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Site record MDR4469 - Roman Fort and Vicus (site of), Strutt's Park, Derby

Type and Period (4)

  • (Roman - 50 AD? to 100 AD?)
  • ? (Roman - 50 AD to 75 AD)
  • ? (Roman - 50 AD? to 100 AD?)
  • ? (Roman - 50 AD to 80 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

'The earliest finds of coins at Derby have been made on the other side of the river to Little Chester, in Strutt's Park, and there may have been a fort here on the higher ground in a more commanding position but, as the area has now been largely built over, the chances of gaining any further information seem remote'. (1) 'In the past few years' [pre 1967] there has been speculation regarding the existence of an early Roman fort at Strutt's Park, in part because of the 1st century AD finds made in the area, in part due to its suitable position and in part due to the fact that pottery from Little Chester indicates that occupation there did not commence until the governorship of Agricola (AD 78-85). In 1966 it was therefore decided to embark upon a survey of local householders in the Strutt's Park area. As a result over 40 sherds of pottery, well over half of them definitely Roman, were collected from the gardens of local residents. These showed that the site was occupied by AD 60 at the latest. The fact that the most recent of the 1st century coins from Strutt's Park can be dated to the year AD 77 fits in very conveniently with the suggestion that there was indeed a fort there which was abandoned in favour of a new fort across the Derwent at Little Chester during the early years of Agricola's campaigns. (2) Excavations in 1970 in the garden of No 91 Belper Road revealed a post-hole situated between two gullies 8½ ft apart, with two more gullies lying at right-angles to them. Finds included a coin of Nero (54-68) and one of Vespasian (69-79), a portion of a late Claudian or early Neronian samian bowl, other samian fragments, some small bronze objects and a spillage of lead. They point to a main period of occupation not later than Vespasian, with use of the site continuing into the 2nd century. The gullies and post-hole are tentatively suggested to represent the remains of a timber building, perhaps with a verandah, and it is further surmised that the site lies within the perimeter of an early Roman fort, although there is no material evidence for the existence of a fort. (3) In 1974 various opportunities arose for archaeological investigation in the area of Strutt's Park where the early Roman fort was suspected. Two small sites were available for excavation and the digging of a pipeline trench was observed. The excavations produced structural evidence for 1st century Roman military occupation. The traces of timber buildings located adjacent to 78 Belper Road, although fragmentary, were consistent with Roman military structures and more than one phase seemed to be represented. The structures excavated at the corner of Derwent Park probably formed part of a barrack block with internal partitions, aligned north-south. Destruction or demolition deposits in the form of burnt daub and charred timbers were attested, hinting at systematic demolition by the Roman army, involving the salvage of usable timbers when the fort was evacuated. The extent of the fort remains uncertain, since the defences have not yet been located. However, a possible ditch observed in the pipeline trench may represent part of the eastern defensive system. It is suggested that occupation began in the early 50s AD, and continued until the establishment of the fort at Little Chester in the early 80s AD. (4) Finds from these excavations included a brooch classified as a Colchester derivative. (5) The initial Roman fort at Derby is believed to have been established on the west bank of the River Derwent. Remains have been recovered variously in garage and pipeline construction as well as in a small excavation. The possibility of a small vicus around the site cannot be ignored. (6) In August 2000 two evaluation trenches were excavated on land immediately to the south of 73 Belper Road. Several features were present, including a stone spread, four pits and six gulleys. Many of these features are typical of 1st century military occupation, which is also reflected by the range of artefacts recovered. This included coins of Claudius and Nero, imported pottery such as Lyon ware and samian with graffiti, and metalwork such as a Hod Hill Brooch, a heart-shaped horse harness pendant and a possible plume holder. Apart from a single tessera, no evidence was recovered of any 2nd century activity. The site overall produced concentrated and well preserved structural and artefactual evidence for military occupation in phased deposits of Neronian to Flavian date (1st century) that extended beyond the trench limits in all directions. (8) A small excavation at the rear of 91 Belper Road revealed part of a ditch. Although it contained no dating evidence, its profile, orientation, depth and proximity to other dated features in the near locality suggested that it was likely to be of Roman date. Only a few Roman pot sherds were recovered, mainly in unstratified contexts. (9)

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> Article in serial: Webster, G. 1961. 'An excavation on the Roman site at Little Chester, Derby, 1960', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 81, pp 85-110. pp 108-109.
  • <2> Article in serial: Forrest, M. 1967. 'Recent work at Strutt's Park, Derby', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 87, pp 162-165.
  • <3> Article in serial: Brassington, M. 1970. 'First century Roman occupation at Strutt's Park, Derby', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 90, pp 22-30, plan.
  • <4> Article in serial: Dool, J. 1985. 'Excavations at Strutt's Park, Derby 1974', in 'Roman Derby: Excavations 1968-1983', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 105, pp 15-32.
  • <5> Article in serial: Mackreth, D. 1985. 'Brooches from Roman Derby', in 'Roman Derby: Excavations 1968-1983', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 105 pp281-299.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Smith K. 1989. pers comm Smith K 29-2-1989. 29-2-89.
  • <7> Index: Trent and Peak Archaeol T 2601.
  • <8> Unpublished document: Elliott, L (TPA). 2001. 73 Belper Road, Strutts Park, Derby: a Report on the Archaeological Evaluation. SMR Doc. No. 1290.
  • <9> Unpublished document: Baker, S & Sheppard, R (TPAU). 2005. An Archaeological Watching Brief at Belper Road, Derby, 2004.



Grid reference Centred SK 34875 37413 (227m by 184m)
World Heritage Site Derwent Valley Mills

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (5)

  • EDR5209
  • EDR1634
  • EDR2788
  • EDR2786
  • EDR1864

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Record last edited

Jul 27 2023 3:21PM

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