Monument record MYO2015 - Legionary Fortress (Eboracum)


Legionary fortress established by the Ninth Legion, "Hispana", in AD71-74. Known as Eboracum (form used by Ptolemy, and three insctriptions) and Eburacum (form used by Antonine Itinerary, Ravenna Cosmography and one inscription). Rebuilt in stone AD 107-8. Fortress of normal size for a legion covering 20.25 hectares (50 acres) and designed as a rectangle with rounded angles, 417m (1370 feet) by 484m (1590 feet).


Grid reference Centred SE 60313 52132 (631m by 637m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire
Civil Parish York, City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

NMR Information:

SE603521 The Legionary Fortress at York was built on the North East Bank of the River Ouse in AD 71 to house the 9th Legion. It occupied an area of 50 acres and included barracks and other buildings including a bathhouse and principia. The fortress was rebuilt in stone in AD 107-8. In the C4th York became the military base of the Dux Brittaniarum, the headquarters of the northern region.

Excavations during 1925-7 and 1955-6 revealed three sides of the earth ant timber defences of the first fortress of Flavian date, and there can now be no doubt that the outline remained unchanged. Some rebuilding ocurred in the Agricolan period, and rebuilding in stone was commenced in 108-9, but the curtain wall may not have been completed until Hadrian's reign. Further rebuilding was necessary after the temporary withdrawal of troops at the end of the 2nd century, and again in 296. (1-3)

In 1975 various excavations were undertaken on the defences and interna buildings of the legionary fortress. In davygate, (SE603519) walls were revealed which had apparently belonged to the barracks in the south corner of the fortress. Examination of an area of the Praetentura behind Blake Street (SE601520) revealed timber buildings of ca. 70-80, succeeded by buildings of post-construction with mortar floors. These were relaced by a cobbled street flanked by stone buildings. These were replaced by a cobbled street flanked by stone buildings. Those on the SW may have been barracks at the front of the Praetentura; those to the NE possibly part of the Tribune's house. (4)

It is possible that there was Roman base at York in the pre-Flavian period. The number of dateable finds for this period is considerable, but no other site in the territory of the Brigantes is known to have been occupied at such an early date and York could hardly have stood on its own.

York was certainly occupied in the governorship of Petillius cerealis 71-4, but there is some uncertainty as to the nature of the garrison. It has been thought that Legio IX Hispana built a fortress of about 50 acres at this time but so far the rampart dating to this period has not been located on all four sides. The first site may therefore have been of less than full legionary size.

During Agricola's governorship the defences were refurbished, and certainly from this date the fortress was established. It formed a ectangle 159' x 1370' encompassing circa 50 acres. Epigraphic evidence shows that the gateways, and probably the whole wall, was being rebuilt in stne ca 107-8. (5)

Eboracum - The Roman legionary fortress and Colonia at York. (6)

1 VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION Roman and Anglian York Historical Map and Guide 1988 YAT RCHME OS
2 The towns of Roman Britain 167-188 by J S Wacher
3 A history of Yorkshire: the city of York 324-30 edited by P M Tillott
4 Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies 314-5 7, 1976 Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies
5 British Archaeological Report (BAR) British series 186-7 21, 1975
6 The place-names of Roman Britain 355-7 by A L F Rivet and Colin Smith

Pavement works in 1986/87 on St Leonard's Place to provide a new bus lay-by revealed a fragment of the fortress wall. The wall had been cut away to allow the pavement and roadway construction but remained intact beneath them. The fragment suggested that most of the facing stones had been robbed away but parts of the tile courses also seen on the Multangular Tower were intact. Rampart levels also appeared to survive but were not investigated (INTERIM 12/2).

The stretch of fortress wall between Multangular and Anglian Tower was built to stand in front of the original earthen rampart which dates from AD 71, the time of the founding of the fortress. Jeffrey Radley’s excavation at the Anglian Tower (Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 1972) revealed the construction trench for the wall cut into the early rampart, and showed how the rampart had been reconstructed and heightened after the wall had been built. The wall was c.1.5m thick and c.5m high. It had a rubble core set in mortar and a facing of regular course of small Magnesian Limestone blocks. The rear of the wall was left rough as it was obscured by the rampart (INTERIM 20/2).

RCHME, 1962, Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York, Volume 1 Eboracum (Bibliographic reference). SYO62.

1962, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 1962, Two articles on Feasegate and Davygate (Article in Journal). SYO2817.

YAT, 1987-88, INTERIM 12, 12/2 p16 (Serial). SYO39.

YAT, 1995, INTERIM 20, 20/2 (Serial). SYO2660.

AOC Archaeology, 2011, 11 Lendal - Lendal House WB (Unpublished document). SYO2934.

Patrick Ottaway, 2015, Commercial Archaeology and the Study of Roman York 1990-2013 (Article in monograph). SYO2902.

Rydale Archaeology Service Ltd, 2021, College Green (Unpublished document). SYO2690.

Sources/Archives (7)

  • --- Serial: YAT. 1995. INTERIM 20. 1-4. 20/2.
  • --- Unpublished document: Rydale Archaeology Service Ltd. 2021. College Green.
  • --- Article in Journal: 1962. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 1962. XL. Two articles on Feasegate and Davygate.
  • --- Article in monograph: Patrick Ottaway. 2015. Commercial Archaeology and the Study of Roman York 1990-2013.
  • --- Unpublished document: AOC Archaeology. 2011. 11 Lendal - Lendal House WB.
  • --- Serial: YAT. 1987-88. INTERIM 12. 12/2 p16.
  • --- Bibliographic reference: RCHME. 1962. Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York, Volume 1 Eboracum. 1.

Protected Status/Designation

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Record last edited

Dec 5 2023 2:45PM


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