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Scheduled Monument record MDR570 - Melandra Castle, Gamesley, Glossop

Type and Period (4)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

(SK 00899505) Melandra Castle (NAT) ROMAN FORT (1) An Agricolan earth-wood fort rebuilt in stone, in part at least, probably under Trajan. The Fort has been excavated, very badly, on various occasions since 1899, notably in 1906-7, by the Classical Association. (2) Later excavation has taken place in the fort and in the civil settlement. (3) Occupation evidence, mainly pottery, indicates an abandonment in the first half of the 2nd century. A few 3rd century potsherds and one or two later coins do not add up to re-occupation. Part of a female sandal, in one of the ditches, suggests civilians, but the civilian settlement has not been found; neither has the bath-house which may, however, be nearer the river (Etherow). The name Melandra is attributed to the Rev. John Watson (1772) (4), but the site is identified by Richmond and Crawford as the (Ze)rdotalia (Erdotalia or Ardotalia) of the Ravenna Cosmography (5); an identification not entirely certain. (6) Scheduled: "Earthworks of a Roman Camp partly excavated by Manchester Classical Association in 1905. An earthen bank hides a stone rampart enclosing an area 110m x 100m, orientated NNE/SSW. The SW angle tower and HQ are exposed for visitors. The fort was abandoned c. AD 140. there are little traces of an alignment of two or three defensive ditches around the ramparts. The quarry-tipping area, cliff area, is eroding away at the SW angle. Vicus and cemetery area remains undisturbed. (7) Re-surveyed at 1:2500. An extensive collection of material from the site is in Buxton Museum. (8) In 1969, earthmoving operations for the Gamesley Overspill Scheme made possible renewed excavation by DOE on the area of civil settlement adjacent to the Roman fort. An almost complete plan was revealed of the supposed mansio (160' x 60') which was partly excavated in 1966. It was constructed of timber and fronted by a road to the west, and backed by a rampart and ditch system. The excavations indicate demolition rather than destruction as the ultimate fate of the building. A date for the demolition of c. A.D. 140 was arrived at from pottery evidence. The 1969 season concluded the rescue excavation, and the overall impression of the sizeable defended vicus can now be gained. For a fort that can never have occupied a key position in the overall strategy of the Northern Military Zone, it is remarkable that it had such a considerable civil population, and so large a mansio, if such it be. (9) A bath-building, of coursed sandstone slabs set in mortar, was discovered outside the north west corner of the fort by the Melandra Field Group in 1973. It proved to be of Reihentyp, with an apsidal hot room, a warm room and a cold room. The hypocaust pilae were of tile. Much of the masonry had slipped down the hillside. This first phase appears to be Flavian but additions were made early in the 2nd century (in about 120 A.D). A secondary wing of finely dressed gritstone on a base of sandstone slabs was located to the south of the cold room. It consisted of two rooms, one heated and one unheated. The pilae were of squared sandstone blocks and the flues of box tiles. Between AD 120-140 during a third phase of building a possibly heated room, maybe a dressing-room, was added to the east of the secondary wing. This room was 5.6m by 5.0m and was built of sandstone blocks. Between the baths and the fort wall there was a timber-lined drain, about 25cms wide, which may have diverted surface water around the baths. A circuit road of pebbles, 2.5m wide and 20cms thick, lay along the outer lip of the fort ditch. The early phase of this road ante-dated the baths. (10-14) Excavations in 1980 and 1982 continued work on the bath-house. In addition, part of the clay and cobble footings of the Trajanic fort wall were exposed to the east of the North Gate and an area of the vicus examined. Considerable evidence for iron-smelting and lead and glass working came from the vicus. (15,16) SK 00959495. Excavated material suggests the presence of a pottery kiln in or near the civil settlement. (19) Tricephalic well-head showing 3 heads: the flanking ones in profile bear rams-horns, the central face has 'water weeds' on either side. Link with Melandra appears more hopeful than proven. (20) The 'large iron ring' found in 1906 appears to be a pipe collar (Buxton Museum Acc No Der SB 3850). This will either have supplied a distribution tank in the fort or the extra-mural bath-house outside its north wall. The pipeline probably dates from the Trajanic period, when the fort was rebuilt in stone. (21) Report of four 4th century coins being accidentally uncovered within the fort. (23)

Sources/Archives (23)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1954. 6".
  • <2> Article in serial: Petch, J. 1963. 'Melandra Castle', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 83, pp 1-9.
  • <3> Article in serial: Webster, P V. 1971. 'Melandra Castle Roman Fort, excavations in the civil settlement 1966-1969', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 91, pp 58-118.
  • <4> Bibliographic reference: Watson, J. 1772. Archaeologia. Vol. 3, p 236.
  • <5> Article in serial: Richmond, I A and Crawford, O G S. 1948. 'The British Section of the Ravenna Cosmography', Archaeologia. Vol. 93. p 34.
  • <6> Map: Ordnance Survey (OS). 1956. Roman Britain.
  • <7> Scheduling record: Ministry of Works. 1961. Scheduling Notification.
  • <8> Personal Observation: F1 FC 13-OCT-65.
  • <9> Article in serial: Webster, P. 1969. 'Excavations at Melandra Castle, Derbyshire, 1969', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 89, pp96-8, plan.
  • <10> Bibliographic reference: 1974. Britannia. Vol 5, p 420.
  • <11> Article in serial: Britannia 7 1976 322-3.
  • <12> Article in serial: Britannia 8 1977 387-8.
  • <13> Article in serial: Britannia 9 1978 432.
  • <14> Bibliographic reference: 1979. Britannia 10 1979 293.
  • <15> Bibliographic reference: F O Grew. 1981. Britannia 12.
  • <16> Article in serial: S S Frere. 1983. Britannia 14 1983.
  • <17> Bibliographic reference: Rivet, A L F and Smith, C. 1979. The Place-Names of Roman Britain. p256-7.
  • <18> Bibliographic reference: Crickmore J. 1984. Romano-British Urban Defences.
  • <19> Bibliographic reference: Swan, V. 1984. The Pottery Kilns of Roman Britain. Gazeteer 252.
  • <20> Article in monograph: Ross A and Feachem R. 1984. Between and Beyond the Walls. 338-52.
  • <21> Article in serial: 1988. Archaeol. Journal 142 1988.
  • <22> Index: NDAT 0959.
  • <23> Verbal communication: Pers. Comm.: Confidential 3/5/96.



Grid reference Centred SK 00940 95008 (319m by 333m)

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Record last edited

Dec 11 2019 3:36PM

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