NGRef: NY 971 651
OSMap: Hadrian's Wall, LR88.
Type: Vexillation Fort, Bath House
None identified

Beaufront Red House Agricolan Military Site

The Vexillation Fortress

N.G.Ref Dimensions Area
NY024668 843 x c.1,295 ft
(257 x c.395 m)
c.25 acres
(c.10 ha)

This important site was discovered during construction of the A69(T) Corbridge Bypass in 1974. Excavations conducted by the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle operating in advance of construction crews uncovered the eastern and western defensive ditches of a substantial Roman military installation in the area south of Beaufront Red House. The eastern defensive ditch of this very large fort was separated from it's western counterpart by a gap of about 843 feet (257 metres). The extent to which the military encampment extended to north and south is unknown; the buildings of Beaufront Red House itself overlie the northern part of the site and the southern extent is obscured and confused by farm roads and field boundaries. Academic estimates for the north-south dimension suggested by the local topography is thought to be in the region of 1,300 feet, the area thus enclosed would be about 25 acres (c.10 hectares).

The post-holes of several timber buildings were found within the fort's interior, including a fabrica or workshop with an associated pit and a possible well, at least one building identified as a barrack-block, also a dozen open-ended sheds measuring some 57 feet wide by 23 feet in length (c.17.5 x 7 metres). The fabrica and some of the eastern sheds underwent at least two phases of construction and there is evidence to suggest deliberate demolition of the defences and dismantling of the interior buildings around 87ad, after which the site was given over to agriculture.

The site has been classified as a vexillation fortress, which would have contained a mixed garrison of both legionary and auxiliary troops united under a single campaign banner or vexillum. This fortress is thought to represent the main eastern base of governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola, established prior to his northward push into Scotland c.80ad. Nothing remains to be seen nowadays, the buildings uncovered during the rescue excavations being back-filled immediately after they had been recorded and now overlain by the modern trunk road.

The Military Bath-House

This site was discovered beside the Redhouse Burn to the south-east of Beaufront Red House during drain-laying between silage pits at Red House Farm and Red House Burn in 1955. Excavations conducted in 1956-57 uncovered the remains of military bath-house measuring some 160 feet by 140 feet overall (c.49 x 43 m), it's walls surviving to a maximum height of 4 feet (1.33m). The layout of the rooms was described as a modified "Reihntyp" (sic) bath-house posessing an 'unusual' peristyle courtyard. Dateable finds consisting of quantities of late-1st Century Samian and coarse-ware pottery, several bronze brooches and a coin of Vespasian, suggest that the bath-house was built c.80ad and was deliberately demolished before ad98, having already fallen into disuse.

To protect the site the remains of the bath-house were back-filled after the excavations, but, as reported in The Daily Telegraph on 30th March 1972:

"Despite an emergency Preservation Order by the Department of Environment, the bath house has been severely damaged on the orders of the landowner A. Cuthbert of Beaufront Castle, Hexham, in an attempt to destroy it."

This is a classic example of an egotistic arse-hole protected by money and status acting above the law of the land. This privileged ponce should have been very publicly pilloried and soundly thrashed with a stout birch rod for his blatant disregard of our national heritage. Caput tuum in ano est! Mr A. Cuthbert. Togodumnus

Beaufront Red House Bibliography

See: Hadrian's Wall History Trails Guidebook IV by Les Turnbull (Newcastle, 1974), pp.3-23;
Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) pp.98-113;
Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989);
Outdoor Leisure Map #43 - Hadrians Wall, Haltwhistle & Hexham by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1997).

Beaufront Red House Related Links

Link to maps of the area from: StreetMap Old-Maps MultiMap
Page Citation: Kevan White (2018) "Roman Britain: BEAUFRONT RED HOUSE"