NGRef: SJ5905
OSMap: LR126/127
Type: Vexillation Fort, Vexillation Fort, Camp, Camp
Eaton Constantine Fort and Camps

The vexillation fortress and camps at Eaton Constantine.
Adapted from The Cornovii by Graham Webster
(fig.11; based on aerial photographs by A. Baker.)
None identified

The Eaton Constantine Vexillation Fortress

SJ598055 c.1,050 x 920 ft
(c.320 x 280 m)
c.22¼ acres
(c.9 ha)

A Roman vexillation fortress has been identified from crop marks on aerial photographs near a conspicuous bend in the River Severn near Eaton Constantine in Shrophire. The fortress lies in open farmland on a low south-eastward projecting spur between Ranslet House and Eye Farm. It was defended by a triple-ditch system measuring about 920 x 1,050 feet (c.280 x 320m) within the defences, which enclosed an area of just under 22¼ acres (c.9ha). This substantial defensive system proves that this was no ordinary marching encampment and its size is sufficient to house a substantial force of around 2,500 Roman legionaries and auxiliary soldiers. The fortress was probably occupied by a contingent of Legio XIV Gemina together with a couple of auxiliary cavalry units.

The fortress seems to be aligned to the west-south-west, and it seems likely, therefore, that the camp was sited here to serve two main purposes, both tactical and strategic; firstly, the camp is in a superb tactical position to launch an attack upon the Wrekin close by to the north-east, and was seemingly purposefully sited so as not to be visible from the hillfort on the summit, being obscured by an outcropping to the south-west, secondly, the fortress was strategically located to act as a springboard for operations in the south-west across the Severn into Central Wales, where the British warlord Caratacus was stirring-up unrest amongst the local Ordovices tribe.

It is almost certain that the Leighton fortress housed a task force directed against the citadel of the Cornovii, and was constructed for that purpose by governor Ostorius Scapula sometime 47AD. Tenure was perhaps only temporary, with occupation of the site lasting for only a single campaign season, though it may equally have remained in use for a number of campaign seasons, perhaps only being abandoned when the new fortress was built nearby at Viroconium c.58AD. The presence of the auxiliary fort guarding the Severn crossing at Wroxeter, which very likely antedates the Eaton Constantine site, leds credence to the theory that the fortress here was abandoned after only a short period. This is conjecture, however, and cannot be proven (or disproven) until the site is examined in more detail.

The Leighton Temporary Marching Camps

The crop marks of three Roman marching camps lie to the immediate south of the campaign fortress at Leighton, close beside the B4380 minor road between Eaton Constantine and Cressage. The south-western corner-angles of 3 large, overlapping camps lie in a bend of the River Severn just outside the fortress' southern defences. The triple ditch system of the fortress seems to overlie the north-eastern parts of all three camps and must therefore be a later contruction date.

Leighton Camp 1¹
SJ596049 c.330+ x 670+ ft
(c.100+ x 205+ m)
unknown The SW corner-angle of this camp has a radius of curvature approaching 130 feet (c.40m) which indicates a very large encampment, and does not constitute a right-angle, being in fact around 100°. About 200 feet (c.60m) of the W side and a longer 540 foot (c.165m) length of the S side have been traced. The corner-angle of Camp-2 intersects the corner of this camp and lies on a slightly different alignment.
Leighton Camp 2¹
SJ596049 c.460+ x 590+ ft
(c.140+ x 180+ m)
unknown This camp is also identified from its SW corner-angle, an attached 460 foot (c.140m) length of the W side and a longer 590 foot (c.180m) length of the S defences have been traced on A.P.'s. The radius of curvature of this corner is only about 33 feet (c.10m) and describes an angle of 90°, so it is assumed that the camp was significantly smaller in size than Camp-1, whose widely-curving SE corner cuts obliquely across the defences of this camp close to the southern end of its western rampart.
Leighton Camp 3¹
SJ596050 c.150+ x 390+ ft
(c.45+ x 120+ m)
unknown The SW corner-angle of this encampment lies about (150m) N of the other two camps, less than 100 yards/metres outside the SW defences of the Leighton vexillation fortress. The radius of curvature, like that of Camp-2 is again small and covers a right-angle, with attached, a short 150 foot (c.45m) section of the W side and a longer 390 foot (c.120m) length of the S side.
  1. These designations are arbitrary, based merely on apparent size, and are not official.
See: Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1969-72 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lxiii (1973) pp.234/5;
Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1973-76 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lxvii (1977) p.145 & fig.12;
The Cornovii by Graham Webster (Sutton 1991; map, fig.11 p.28);

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Page Citation: Kevan White (2018) "Roman Britain: EATON CONSTANTINE - LEIGHTON"