NGRef: SK 353 375
Type: Fort, Fort, Town, Pottery
|NW (30) to Aqvae Arnemetiae
Probable road: NW (30) to Bvxton (Buxton, Derbyshire)
Ryknild Street: SW (27) to Letocetvm (Wall, Staffordshire)
N (10) to Pentrich (Nottinghamshire)
W (16) to Rocester (East Staffordshire)
Probable road: SE (19) to Vernemetvm (Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, Nottinghamshire)
The only classical reference we have for the Roman name of Littlechester is contained within the Ravenna Cosmology of the seventh century, wherein is listed the name Derbentione (R&C#89), between the entries for Lutudarum (Crich, Derbyshire) and Salinae (Middlewich, Cheshire). The name is said to derive from Welsh/Gaelic dyr 'oak tree' and venta 'market settlement'.
The Roman fort at Littlechester lay on high ground to the west of the River Derwent in Strutt's Park. Surface finds of coins and pottery indicate a late-Claudian/early-Neronian foundation date for the fort, probably sometime during the campaigns of Aulus Didius Gallus between 52-57AD. Limited excavations in the 1970's uncovered building slots of timber barrack-blocks which seemed to indicate that the buildings in the interior of the fort were carefully dismantled and the fort abandoned, perhaps sometime during the early campaigns of governor Quintus Petillius Cerialis around 71AD.
A few pieces of bronze military equipment have been recovered from the site, all of it pretty standard issue which gives no indication as to the type of unit stationed at the Derventio fort, although some of the pieces had been guilded, which perhaps indicates a more prestigious regiment, possibly a cavalry ala or a legionary cohort.
"... first-century pottery and coins of Nero and Vespasian were found in two gullies at Strutt's Park, on the west bank of the River Derwent facing Little Chester. This is the first positive evidence of first-century occupation on the suspected site of an early fort." (Britannia, 1971)
Unfortunately the Strutt's Park site was buried beneath a housing estate before the Roman fort could be properly investigated.
There were potteries at Derby (SK3637) and nearby to the north, on the opposite side of the Derwent along the line of the probable road to Buxton there were other pottery kilns at Hazelwood (SK3246), Shottle Hall (SK3147; see below), and another two at Holbrook (SK3544 & SK3644).
"... concentrations of Derbyshire Ware sherds indicate the position of two or three kilns c. 800 m (875 yards) west-north-west of the known kilns at Jenny Tang, Hazelwood." (Britannia, 1971)
Ravenna Cosmography: Derbentione