­vived reg­u­lar plough­ing through the years be­fore the ar­chae­ol­ogy group took an in­ter­est in the site but con­cerned res­i­dents no­ticed dig­gers on the field in re­cent weeks and feared that the in­valu­able find­ings could be lost for­ever.

But, pos­si­bly partly as a re­sult of those fears be­ing raised with His­toric Eng­land and then the Gov­ern­ment’s Depart­ment for Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport (DCMS), the ru­ins have now been clas­si­fied as a Sched­uled Mon­u­ment.

That means it is a crim­i­nal of­fence to de­stroy or dam­age it; do any works to re­move, re­pair or al­ter it; use a metal de­tec­tor with­out prior con­sent; or re­move any his­toric or ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ob­ject from the site with­out prior con­sent.

A spokesman for His­toric Eng­land said: “DCMS re­cently agreed with our ad­vice that this site should be pro­tected as a sched­uled mon­u­ment be­cause it is a highly sig­nif­i­cant find of a Ro­man fort which has sur­vived well.

‘‘We are ac­tively in con­tact with the own­ers and lo­cal au­thor­ity to of­fer ad­vice and sup­port on how best to man­age this site to en­sure its fu­ture.”

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