Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Roman Piercebridge (NZ210157)

Piercebridge, on the southern edge of England’s North-East, is one of Britain’s most famous Roman settlements. Yet it is perhaps the least understood, due to the rather inconvenient fact that the modern-day village sits squarely atop the old fort. We don’t even know its Roman name, for heaven’s sake. Anyway, here’s what we do know…

  • c.70AD – The Romans arrive in the Piercebridge area, advancing north from York and building Dere Street as they go. A timber bridge is built over the Tees by 80AD. The first Roman fort is established by the early 2nd century – originally named Magis, Morbium or Vinovium by the Romans (we’re not quite sure which) – in order to defend the river crossing point against the Brigantes. No trace of this assumed first fort has so far been found, although a fort of unknown date existed a mile to the south – possibly the missing fortification;
  • c.125AD – The civilian vicus (settlement) is well established;
  • 130-150AD – The original Roman timber bridge is washed away in a flood. A new bridge is eventually built 200 yards downstream by around 200AD;
  • Early-mid 3rd century – The Roman fort is rebuilt in stone. The few visible remains that we see today date to around 260-270AD;
  • 330AD – Fort abandoned for c.20 years;
  • 350-410AD – Final period of Roman occupation/use. The Romans leave Britain by 410AD. Locals make some use of remains, it seems;
  • 6th century – Probable final time of occupation by locals. The bridge continues to be used for upwards of a further 1,000 years;
  • 1933-38 – Excavated;
  • 1940s/50s – Periodic excavations;
  • 1969-82 – Excavated, including the discovery of the remains of the late 2nd century ‘new’ stone bridge (in 1972);
  • Late 20th-early 21st century – Periodic investigations by the Northern Archaeology Group, including many dives in the Tees to retrieve thousands of artefacts;
  • 2009 – Time Team excavation/evaluation.

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