NGRef: SJ9011
OSMap: LR127
Type: Vexillation Fort
None identified

The Kinvaston Vexillation Fortress and Campaign Fort

SJ90921144 1,475 x 780 ft
(c.450 x 238 m)
c.26½ acres
(c.10.7 ha)

Discovered from the air in 1946, and probably the first semi-permanent Roman structure in the area where the Watling Street crossed the River Penk, this vexillation fortress with dimensions of 780 feet from north to south by 1,475 feet east to west (c.450 x 238 m), measured from the outside of the outer ditch, covered an area of 26½ acres (c.10.7 ha), which is sufficient to have housed half a legion. Excavations on the north and west defences uncovered double V-shaped ditches, and revealed that deep ploughing had destroyed all trace of ramparts and any post-holes or sleeper-trenches of internal buildings. The few finds suggested an occupation in the mid-first century. The fortress faced west, towards the Wrekin and Wales.

Aerial Photographs reveal evidence for two periods, showing that the eastern defences were at some time taken back 450 feet, thus giving a new east-west dimension of 1,025 feet (c.312 m) and reducing the occupation area to 18¼ acres (c.7.4 ha); it would appear that the ditches on the other three sides were re-cut at the same time, the double-ditches of the second fortress being significantly wider than those of the first (J.R.S., 1953, pp.83/4).

This camp lies just ¾ mile (c.1.2 km) east of the Stretton Mill fort and 2,500 feet (c.762 m) north of the Eaton House fort. The site of this large camp slopes gently westward toward the Penk, to the south the ground falls slightly to a streamlet and on the east it is almost level. The original campign fortress was possibly preceeded by at least one or more of the five Roman marching camps which have been identified from aerial photographs in the neighbourhood at Water Eaton & Stretton Mill (RCHME 1995 fig.146 pp.178/9).

A Campaign Camp of Legio XIV Gemina

Defenses consisted of two V-shaped trenches with their centres 20 ft. apart dug in sandy soil. On the west, the inner ditch is 16½ ft. wide and 7½ ft. deep, the outer 17 ft. wide and 7 ft. deep, and both were lined with a 2 inch layer of clay. To the north only the inner ditch was excavated by archaeologists and measured 18 ft. wide by 6½ ft. deep. No traces of a rampart were found in position, although this does not prove none was present. At the bottom of each ditch, there existed a 12 inch layer of black clayey silt, with vegetable matter, including abundant birch pollen. In the northern section archaelogists found, among other smaller fragments, part of the base of a Samian dish from southern Gaul, bearing the stamp CARBOF of a Flavian potter. Like the other military installations in the neighbourhood, this campaign fort appears to have been occupied only temporarily. No archaological excavations were carried out within it's boundaries, however, as no evidence of any permanent structure has been revealed by aerial photographs, and the two sections across the defences indicated that deep ploughing over the centuries has probably removed all traces of any sleeper-beam trenches or post holes (JRS 1958 pp.94/5 & fig.8).

The double ditches of the two forts at Kinvaston and Stretton Mill show that they are not temporary camps, and they may best be regarded as campaign forts. The differences in specifications of the forts suggest that they relate to quite distinct operations, probably during the initial campaigns to overrun the Midlands.

See: Roman Camps in England - The Field Archaeology by the R.C.H.M.E. (H.M.S.O, London, 1995);
Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1955-7 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. XLVIII (1958) pp.86-101;
Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. XLIII (1953) pp.81-97;