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10 ft. in width, they would provide solid platforms for military-
engines of considerable size.

It is noteworthy that no traces of turrets have been reported
in the case of the Scottish ' earth ' forts. This, however, does not
disprove their former existence, as they may have been of timber.
At Coelbren the corners of the fort rested upon specially strong
foundations (p. 57) ; but this may indicate nothing more than
that it is just at these points where a rampart requires special
strength. The patches of stone foundation at Castleshaw, on
the other hand, are not under but behind the rampart at these
points ; but whether they supported turrets or ballistaria is

Bastions have already so frequently been referred to that
their forms need not detain us further, beyond a reference to
Fig. 18, which gives their plans to a common scale. They are
normally solid structures, at least to their existing heights ; but
there are several exceptions. At Cardiff, the middle bastion ^
of the east side is solid to the height of 6 ft. 6 ins. ; but above
that height it was found to enclose a chamber of its own shape.
In our next section reasons will be given for thinking that this
chamber contained a postern (p. 33). At Caerwent are the
remains of three large polygonal bastions along the western half
of the south wall. Each is solid below and has a chamber above
with a mortar floor, and at intervals on its level drain-holes
through the outer walls, several of which retain a semicircular
channel of mortar. These bastions are peculiar in another
respect. They are not parts of the original construction of the
town wall. Their foundations are separate and deeper ; and
when they were built large holes were roughly cut in the face of
the wall, into which their masonry was toothed. Portions of
their outer walls still stand 11 ft. above the internal floors, but
without any signs of loopholes or other openings. ^ It would
appear from this that their basements were not used for defensive
purposes, but probably for storage ; and they must have been
reached from above, as the rampart-wall is continued along the
back without a break.

At Cardiff, the bastions are bonded into the wall and are of
one construction with it, as also at Lympne and Pevensey. At

^ Archaeologia, Ivu, p. 342. * Personal observation.



Fig. i8. — Plans of Turrets and Bastions. (30 ft. to i in.)


Richborough and Burgh Castle, on the other hand, the lower
portions of the bastions are built against their respective walls,
but their upper portions are bonded into them. This has given
rise to the supposition that these forts were originally without
bastions, and were afterwards ruined or partly pulled down and
reconstructed on bastioned lines ; and a well-defined break in
the core of the Burgh Castle wall, about 8 ft. above the ground,
is held to substantiate this. But the writer finds that the summit
of the lower part of the wall at this break is not rough, like an
old ruined wall, but is finished off, roof-like, and smoothed over
with mortar, as if with the view to prevent the access of rain to
the core below. ^ Externally, the whole work has every sign of
being the production of the same builders, the facework above
and below being identical in appearance. The break seems to
represent a halt, conceivably a winter's cessation of the building
operations ; and the omission of the bastions in the first stage of
the work may simply be due to a desire to raise a barrier with
the least expenditure of labour before the winter set in. At
Richborough, the corners of the lower portion of the wall are
rectangular, and if they represent an earlier unbastioned work,
we have the anomaly of a return to an old type of Roman fort
that was abandoned before the conquest of Britain, for one with
rounded corners, and this certainly militates against the theory
that the bastions were an afterthought.

With regard to the original heights of the bastions, their
remains at Cardiff, Caerwent, Burgh Castle, and Pevensey
indicate that they were at least as high as the existing remains
of the walls. At Burgh Castle, long stretches of the wall have the
uniform height of from i6 to 17 ft., and the fiat tops of the
better preserved bastions are as high, giving the impression that
this level approximates to the original height of the whole work,
less the parapets. It is possible, of course, that the bastions
were surmounted with structures of timber or of slighter
masonry ; but their 'tops have the curious feature of a central
shallow hole about 2 ft. in diameter, which may have received
the pivot on which a military engine revolved.^

' Personal observation.



I '■ i









With few exceptions to be noticed presently, the gates of the
forts and fortified towns of which we have any knowledge, were
stone structures. The masonry was usually better and more
massive than that of the ramparts ; and as they received some
degree of architectural treatment and embellishment, they must,
in a pleasing manner, have broken their monotonous lines. The
tablets recording their construction or restoration were some-
times highly ornamented, as one found at Risingham and another
at Lanchester indicate. ^ The structures varied greatly, but
a considerable number followed a common model, and examples
of those will be considered first.

The north and south gates of Caerwent ^ are excellent examples
of gates with single passages. They are of like size and design,
and while the south gate is the better preserved, the north gate
still retains portions of its external front, which has fallen in the
other. In each, the general structure is apparently older than
the rampart wall, and is rectangular, about 15 ft. wide and 14 ft.
deep, with a passage 9 ft. 6 ins. wide. This passage is contracted
at the front and back to 8 ft. 9 ins. by projecting jambs.
These had moulded imposts and carried arches, portions of
which remain. Fig. 19 is an elevation of the back or town front
of the south gate, with the wall abutting against the sides of
the structure : the external front was probably similar. In the
angles behind the front jambs of the north gate are still to be
seen the blocks of stone, level with the roadway, which contain the
sockets in which the door-pivots turned. The doors were in
two leaves, which, when open, fell back into the recesses between
the front and back jambs.

The architectural treatment of the two gates is conjectural.
The rampart -walk was somewhat higher than the crown of the
arches, and was probably continued over the space between
them by a timber floor. Two pieces of moulding found near
the south gate may have belonged to a cornice above the arches ;
and the many roofing-tiles about the site suggest that the
passage of the rampart-walk was through a covered chamber,

1 Roman Wall, pp. 333, 347.

^ Archaeologia, lix, p. 87, and Ix, p. 11 1.



as in the third and fourth illustrations of Fig. 20, which are
fortification gates sculptured on the Column of Trajan. The
first and second lack upper chambers, and in the latter is shown
the timber parapet of the rampart-walk over the gate. The
second two have chambers with windows over the portals, and
doorways at the sides by which they were entered from the
rampart. The arched entrance and windows of the fourth ex-
ample show that it was intended to represent a stone structure.

Fig. 20. — Fortification Gates from Trajan's Column

Of similar character were the gates of the mile-castles of the
Wallji of which each had two, level with the fronts of their
respective walls, but projecting behind. Those of the mile-castle
near Housesteads are the best preserved. The widths of the
openings are nearly 10 ft. The massive jambs have plain square
caps on which still remain the springers of the arches, each gate
having two as at Caerwent.

The remains of two-passage or double gates may be seen

• ' Arch. Aeliana, iv (O.S.), p. 269. Roman Wall, p. 202.



at Housesteads, Birdoswald, and Great Chesters ; but those at
Gellygaer ^ indicate a somewhat simpler construction. All the
gates of this fort were precisely alike, but the south-west one was
the most thoroughly explored. The passages of this gate, as
will be noted in Fig. 21, were similar to those at Caerwent.
Their contracted openings were also of similar width, and the
pilasters were arched, as indicated by the well-shaped voussoirs of
calcareous tufa found about the sites. One of the thresholds
still remained intact and consisted of two long flagstones contain-
ing the sockets for the door-pivots and two square bolt-holes,
with a raised rim on the outer side formed of two other flagstones
set on edge in the ground. This rim sheathed the bottom of
the doors when closed, and it exhibited two worn hollows about
4I- ft. apart, made by the passage of wheeled vehicles. On
either side of the gate was a guard-chamber, the front of which
was a continuation of the rampart-wall, and in the back was the
doorway by which it was entered. The front of the gate was
set back from the rampart face nearly 6 ft. That these gates,
or some portions of them, were roofed with tiles, was proved by
the broken red roofing-tiles about their sites.

The double gates of the Wall forts mentioned above were
similar, but of stronger construction, and this is especially
noticeable at Housesteads. Those of Birdoswald ^ most closely
resembled the Gellygaer gates in their planning, but were on a
larger scale, the openings being nearly 12 ft. wide. Fig. 22.
Those of Housesteads, as also of Chesters and Great Chesters,'
differed in two respects. The intervening wall between the
passages, instead of being solid, had a central opening, probably
arched ; and the guard-chambers were entered from the passages.
All the gates were set back from their respective rampart faces,
but those of Housesteads less so than the others ; while the
guard-chambers at Great Chesters had the unusual feature of
being slightly in advance of that line. The thresholds were
generally constructed of a row of large stones, with their outer
margins raised to form a rim, and in a few instances there was a
central stone stop-post as well. The door-sockets were sometimes
cut in the bottom stones of the jambs which projected for
the purpose.

1 Roman Fort of Gellygaer, p. 39. - Arch. Aeliana, iv (O.S.), p. 63. ''

^ Roman Wall, p. 181, Arch. Aeliana, vii, p. 171 ; xxiv.'p. 26. ^i ,


While the castella named above had double gates, the supple-
mentary gates at Birdoswald and Chesters were single ones.
The north and south gates at Caerwent were not the principal
ones, which may prove upon excavation to have been double.
Small forts, like the mile-castles, usually had single gates, but
there were large forts with only single gates. High Rochester
is an example.^ To judge from its west gate, which is the least
ruinous, they were of simpler character than those of Caerwent,
having a single pair of jambs each, deeply set back from the
rampart face. The lateral gates at Birrens ^ appear to have
closely resembled those at Caerwent, and the north gate was
remarkable for the great length and narrowness of its passage.
Those at Castlecary ^ were very ruinous, but were apparently of a
single span each. Those at Camel on * were still more ruinous.
Their side walls were from 20 to 22 ft. apart, but on either side of
the roadways were deep post-holes which reduced the width to the
proportions of a single span. In three of the gates at Bar Hill ^
were found the stumps of oak posts in like positions, three on
each side. According to Dr. Macdonald, these posts retained the
vertical ends of the turfwork rampart and supported timber
gangways, but were not the posts of the actual gates ; but it is
difficult to understand why they should not have fulfilled all three
purposes. The Lyne gates ^ were wholly of timber, simple, and
of a single span each. At Ardoch ' they were also of timber,
and the post-holes of the east gate indicated a complicated
structure of the depth of the rampart and divided into three
parallel spaces, of which the middle was apparently the passage,
and the outer possibly guard-chambers. It will be noticed that
this gate alone of the examples given in this paragraph had
traces of these chambers.

On the sites of some of the gates of the Wall forts, and notably
at Birdoswald, have been found door- and possibly window-heads.
Similar heads were used in Norman and Early English work, but
the Roman examples, when otherwise than plain, are treated as
sunk panels containing ornamentation in the spandrels. They
are generally regarded as the heads of the guard-chamber doors,

1 Roman Wall, p. 317. ^ Soo. Antiquaries Scot, xxx, p. loi.

^ lb. xxxvii. * lb. xxxv, p. 357.

' Roman Forts on Bar Hill, p. 22. ' lb, xxv, p. 173.
' lb. xxxii, pp. 417, 447.


t - -a


O °

I c


but at Birdoswald they are numerous, and some are rather
small for doorways. These may be window-heads, and may
have belonged to the windows of upper structure.

The walls of the guard-chambers are usually of considerable
thickness, as though to sustain lofty superstructures ; and the
resemblance of these chambers to the turret basements is decidedly
convincing in this respect. It is interesting to find that a gate
figured on a mosaic in the Avignon Museum has its guard-
chambers carried up as two turrets. In Fig. 23, this gate is
reproduced from Collectanea Antiqua.^ It has two arched
portals with three windows above, and on either side will be
noticed the window of a guard-chamber and two smaller ones
over it. The whole structure, as also the rampart-wall, is

Fig. 23. — Gate of Fort on Mosaic, Avignon Museum

embattled, and the merlons of the latter and of the turrets are
wide apart and have projecting copings as in the sculptures of
Trajan's Column, while those of the middle portion of the gate
are closer together and are not capped. The delineation admirably
fits in with what we know of the double gates in this country,
but the roofs are shown as fiat to accommodate defenders, whereas
at Caerwent and Gellygaer there is evidence for tiled roofs.
A glance at Figs. 17 and 20 will show that the Romans did not
exclusively adopt one or the other, but it is probable that in
a rainy country like ours gates often had tiled roofs.

The gates to follow not only differ from those already described,
but they differ more or less from one another. The Balkerne or
west gate of Colchester appears to have been on an unusually

' Vol. V, p. 35.



imposing scale, and its ruins are one of the most conspicuous
vestiges of the Roman town. Like the wall, it is built of a local
chalkstone with lacing-courses of tiles. The southern third of
the structure remains to a considerable height, and consists of a
narrow arched passage and a quadrant-shaped guard-chamber.
The northern two-thirds, with the exception of the curved wall
of the other guard-chamber, have long been removed, and the
site is occupied by an old inn. Mr. Roach Smith 1 and Dr. P. M.
Duncan^ respectively, described the remains in 1847 and 1855, and
both considered that they indicated a gate with a wide carriage
way and a narrow one for foot passengers, or possibly two, one on
either side of the former, with a guard-chamber to the south, and
one or two larger chambers to the north. The writer, however,

Fig. 24. — Plan of the Balkerne Gate, Colchester. (30 ft. to i in.

suspected that the structure was symmetrical, with two carriage
ways and two for foot passengers, the whole being flanked by
two quadrant-shaped guard-chambers. An examination of the
remains somewhat confirmed this, and it was further confirmed
by measurements and a plan made by Mr. Arthur G. Wright, the
curator of the Colchester Museum ; but without the evidence
of the spade it is hardly possible to go further. In the plan.
Fig. 24, the visible remains are indicated in black. It will be
observed that the whole structure is in advance of the town
wall, also that the outer or curved walls of the guard-chambers
are thinner than the intervening walls. This is suggestive that
the main fabric of the gate was rectangular, 60 ft. in width and
30 ft. in depth, and loftier than these chambers, with two large
arched ways flanked with two smaller, and a storey above, the

' Brit. Arch. Assoc, ii, p. 29. ^ Essex Archaeo. Soc. i.


whole probably resembling the Porte d'Arroux at Autun and
having a similar series of arched openings above the portals.

A considerable portion of the north gate of Lincoln — the
Newport Arch — is standing, but is buried to the extent of about
8 ft. in the soil and debris accumulated since Roman times. The
structure is about 34 ft. deep and has a single passage for the
road, ly^ ft. wide. The inner or back portal of this passage is
still intact, and is nearly 16 ft. in the clear and rises to a height
of about 22|- ft. above the Roman level. Its arch is of a single
ring of large limestone voussoirs rising from imposts which appear
to have been moulded. The outer or front arch has long since
disappeared. On the east side is a postern for pedestrians,
7 ft. wide and contracting to about 5 ft. at the north end, and 15 ft.
high from the Roman level. On the west side there was a similar
postern about a century ago. The whole structure is of good
masonry, and it appears to have projected considerably beyond
the north face of the town wall.

The other gates of Lincoln ^ appear to have been of like form,
size, and construction. The west gate is buried in the post-
Roman earthwork of the castle, but its front was exhumed in
1836. The excavation was deep enough to expose the arch of
the carriage-way, which was of precisely similar character to that
of the Newport Arch ; but the most interesting feature was the
remains of the storey above. The weight of soil had considerably
pushed its masonry out of the perpendicular, but enough was left
to indicate that there were three window-like openings over the
arch, and these are said to have been 4 ft. wide. In a contem-
porary lithographed view - of this gate, one of these openings
is shown remaining to the springs of its arch, apparently 5 ft.
or more high and between 3 and 4 ft. wide. One side of the
gate was sufficiently disclosed to show a similar opening on the
same level. The excavation was not deep enough to reach
the posterns ; but the structure as shown in the view does not
seem wide enough to have included these, and it is obviously
out of scale, not agreeing with the few measurements given.
A comparison of the two gates (the north and the west)
indicates a frontage-width of about 47 or 48 ft., and an original
height of not less than 40 ft. How the summit was treated

' E. M. Sympson, Lincoln, p. 26-9.

' Reproduced in Lincolnshire Notes and Queries, viii, p. 225.










is, of course, a matter of conjecture. The sides, like the fronts,
may have had three openings each, the third deeper and serving
as a doorway from the parapet-walk of the wall. Possibly the
guard-chambers were external, flanking the ground storey of the
main fabric, as seems to have been the case at Colchester.

The four principal gates of Silchester,^ of which the east and
west were double ones and the north and south single, differed
from all described above in having definite means of en-
filading them. This was accomplished by their structures being
deeply set back between incurved returns of the rampart-wall
(see Fig. 22), hence an assailant would not only be resisted by the
defenders of the gate itself, but would be subjected to the cross-
fire from these returns. The north and south gates resembled
the corresponding gates at Caerwent. The west gate was more
complex. The returns of the rampart-wall were of great thick-
ness, as if to serve as hallistaria, but more probably for another
reason. The gate had the usual guard-chamber on either side,
and in addition, a room entered from it, in advance of the front
of the gate and constructed against the returns, the two rooms
forming an oblong structure with walls of considerable thickness.
It is probable that these two structures were carried upwards
as two towers, and that the great thickness of the returns was to
provide suitable substructures for the outer side-walls of their
advanced portions, and in addition, space for access from the
rampart -walk to doors in these walls. It will be observed that
the inner sides of these advanced portions of this west gate and
the returns of the rampart at the north gate provided a consider-
able length of flanking defence for their respective gates. The
east gate was similar but deeper, and if anything, of stronger
construction.^ All these gates had brick arches, and timber
thresholds with sockets near their ends to receive the door-
pivots. The iron sheath, 3f ins. in diameter, of one of the
sockets was found ; also two U-shaped iron straps that were
apparently used to bind the doors, and indicate for these a thick-
ness of about 4 ins.

The north gate at Cardiff Castle, Fig. 22, has a single opening

with an outer and an inner pair of jambs, the depth of the

passage being 10 ft., representing the thickness of the wall ;

but the guard-chambers have projecting polygonal fronts like

• Archaeol. Hi, p. 750; Ixi, p. 474. ' lb. Ixi, p. 475.


those of the bastions, only a trifle smaller. The original door-
sockets were in the backward projections of the bottom stones
of the front jambs ; but at a later date the roadway was raised
and two large socket-stones were introduced at a higher level.
These sockets have the unusual feature of a shallow recess cut
in the side, which evidently received a corresponding projection
on the iron lining or shoe, to prevent it revolving with the pivot.
The later roadway, at least, had no ledge or rim across the thres-
hold, but instead, a central stone door-stop.

The only gate at Richborough that has been explored ^ was
found to contain a single passage between two oblong guard-
chambers which boldly projected on either side of the wall, Fig.
22. There were two pairs of jambs, and the outer were
deeply set back in the passage. It is evident that the guard-
chambers were an important feature, and were carried upwards
as two large towers ; and their bold projection would more
effectually protect the approach to the arched opening than at

The remaining gate at Porchester seems to have resembled
that of Richborough. That at Burgh Castle is now a mere gap
in the wall, but its width admits of a similar gate structure, also
of a single span. The great gate at Pevensey resembles that at
Cardiff in being flanked with bastions ; but these bastions are
precisely like the rest in this remarkable fort, solid, of great
projection, and with rounded fronts. Of the gate-structure
itself few traces remain ; but it appears to have contained a
single passage between two oblong guard-chambers as at Rich-
borough. The whole, however, was so far set back between the
bastions that the space between these formed a cul-de-sac about
30 ft. wide and nearly as deep, thus providing accommodation
for a large number of defenders.

Posterns are not found as parts of the original construction
of the forts of the earlier type, the two additional gates at Chesters
and Birdoswald being too large to be regarded as such. It is
of common occurrence that double gates haA-e been reduced to

' Arch. Cantiana, xxiv. Through a misinterpretation of the remains, it is
represented as a double gate, but Mr. John Garstang subsequently corrected the
mistake in the Trans. Hist. Soc. of Lane, and Cheshire, lii, from the results of the
Cardiff excavations.












single openings by blocking up one of the portals, and that the
remaining openings, as also those of singlegates, have been curtailed
to the proportions of posterns. In most cases these changes were
effected in late Roman times. At Ribchester, Mr. Garstang

Online LibraryJohn WardRomano-British buildings and earthworks → online text (page 6 of 27)