Scheduled Monument: Roman minor town identified as Derventio (1416328)

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Authority English Heritage
National Ref 1416328
Date assigned 11 April 2014
Date last amended


Summary of Monument Buried remains of part of a Roman minor town thought to have been called Derventio, mainly characterised by rectilinear ditched enclosures extending back from road frontages, the settlement extending to both sides of the River Derwent. The full extent of the settlement remains unknown, and is believed to have extended further to both east and west, and is overlain by the modern Stamford Bridge to the north. Reasons for Designation * Period: as an example of a Roman settlement, which is thought not to have been an official Roman town, but one which developed a distinct urban character setting it apart from more common rural settlements; * Complexity of development: despite there being an incomplete understanding of the settlement's extent and development, enough is known to show that it was a very early Roman settlement which was occupied and developed through into the fourth century, with a good range of activities represented; * Survival: although largely ploughed, the areas included in the scheduling are those where in situ Roman archaeology is thought to remain below the plough soil, this degree of survival being equivalent to other scheduled crop mark sites across lowland England. * Potential: the extensive area of the remains indicates a heightened potential for the survival of a particularly wide range of Roman remains, both in terms of time depth and range of features. It also includes areas expected to retain water-logged organic deposits. However even those areas where finds are now within the plough soil retain good potential to add to our understanding. History The Roman settlement at Stamford Bridge was identified via aerial photographs of crop marks taken in 1976. Since the 1990s, the area has been the subject of a number of localised archaeological investigations including field-walking, geophysical survey and small scale excavation. Together with other investigations in the vicinity (including excavations of a bath house and an area of grey-ware pottery production on the eastern side of Stamford Bridge), evidence points to the settlement being best characterised as a minor town, rather than a more common rural roadside settlement. The Antonine Itinerary (a Roman document of mileages between settlements which is thought to date to the early third century) is interpreted as naming the settlement Derventio, being 7 Roman miles from Eboracum (York) and 13 miles from Delgovicia (which is possibly the Roman settlement at Malton). However there remains some uncertainty over this identification because no inscriptions detailing place names have been found at either Stamford Bridge or Malton. Stamford Bridge is sited on a natural fording point on the River Derwent and is at the junction of Roman roads linking York to Malton and Brough (via Barmby Moor) to Thirsk. The ford would also have been a block to navigation on the River Derwent and may thus have been a transhipment point between boats up and downstream of the ford, and between water transport and the Roman roads: water transport was an important part of the Roman economy. The ford is overlooked by a Roman marching camp (a temporary military camp thought to date to circa AD70) which lies about 1.5km to the north of the monument near Buttercrambe. Aerial photographs suggest the presence of a second marching camp to the north west. Although no Roman fort has so far been identified in the area, an early military presence is implied via field-walking finds such as the significant quantity of Nero and early Flavian period Samian-ware (circa AD 60-80) found in the western part of the monument to the west of the river. Finds indicate that civilian settlement extended eastwards towards the river in the later first century and early second, with occupation appearing to continue into the fourth century. Settlement on the eastern side of the river may have developed slightly later, from the early second century, spreading eastwards in the later second and third centuries and, like settlement on the west bank, continuing (but probably declining) into the fourth century. On the east side of the river, the initial settlement appears to be delineated within curvilinear enclosures, replaced with rectilinear enclosures later in the second century; there is also evidence of the intensification of the settlement with the subdivision of large enclosures to provide for more properties fronting onto the roads. The whole area of the monument appears to have been abandoned for settlement in the post-Roman period, being turned over to agriculture in the medieval period, the medieval settlement of Stamford Bridge being focused further north. This interpretation of the development of the settlement within the monument is based on a number of isolated archaeological interventions rather than a more comprehensive and extensive archaeological investigation, so the development of the settlement may have been more complex: what is clear though, is that the Roman settlement was established very early, and that it developed and persisted through into the fourth century. The scheduled area does not include the full extent of the Roman settlement, a large proportion of which is thought to have extended further north, now mainly lying beneath the modern settlement. For instance there are verbal reports of unrecorded Roman finds, including the suggestion that a mosaic floor was destroyed by new housing in the 1970s. There have also been archaeologically recorded remains to the north east of the monument including evidence of a Roman pottery industry east of Moor Lane (excavated 1998) and a Roman bathhouse between Stamford Bridge and Burtonfield Hall excavated in 2002. Aerial photographs also suggest that Roman remains will still survive alongside the Roman roads to the east, west and north of the monument. One of the results of Roman rule in Britain was the widespread establishment of urban centres, both those with legal status (such as a colonia, civitas capitals, municipia or vici) or those that were in effect rural settlements which had become urbanised over time, these being termed minor or small towns. Definitions of what constitutes a Roman minor town are open to debate, but typical characteristics include the presence of some public buildings such as bath houses, temples, or mansiones (inns serving the Imperial postal service), the presence of industries supplying more than just local demand, and high densities of rectilinear buildings fronting directly onto the road. Urban centres also tended to be larger than rural ones, although for instance, some civitas capitals (regional administrative centres) were remarkably small such as Caistor St Edmund, Norfolk which was only 14ha, probably less than a quarter of the size of Derventio. Roman minor towns tend to lack the planned rectangular street grids and well-appointed town houses found in more major towns. Minor towns also often lacked the range of public buildings found in larger towns, and buildings generally were more usually of timber rather than of stone construction. Roman minor towns are far less common than simpler, more rural roadside settlements. They provide important evidence of the development of the Roman economy and the spread of urbanism across the country. Details PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: buried remains of part of a Roman minor town mainly characterised by rectilinear ditched enclosures extending back from road frontages. DESCRIPTION: the monument extends across relatively low lying, undulating ground to the south and south east of the modern settlement of Stamford Bridge, including both part of the flood plain of the River Derwent, and higher ground that is mainly arable. Surface geology is generally of clayey alluvium overlain with wind-blown sands. A Roman road that approaches from York (identified via cropmarks and observed in excavations on both sides of the river) extends from the south western corner of the monument, eastwards to the river which it is thought to have crossed via a bridge: the find of a large dressed stone block on the western bank (now lost) may have represented part of an abutment. On the other side of the river, the road continues eastwards, with a second road branching off it to the north east, aligning with the modern day Low Catton Road as it enters Stamford Bridge: this road, which continued to Malton, is thought to have intersected with the road between Brough and Thirsk that crossed the Derwent via the natural ford to the north west of Stamford Bridge. Within the monument the roads are flanked by rectilinear enclosures that generally extend back from the frontage by up to 150m yet many are only around 20m wide. Field walking finds are generally concentrated within about 50m of the road frontage, marking the typical extent of buildings and associated refuse disposal. Small scale excavation on the western side of the river identified stone footings interpreted as supports for sill beams of a couple of timber framed buildings orientated at right angles to the road. A stone lined well complete with a surrounding gravel surface (an in situ Roman ground surface) was also identified close by. Further to the west, near to the river, evidence of first century metalworking was also found via excavation. On the eastern side of the river, excavation to the south of the road identified a number of clay lined pits interpreted as watering holes, three kilns identified as crop drying or malting kilns along with a number of post holes, ditches and other features. Scattered across the area there were also two cremation and five inhumation burials. These were not interpreted as part of a formal cemetery (which has yet to be identified at Derventio), but thought to have been backyard burials. Other finds indicated further metalworking activity (including tap slag indicating iron smelting using relatively advanced bloomery furnaces) as well as the likely presence of animal-powered corn-milling within the vicinity. Smaller scale excavations elsewhere across the site have uncovered partially plough truncated ditch and gully features and post holes. A well preserved section of Roman road retaining cobbling has also been uncovered (and then reburied) just to the east of Low Catton Road. EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: this is mainly focused on the area of the town identified via cropmarks, but extended to adjacent areas of good archaeological potential such as the flood plain of the River Derwent, and south to Smackdam Beck (thought to have been the southern limit of the settlement). Although the Roman settlement extended northwards, the area now beneath the modern Stamford Bridge is not included in the scheduling. The extent of Roman remains to the east of modern Stamford Bridge is currently uncertain and has thus not been included. Similarly the western extent of the settlement (and the postulated site of a Roman fort) is currently unknown so the boundary of the monument is currently defined by modern boundaries, even though nationally important archaeological remains are thought to extend for an unknown distance beyond. A field on the southern edge of Stamford Bridge has also been excluded from the scheduling. Here archaeological investigations have suggested a higher degree of plough damage than elsewhere, and although in situ archaeological remains do survive, at least in the eastern part of the field, there is currently insufficient evidence to support the inclusion of the field within the scheduled area. However these investigations were limited and inconclusive, and archaeological remains that contribute to the national importance of the monument remain here. EXCLUSIONS: all modern features such as fencing, sheds and other structures such as flood lights, animal feeding and watering troughs, and road or path surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Selected Sources Books and journals 'Northern Archaeological Associates' in Bronze Age Burnt Mound and a Romano-British Settlement Site at Stamford Bridge, East Yorkshire, (2003) 'CBA Forum' in The Roman Roads around Stamford Bridge, (1997), 23-29 'Humber Archaeology Report No. 275' in Archaeological Recording Works at High Catton Road, Stamford Bridge, (2008) Lawton, I, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Society Bulletin No. 19' in Gray Ware Production at Derventio, Stamford Bridge, (2002), 3-5 Other Derventio: A Roman Settlement at North Farm and Reckondale, Stamford Bridge an update, Lawton, Ian, Derventio: A Roman Settlement at North Farm and Reckondale, Stamford Bridge an update, Evaluation reports: Land West of Low Catton Road, Stamford Bridge, Evaluation reports: Land West of Low Catton Road, Stamford Bridge, MAP Archaeological Practice, (2013) MAP Archaeology Practice, Land West of Low Catton Road, Archaeological Evaluation, 2013, Roman Heated Building at Derventio, Stamford Bridge, Lawton, Ian, Roman Heated Building at Derventio, Stamford Bridge, (2004)

External Links (0)

Sources (2)

  • Article in Journal: Ian G Lawton. 1999. Derventio: A Roman settlement at North farm and Reckondales, Stamford bridge.
  • Unpublished document: Ian G Lawton. 1999. Derventio – Roman Stamford Bridge update.



Grid reference Centred SE 7018 5444 (545m by 358m) (2 map features)
Map sheet SE75SW
Civil Parish Kexby, City of York, North Yorkshire
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire

Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Record last edited

Feb 3 2016 12:41PM


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