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Monument record MDR3187 - Romano-British settlement and field system, Rainster Rocks, Brassington

Type and Period (2)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Rainster Rocks. An irregular-shaped building of rough limestone walls, 2-3 feet thick, and dark grey and red potsherds (of which one was 'unmistakeably Roman') were found in 1889 by Mr J Ward in a pasture at the south foot of Rainster Rocks. (1) As part of his investigation into the possible route beyond Minninglow of the Roman road from Buxton, Smithard carried out some excavations at Rainster Rocks in March and April 1907. He dug trenches 18ins wide all over a flat platform that lies at the foot of the topmost set of crags and recovered four bronze coins, some ironwork and a considerable quantity of pottery. At the head of a road below the rocks he identified artificial terraces and on one of these he unearthed a fibula and further pottery. The bronze fibula was identified as Roman, bow shaped and of the hinged type. One coin was identified as a second bronze of Aurelian, AD 270-275, one a third bronze of Claudius Gothicus, AD 268-270, one possibly as a third bronze of the c. AD 250-285. The fourth coin was too worn to be deciphered. The pottery was identified as Romano-British, as was a fragment of quern. Smithard considered the finds to represent evidence of 'prolonged and extensive occupation'. (2) Rainster rocks is a village site. A number of pieces of Romano-British Derbyshire ware were dug up here in 1907, the other objects, so far as they could be dated, were assigned to the close of the third century. (3) Lynchets (or baulks) running up the hillside are on the land just south of Rainster Rocks, where there is a known Romano-British settlement. [Lynchets centred at SK 2186 5477.] (4) Romano-British pottery has been recovered from ploughed fields at SK 218548 where there is a lynchet (Celtic Field) overlain by medieval arable features. At SK 218549 is a small rectangular enclosure ("house") backed by a limestone cliff. Romano-British pottery reported. SK 217547 to SK 218546 Field banks and a large hut circle (Additional to Smithard's 'settlement'). (5) Two Roman coins were reported as being found at Rainster Rocks in 1963, one CONSTANTINOPOLIS, the other of Constantine II. (6) Pottery (including Samian and coarse ware) and ironwork from Rainster Rocks are in the possession of Mr K G Ford. (7) Rough stone walling foundations of small enclosures indicate a small, pre-medieval, settlement at SK 21895477. Surveyed at 1/2500. No associated early field system could be identified in a large surrounding area of rig and furrow ploughing. (8) Survey and excavation at Rainster Rocks was carried out by the Derwent Archaeological Society from August 1970 until at least June 1973. The settlement as identified at that time covered an area of between 14 and 15 acres. Groups of 'Celtic' fields were also identified, as well as two, possibly three, large revetted platforms built against the hillside, probably for the cultivation of crops. The excavations uncovered a street, possibly 3rd century in date, between an avenue of orthostat walls with rubble infill. Recangular buildings are thought to have occupied the area west of the street. To the east of the street an enclosure may have been used as a paddock. Finds included iron tools, bronze decorative fragments, galena, lead slag and metallic lead. A large quantity of Derbyshire Ware was found, much of it in stratified deposits. (9) Two metal detectorists recovered an amount of metalwork and a small number of pottery sherds. Metalwork included two bronze fibulae, a small bronze trumpet brooch, a bronze plate brooch of lozenge shape, a bronze penannular brooch, a small iron knife, a bronze stud, bronze dividers, two small pieces of smelted lead, a roughly circular offcut of lead with an irregular shaped hole in the centre and a lump of unsmelted lead ore. In addition, 25 coins were recovered from various parts of the site. Those that could be dated were either 3rd century (19 coins) or 4th century (3 coins). Uncovered various pieces of Roman metalwork including various types of brooch, nails and indeterminate pieces of metal. (7) Scheduled, July 29 1977, revised January 21 1999. The monument includes the extensive remains of a Romano-British period settlement and field system, visible as lynchets, embankments, platforms and orthostatic field walls. The settlement stands on gently sloping ground at the foot of a dolomitic limestone outcrop known as Rainster Rocks. A series of low, orthostat walls forming a series of enclosures are key elements of the site. In addition there are earthen terraces and platforms and connecting trackways or droves, forming the remains of a settlement of some complexity. Partial excavation of the area in the early 20th century revealed that the site was occupied during the third and fourth centuries AD. Finds included fine and coarse pottery together with metalwork and coins from this period. Further excavations in the 1970s revealed that lead smelting was also likely to have been one of the activities in the settlement. There are between 10 and 12 level platforms on which stood buildings which are thought to have been sub-rectangular in shape. Associated with the settlement are fragments of its field systems lying to the east, west and south-east, visible as faint plough marks, terraces and lynchets. These features are bounded in some places by the remains of field banks. The settlement is approached by what appears to be an original track from the present road to the village of Brassington. (12) The site was surveyed in May 2000. The overall extent was c. 350m x 300m. Features indentified included building platforms (some rectangular, some possibly ovoid), orthostatic walls, gateways, trackways, clearance cairns, and both rectilinear and irregular enclosures. (13)

Sources/Archives (12)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Haverfield, F. 1905. 'Romano-British Derbyshire', in Victoria County History, Derbyshire, Vol 1.
  • <2> Article in serial: Smithard, W. 1910. 'The Roman road between Little Chester and Minning Low', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 32. p127-36.
  • <3> Article in serial: Gillam, J. 1939. Antiquaries Journal. Volume 19. p432-3.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Letter (Miss N Kirkham, 15.7.50).
  • <5> Bibliographic reference: East Midlands Committee of Field Archaeologists. 1962. East Midlands Archaeological Bulletin, 1962. No. 5. p 5.
  • <7> Article in serial: 1964. East Midland Archaeological Bulletin, No. 7. p 4.
  • <8> Personal Observation: F1 FRH 06-MAY-66.
  • <9> Article in serial: Humpston, J & Lane, H. 1973. 'Rainster Rocks Romano-British minor native settlement, Brassington', Derwent Archaeological Society Research Report. No. 1, p 44.
  • <10> Article in serial: Dool, J. 1976. 'Roman material from Rainster Rocks, Brassington', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 96, pp17-22.
  • <11> Index: NDAT. 0483. 0483.
  • <12> Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1999. Romano-British settlement and field system at Rainster Rocks. Scheduled mon. no. 31228.
  • <13> Unpublished document: Bevan, B (PDNPA). 2000. Peak District Romano-British Rural Upland Settlement Survey, 1998-1000. 3 vols.. Site Code 035.



Grid reference Centred SK 2187 5479 (429m by 335m) (Centre)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (5)

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Record last edited

Dec 17 2014 3:51PM

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