List of Roman finds (defences)

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Remains of the Walls (as listed at "Revealing Cheshire's Past")

The defences of the fortress of Roman Chester comprised several components: The rampart (artificial bank), built in the late first century, consisted of a core of sand, clay or rubble held in place to the front and rear by revetments of stacked turves. It was set on a base of close-set transverse logs and measured approx 6m wide by perhaps 3m high. The top of the rampart would have been flattened to create a walkway that could be patrolled and would have had been protected by a wooden palisade. In all the defences defined a rectangular space some 592m long and 411m wide.

Towers, initially of timber and measuring 4.42m square, were also placed at regular intervals along each wall as well as at each angle of the fortress, while four major gates were placed at each main access point to control traffic in and out. There may originally have been 44 towers in all, including angle and gate towers, the angle towers perhaps being about 45m apart. The towers were later rebuilt in stone, measuring about 6.5 m square, with the angle towers being slightly larger. They were now placed slightly further apart, at about 62.5m, and the total number reduced to 34 or 36.

The rampart was separated from a substantial outer ditch by a flat area called a berm. The berm was about 1.8m wide and the primary ditch about 3m wide by 1.5m deep. At a later date the defences were further strengthened by the insertion of a stone revetment wall laid in regular courses each about 0.30m high against the outer face of the rampart. This measured about 1.5m wide by about 4.75m to wall walk level and was again surmounted by stone breastwork. The ditch was widened and deepened, perhaps up to 7m by 3m, although re-cutting has made the dimensions difficult to measure.

The date of construction of the stone revetment wall is disputed. It is possible that the southern and eastern sectors were started at the beginning of the second century, along with the towers, but that remaining sectors were not completed until the early third century. Evidence of two phases of reconstruction incorporating re-used stones has been found on all but the south side, accompanied in some cases by rubble in the ditch. It is suggested that reconstruction to the original width is to be dated to the start of the fourth century, but that doubling of the width may belong to the Saxon period.

The first phase of occupation, beginning around AD75, was constructed by Legio II Adiutrix. It consisted of a rampart strapped with timber and turf surrounded by a ditch, with several wooden towers and gates. The second phase of construction, begun around AD90, was done by Legio XX Valeria Victrix. They dismantled the original defences and constructed new ones in timber.

From AD120 onwards the timber defences were gradually reconstructed in stone; stone towers were built, and the defensive ditched were recut. It is possible that the stone rebuild was prompted by Hadrian’s use of the twentieth legion.

In AD 125 several of the soldiers were moved around and the fortress was reduced to a rearward depot, but in AD 165 the twentieth legion (Legio XX Valeria Victrix) moved back to Chester, along with the second legion Sarmatian cavalry. The defences were replaced with a brand new curtain wall in front of the ramparts, into which some of the early towers were incorporated.

In AD 300 the twentieth legion again moved elsewhere. The barracks buildings became derelict, but many of the other buildings continued in use. The rampart behind the curtain wall was reduced and the wall itself became more freestanding, with an inner face added to the wall using earlier Roman tombstones. The fortress continued to be occupied until the fourth century AD.

While the dates of the defences of Roman Chester as under frequent review the following lists many of the sites of finds.

North Wall

A section of the Roman north wall was recorded during repairs to the wall near Morgan's Mount in the late 19th century indicating two different types of construction consisting of an inner section of decayed and weathered ashlar blocks with a rubble fill and an outer section of good condition sandstone blocks. More recent investigations at Morgan’s Mount in advance of a programme of repair and restoration also recorded traces of the Roman revetment wall surviving at the base of the present City Walls. The evidence consisted of several sandstone blocks along with evidence of the cut made into the revetment bank for the insertion of the wall in the late first century.

The North wall of the defences at Chester has long been considered to be Roman in origin with Roman foundations and several courses of Roman masonry surviving in situ at the base of the wall alongside later medieval and post medieval construction, however its long history has required frequent periods of repair and maintenance. During one such period of repair in the late 19th century the opportunity was taken to also create a gateway through the wall near Morgan's Mount with the result that a substantial number of Roman architectural fragments were recovered including one inscribed tombstone believed to have come from a nearby cemetery.

Excavations at the Northgate Gardens at Water Tower Street encountered evidence of the earth rampart surviving to a height of some 2.72m. On this occasion the evidence comprised traces of the earth turfs and the rubble core of the rampart bank but no definite evidence of the timber beams used at the base.

Roman tombstones recorded in the North Wall between Water Tower Street and King Charles Court. The North wall of the defences at Chester has long been considered to be Roman in origin with Roman foundations and several courses of Roman masonry surviving in situ at the base of the wall alongside later medieval and post medieval construction, however its long history has required frequent periods of repair and maintenance. A final phase of detailed examination of the North Wall over a section some 160m long recovered another mass of Roman re-used tombstones and architectural fragments west of the Northgate in 1890.

Traces of a substantial bank, believed to be the earth rampart, was encountered on several occasions north of King Charles Court in 1989-90 surviving to a height of 2.38m. It has been suggested that the rampart discovered on this occasion dates to the third century restoration of the Roman fortress buildings and defences.

Traces of the rampart wall at King Charles Court was encountered during several phases of archaeological work along the present North Wall recording Roman masonry to a height of 2-3m above ground level. Subsequent work to the wall had disturbed the original Roman work however making identification problematic. Immediately to the rear of the Roman wall the rampart comprised several successive layers of sandstone rubble and yellow clay surviving up to the height of the fifth course of the wall below which the rear face of the wall was significantly more uneven and coarsely built.

Traces of several lower courses of the Roman wall was encountered during archaeological investigations at the Northgate Gardens including evidence of a possible collapsed section immediately adjacent to the outer face of the wall.

Possible evidence of the rear edge of the earth rampart was recorded during archaeological investigations at the Northgate Brewery in the 1970s consisting of just the rear stack of turfs.

Traces of a substantial ditch was encountered to the north of the Roman defences during archaeological investigations at Northgate House in 1980. The excavations revealed the profile of a substantial bank feature interpreted as the remains of the rampart wall to the north of which was the inner lip of a substantial ditch interpreted as the outer defensive ditch.

Traces of the earth rampart were recorded during recent archaeological investigations at the Northgate Steps. The evidence comprised traces of the rampart at a depth of approximately 0.50cm.

A section of the Roman wall has been noted surviving within the existing city walls to the east of the Northgate.

Traces of the Roman wall was recorded during archaeological investigations at the Deanery Field confirming the Roman masonry survives to a height of 2m above ground level. The evidence recorded here would suggest that the wall had been constructed in the late second century to early third century with evidence of collapse from the fourth century onwards.

A section of the north earth rampart was encountered at the Deanery Fields underlying deposits of a mid second to third century date in 1935 by Prof Newstead, however, it was not described in detail.

Traces of the earth rampart was encountered at the north east corner of the fortress during archaeological investigations at the Deanery Field in 1952 surviving to a height of approximately 2.25m. A stretch of rampart approximately 3m in length was identified comprising layers of earth turfs on a base of timber beams.

Repairs to the North Wall at the Phoenix Tower in 1887 recorded a sub- structure of large stones below with small stones on internal & external faces and a rubble core. The sub-structure was examined by sinking a shaft close to wall in Dean's Field. On the outer face, the wall was bedded on 2 footing courses set on a rock foundation forming a splayed plinth running along face of wall.

East Wall

Evidence of the Roman fortress wall at Deanery Field between the Phoenix Tower (King Charles Tower) and the Kaleyard Gate has been noted on several occasions. Archaeological investigations to the east of Deanery Field by Prof Newstead in 1935 recorded evidence of the inner face of the East City Wall. Traces of a substantial wall with four offsets and comprised of narrow courses of well dressed sandstone set in hard mortar was encountered approximately 2.74m west of the present line of the City Wall.

Substantial evidence of the Roman fortress wall has been recorded over a distance of some 58m between the Kaleyard Gate and the Deanery field during a series of archaeological investigations since the 19th century. Although traces of the Roman wall was recorded at the base of the present wall on several occasions at either end of the section, the evidence suggests the wall continued on a different line to the present city wall sometimes located up to 4m in front of it.

Traces of the Roman outer ditch was encountered near Kaleyard Cottage in 1988 at a depth of approximately 3.15m, however it was not examined in detail.

Evidence for the Roman earth rampart at the Kaleyards have been recorded on a number of occasions in the 1980s and 1990s. First in 1983 the earth rampart was found to survive to a height of 2.62m while in 1988 further traces of the rampart were encountered to the north. Finally in 1993, restoration work to the wall itself identified traces of the rampart at a depth of 0.75m below the present ground level.

Substantial evidence of the earth rampart was recorded at Abbey Green in the late 1970s where evidence of the typical construction was encountered comprising a timber beam base with earth turf walls and a rubble and sand core intersected with two further timber beam layers. On this occasion, evidence of a sandstone paved surface was also encountered over the top of the rampart creating a walkway on which the sentries would have stood.

Traces of the early second century Roman wall was recorded at Abbey Green in the late 1970s however it was not examined in detail at the time. The wall appears to have been inserted in front of the Flavian earth rampart sometime in the early second century, however, it was not extensively investigated at this time.

Part of the Roman rampart wall inserted in the second century to the front of the artificial bank (rampart) was recorded during archaeological investigations to the south of the Frodsham Street car park in 1966. Archaeological investigations carried out in a car park to the rear of No 9-13 Frodsham Street in 1966 uncovered a series of features attributed to the Roman fortress defences. Although a comprehensive account of the excavation has not been published, a draft article details the Roman evidence. Several phases of activity could be identified suggesting a series of at least five re-cuts of the ditch throughout the Roman period, no absolute dating was recovered, however and the phasing is based on stratigraphy. The Roman wall followed a slightly different path to the present city wall. Two parts of a substantial north - south aligned ditch, identified during excavations in the Frodsham Street car park in 2010, and interpreted as part of the complex eastern defences of the Roman fortress.

Traces of the Roman fortress wall was recorded to the east of the present city wall indicating the original Roman fortress followed a slightly different line to the present medieval defences.

A short length of the earth rampart was recorded during construction of the Bell Tower at Chester cathedral in the 1970s confirming the typical construction at this location with a base layer of timber beams with a rubble core and banks of layered turfs above.

Traces of the Roman wall was recorded during excavations in the present City Wall around the medieval Drum Tower.The excavations were carried out by Prof Newstead who investigated approximately 1.35m of the exterior wall face recording eight courses of Roman masonry standing to a height of 2.43m at the base of the present wall.

Evidence of the Roman east wall was recorded in 1887 as part of a survey of the City Walls the Kaleyards and the Eastgate identifying evidence of Roman masonry in two sections.The first section was recorded to the south of the Kaleyards in the property of Sinclair’s coach factory. The section here consisted of large squared sandstone blocks surviving to a height of four courses and a similar chamfered plinth to that recorded at the Kaleyards.

Sandstone blocks typical of the Roman east rampart wall were recorded during archaeological investigations to the rear of No 37-43 Eastgate Street in 1959, they were interpreted as the inner face of the fortress wall. The Roman Eastgate, like the Northgate, survived within the fabric of the medieval gate until it was demolished to create a wider arch in 1768. However, like the Northgate, much of what we know about the East Gate comes from 18th century accounts and depictions.

During construction of extensions at the rear of 6 St John Street, part of the Roman masonry eastern wall of the fortress was revealed. Museum staff were given the opportunity to record them prior to their burial beneath the concrete foundations of the new building. The edge of the contractors excavation had cut through the Roman turf rampart and this part of the fortress wall and much had been destroyed. It proved possible however to uncover the lower two courses of masonry and lines of turves in section and individual turves in plan were clearly visible. The finds were subsequently covered with a layer of polythene prior to their reburial. The Roman wall lay some 4m to the east of the present wall and not quite on the same line

Evidence of the Roman turf and clay rampart was encountered during construction work at St John Street in 1973. The turf rampart was one of the earliest monuments constructed in the Roman fortress, dating to the late first century, it comprised a substantial artificial bank some 6m wide with turf 'walling' to the front and rear and a clay and turf centre. The remains have been preserved. Part of the original Roman Fortress’ eastern defences, represented by the first century turf and clay rampart, was identified during archaeological excavations associated with the construction of a new concrete retaining buttress on the east side of the city wall, St John Street, Chester, in 2009-2010. Part of the Roman Fortress’ eastern defences, represented by a substantial masonry wall, was identified during archaeological excavations associated with the construction of a new concrete retaining buttress on the east side of the extant city wall, St John Street., Chester, in 2010.

Archaeological investigations on the site of the public library on St John Street in 1988/89 encountered traces of the Roman defensive ditch.

Traces of the Roman extra mural ditch were encountered at St John Street in 1908 when it was encountered in three areas to the east of the Roman wall. The ditch appeared to be approximately 6.7m wide and 2.8m in depth.

Evidence of the earth rampart at Newgate Street was recorded during archaeological investigations in the 1950s. The rampart here appeared to be of a typical construction with several later features overlying it including ovens and a building.

Traces of the Roman outer ditch was recorded to the south of the south east angle tower of the Roman fortress in 1930, however, it had been significantly disturbed by later activity in the area. Later investigations in 1951 encountered further traces of the ditch close to the rampart wall.

Evidence for the Roman defensive rampart between Thimbleby’s Tower and the south east angle tower has been recorded on a number of occasions since 1908 when the earth rampart was recorded surviving to a height of 1.5m and for a distance of 4.5m at No 12 St John Street. Subsequent investigations at the same site in 1996 revealed further evidence of the construction of the rampart.

To the south, work at the south east angle tower has recorded evidence of the eastern rampart in 1930, 1951 and in 2011. First recorded here in 1930, the evidence for the rampart consisted primarily of the timber base. In 1951 and in 2011 further evidence of the construction of the rampart was encountered.

South Wall

Traces of a substantial wall recorded at Pepper Street in the 1960s was believed to be part of the Roman south wall however it was not until further investigations in the 1980s when the lower levels of the wall were re-discovered that this theory was confirmed.

Traces of the Roman southern earth rampart was recorded during archaeological investigations at Pepper Street in the 1960s.

A substantial ditch recorded at Pepper Street in the 1980s, interpreted as the defensive ditch, measured over 7m wide at the top and extended to a depth of 3.1m.

Evidence for the outer lip of the Roman fortress ditch was encountered during limited archaeological investigations at the King’s Head/Whitefriars site in 1987.

Evidence of the Roman defensive ditch was recorded during archaeological investigations at St Martin's Way on two separate occasions. The ditch measured between 8-9m wide at the top and at least 3m deep.

Excavations at the site of the Magistrates Court, off Cuppin St. in 1986 revealed a sequence of Roman activity just to the southwest of the Roman fortress. In a machine-dug exploratory trench in the west of the main excavation area, were square-cut turves laid to a depth of at least 0.35m. This is typical of Roman military rampart construction but it lies in an area outside the known defended circuit of the fortress’ defences. It may represent part of the defences of an annexe to the fortress. The line of the rampart, constructed of turf and clay, was northeast - southwest (therefore parallel to the road and large drain, and an area of paving is reported to have been on its upper surface. From the early second century, the southeast side of this rampart was buried by a succession of rubbish dumps, largely of building debris.

Traces of the eastern lip of a ditch believed to be the western defensive ditch were encountered during archaeological investigations at Linenhall Street. Although believed to be originally over 7m wide and 3m deep there was evidence to suggest it was re-cut in the early fourth century on a smaller scale. Archaeological investigations at Linenhall Street in the 1960s recorded substantial traces of the Roman wall over a distance of some 45m. Unusually, the wall showed evidence of substantial widening close to the Holy Trinity Church from its original width of 1.5m in the second century AD to 3.5m in the third century AD.

Traces of the defensive ditch were recorded at 11a Nicholas Street during archaeological investigations in the late 1950s. The earth rampart was recorded during archaeological investigations at Nicholas Street where the west wall of the rampart building had been cut into it. It extended for a distance of some 5.79m to the rampart wall and surviving to a height of 1.97m. The rampart consisted of the typical construction. The Roman wall at Nicholas Street comprised a section of substantial stone foundations some 1.67m in width.

Evidence of the western earth rampart of the Roman legionary fortress was recorded during a series of archaeological investigations to the south of King Street. The composition of the rampart is similar to that discovered elsewhere in the fortress.

In Weaver Street a section through the Roman earth rampart was cut near the south west angle tower in 1964 recording a typical construction using a rubble and sand core set on a base of timber beams between two stacks of piled earth turfs each at least 1.80m wide. Archaeological investigations at the site of the south west angle tower in 1964 recorded evidence of the inner edge of the Roman defensive ditch. Archaeological investigations at the site of the south west angle tower in 1964 recorded evidence of the Roman rampart wall to the west of the tower. Evidence of the Roman fortress wall were recovered during archaeological investigations at the southwest corner of the fortress in the 1960s and again in 1994. Although the wall itself was not recorded a section of the wall foundation was recovered close to the angle tower.

West Wall

Traces of a substantial Roman ditch were recovered during archaeological work at Hunter Street, interpreted as part of the defensive ditch, no finds were recovered however.

Archaeological investigations close to St Martin's Way in the 1960s recorded several sections of the Roman earth rampart north of Princess Street.

Traces of the Roman wall foundations were encountered during archaeological investigations to the east of St Martin's Way in the 1960s while earlier investigations in 1945 recorded a substantial wall some 1.95m wide.

Traces of the rampart wall at the north-west angle tower in Water Tower Street were encountered during archaeological investigations in 1964 in advance of construction of the inner ring road. A 4.25m length of the wall was recorded slightly in advance of the line of the present City Wall with the rubble core surviving to a height of 4.57m within the present City Wall itself.

Substantial evidence of the west earth rampart at Linenhall Street was recorded during archaeological investigations in 1949 and again in the 1960s. In total the extent of the rampart could be traced for a distance of over 130m north of Holy Trinity Church. The full width of the rampart was recorded at 5.8m although its survival varied in height between 0.90m at the northern end to 2.44m at the southern end.

Traces of the earth rampart were recorded in the north west corner of the fortress surviving to a height of 2.4m. The earth rampart at its original extent was 6m wide and up to 2.95m high constructed using a rubble and sand core set on a base of timber beams between two stacks of piled earth turfs each at least 1.80m wide. The top of the rampart would have been flattened to create a walkway that could be patrolled between the towers, possibly also with a wooden palisade or fence in front.

Traces of the Roman north-west angle tower at Water Tower Street were encountered during archaeological investigations in 1964 in advance of construction of the inner ring road. The investigations initially recorded the north east wall of the angle tower surviving to a height of 3.15m including its foundations while further investigations identified the rear corners of the tower and a section of the south-west wall.