NAA were commissioned to carry out a programme of archaeological evaluation in the form of trial trenching to identify and record potential remains of archaeological and historical significance in advance of a new cycleway between Allonby and Silloth on the Solway Coast, Cumbria. Allerdale Borough Council submitted the plans to join up regional cycle networks and boost cycle tourism and business in the area and WYG Group Ltd, working on behalf of Allerdale Borough Council, produced a desk-based assessment that identified potential archaeological deposits of Roman origin along part of the route. NAA were brought in to evaluate the nature of the archaeological remains to the south of the village of Beckfoot and assess any impact that the scheme may have on them.
Beckfoot village lies on a beautiful part of the Solway Coast. To the south of the village lies the site of a Roman fort known as Bibra. This fort was established in the Hadrianic period (AD117-AD138) and formed one link in a chain of forts that guarded the Solway Firth and the north west coast. These forts worked in conjunction with Hadrian’s wall to guard the Roman northern frontier and were required to prevent crossings by boat from Scotland.
Bibra is mainly known through cropmark and geophysical survey evidence. It was occupied until the 4th century and had an extensive vicus (or civilian settlement) around it. These settlements developed on the outskirts of forts to provide services for the soldiers garrisoned within and were engines of economy in the local area. Previous geophysical surveys have revealed the vicus to be very extensive, especially to the north. A fort as long lived as Bibra also inevitably required a place to bury its dead. The cemetery lies to the south of the fort and has been known about since initial investigations were made by archaeologists in the last century.
NAA encountered remains from the cemetery during excavations and were able to further define the extent of the Roman funerary activity. All remains were sensitively treated, recorded and left in situ. Crucially for the cycle path scheme, we were able to confirm the depth of the cemetery below ground level. This will inform mitigation strategies and allow the scheme to be designed to avoid damaging any of the sensitive archaeological remains.
It was truly a privilege to work in such a wonderful area, not only was the history fascinating but the Solway coast is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a rich wildlife habitat. Due to this, NAA worked very closely with environmental consultants from WYG on site to ensure that there was only minimal disturbance to the area and that uncovering the secrets of the past didn’t harm the wildlife of the present.
Disclaimer-The fort and cemetery at Beckfoot are extremely sensitive archaeologically and are designated Scheduled Ancient Monuments and are protected by law. It is illegal to disturb the ground in any way without written consent from Heritage England and the landowner.