NGRef: NX 933 842
OSMap: LR78
Type: Roman Fort, Fortlet, Camp
NW (3) to Barbvrgh Mill
NNW (12) to Drvmlanrig (Dumfriesshire)
ESE (13) to Ladyward (Dumfries & Galloway)
Possible Road: SW (20) to Glenlochar (Dumfries & Galloway)
Probable Military Road: SW (20) to Lovcovivm (Glenlochar, Dumfries & Galloway)
possible road: E (6) to Mvrder Loch

The Dalswinton Military Complex

Map Courtesy of the Blessed Ordnance Survey

The first Roman encampment at Dalswinton was a large installation built on the banks of the River Nith during the early campaigns of Gnaeus Julius Agricola sometime around 80AD. The occupation of this 'vexillation fortress' was short, very likely only a single winter, after which the fortress was considerably reduced in size as the campaigns of this intrepid general moved the scene of fighting away to the north. The reduced fort was itself abandoned after a short period, probably due to flooding, to be replaced by another, slightly smaller fort on higher ground to the north-east. This second site was completely rebuilt and considerably enlarged during the tenure of governor Sallustius Lucullus, Agricola's successor c.90AD, in order to house two auxiliary cavalry units. It is likely that the complex at Dalswinton, in at least two separate phases during the Flavian and Trajanic periods, constituted the Roman military headquarters in south-west Scotland.

Roman Military Sites in Lower Nithsdale

Like many other such places in the valleys of Lowland Scotland, Roman activities in the area of Dalswinton in Nithsdale has bequeathed the area with a profusion of military encampments, mostly on the north-east bank of the River Nith:

Location N.G.Ref Remarks
Dalswinton Bankfoot NX9384 Agricolan Fort(s)
Dalswinton Bankhead NX9384 late-Flavian Fort(s)
Carzield NX9681 Antonine Fort
Barburgh Mill NX9088 Antonine Fortlet
Kirkland NX8090 Antonine? Fortlet
Dalswinton NX9383 3 Marching Camps
Shawhead NX8776 2 Marching Camps
Fourmerkland NX9180 2 Marching Camps
Ellisland NX9284 Marching Camp
Gallaberry NX9682 Marching Camp
Armisfield NX9984 Marching Camp

Probable Vexillation Fortress (Agricolan?)
Dalswinton Bankfoot I

N.G.Ref Dimensions Area
NX933840 c.1,315 x 715 ft
(c.400 x 218 m)
c.21½ acres
(c.8.7 ha)

Bankfoot I: The first semi-permanent military site in the Dalswinton area was built on the flood-plain of the Nith south of Dalswinton and west of Dalswinton House. Since discovery from the air by Professor St. Joseph in 1972, it has always been known that a large fort lay on the river holms at Bankfoot, but it was not until the north angle was discovered from the air in 1984 that the fort's very-large size became apparent. The encampment defined by its double ditch system measures about 1,315 feet by 715 feet (c.400 x 218 m), enclosing an area of around 21½ acres (c.8.7 ha); this is sufficiently large enough to have housed a considerable proportion of a Roman legion, plus a couple of auxiliary cavalry units, a combined force of 2,000+ infantry and 1,000 cavalry. An establishment of this size and character is known as a 'vexillation fortress'.

Large Auxiliary Fort (Mid-Flavian)
Dalswinton Bankfoot II

N.G.Ref Dimensions Area
NX933840 c.715 x 570 ft
(c.218 x 174 m)
c.9¼ acres
(c.3.7 ha)

Bankfoot II: After a short period of occupation the fortress (Bankfoot I) was reduced in size to that of a large fort. This second fort measured around 715 ft by 570 ft (c.218 x 174 m) and enclosed an area of 9¼ acres (c.3.7 ha). It was abandoned after a short time in favour of the site at Bankhead, situated on higher ground some 500 ft. (152 m) to the north, probably after severe flooding one Winter.

Pottery sherds recovered from the environs of the Dalswinton Bankhead forts include a piece of Central Gaulish samian Form 37, which has been dated to the Trajanic period, also some South Gaulish decorated wares; a single piece of Form 29 and two (or three) pieces of Form 37, which may be Antonine.

Large Auxiliary Fort (Late-Flavian)
Dalswinton Bankhead I

N.G.Ref Dimensions Area
NX933843 c.600 x 600 ft
(c.183 x 183 m)
c.8¼ acres
(c.3.3 ha)

Bankhead I: The first fort on this site measured about 600 feet square (183 m²), thus covering an area of about 8¼ acres (c.3.3 ha). There were gateways in the centre of the north-east and south-west defences. An annexe added to the northern half of the north-east rampart exhibited two phases of development.

Large Auxiliary Fort (Antonine?)
Dalswinton Bankhead II

N.G.Ref Dimensions Area
NX933843 c.775 x 600 ft
(c.236 x 183 m)
c.10¾ acres
(c.4.3 ha)

Bankhead II: The second use of the site saw the north-eastern defences levelled and extended by 175 feet. The resultant fort, plainly oriented to the north-east, covered an area of roughly 10¾ acres (4.3ha). A large annexe measuring around 770 by 350 feet and enclosing 6¼ acres was added along the south-east (235 x 107 m; c.2.5 ha).

See: Air Reconnaissance of North Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xli 1951 pp.58/9;
Roman Britain, 1910-1960 by I.A. Richmond in J.R.S. l (1960) p.183;
The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1969-72 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lxiii (1973) p.217;
Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1973-76 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lxvii (1977) pp.131-3 & fig.5;
Roman Britain by Peter Salway (Oxford 1981) p.151;
Air Reconnaissance in Roman Britain 1977-1984 by G.S. Maxwell & D.R. Wilson in Britannia xviii (1987) p.27.
Link to maps of the area from: StreetMap Old-Maps MultiMap
Page Citation: Kevan White (2018) "Roman Britain: DALSWINTON"