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HOUSESTEADS ROMAN FORT

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  VERCOVICIVM, BORCOVICUS, VERCOVICIUM
DESCRIPTION + /

Housesteads Roman Fort, known to the Romans as VERCOVICIUM, is situated on the prominent crest of the Whin Sill escarpment with commanding views to the north and south. A vicus or civilian area was situated to the south and east. The fort site consists of largely consolidated masonry remains, making up the most complete example of a Roman Fort in Britain. Housesteads was constructed shortly after AD 122 on a 'playing card' plan, the long axis parallel to the wall. During the early years the garrison appears to have been largely Tungrian, accommodating a cohort of 800-1,000 strong before being later reinforced by a cavalry unit. The east-west orientation is unusual among Wall forts but this is due to the constraints imposed by the topography. The internal layout is more typical. Gatehouses were centrally placed in each short side, but displaced to two-thirds of the distance along the long sides. The internal layout was divided into three divisions. Six rectangular barrack blocks aligned parallel to the long axis occupied each of the eastern and western thirds of the internal area. The commandant's house, granaries, headquarters building, and a rectangular building aligned parallel to the short fort sides occupied the central third. The main north-south road separated the east blocks from the central area. The defences were modified from the late third century when there were radical alterations to the internal layouts of the barracks and granaries, and additional interval towers were added. Further modifications were made in the 4th century, notably the construction of a bath-house in one of the barracks blocks and the north wall of the fort was repaired. There is some evidence for further late repairs to the fort, which may not have been completely abandoned after the end of Roman rule. An apsidal ended building with a cist burial, which may have been a chapel or church, was constructed either very late in the Roman period or after the nominal end of Roman rule.

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