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Binchester Roman Fort (called Vinovia by the Romans) is situated just over to the north of the town of Bishop Aucklandmarker on the banks of the River Wearmarker in County Durham, Englandmarker. The fort was the site of a hamlet until the late middle-ages, but the modern-day village of Binchestermarker is about to the east, near Spennymoormarker.

The fort was established to guard the crossing of the River Wearmarker by Dere Street, the main Roman road between Yorkmarker, Hadrian's Wallmarker and Scotlandmarker, and also the fort's via principalis. It was the largest Roman fort in County Durham, but only a relatively small part of its centre has been excavated and is open to the public. A small town (vicus) existed to the west of the fort, the remains of which are buried under the pastures of Binchester Hall Farm. The southern part of the fort is now beneath Binchester Hall, while some of the defences were destroyed in a landslip in the 19th century. Part of the stone bridge used by Dere Street to cross the River Wearmarker can still be seen when the river is low.

Pottery found at Binchester suggests that the site was occupied from the early AD70s, while the last Roman garrison was withdrawn after AD410. However, it remained occupied by the local population. By the early 6th century, a small Anglo-Saxon cemetery had been founded, and the demolition of the fort's buildings for reclamation of the materials had started, some of which were eventually used in the construction of the nearby 7th-century Escombmarker Church. A hamlet and manor house survived at Binchester until the late Middle Ages. The site of the manor house is now occupied by the 17th-century Binchester Hall.

The remains of the fort have been known to antiquarians and historians since the 16th century. In 1552, John Leland wrote that Roman coins had been uncovered in nearby ploughed fields, while William Camden, in 1586, mentioned the remains of some walls could still then be seen. A bath-house was found in the early 1800s when a farm cart accidentally fell into part of a hypocaust.

The first archaeological excavations took place between 1878 and 1880, under the auspices of John Proud of Bishop Aucklandmarker and the Reverend Robert Eli Hooppell of Byers Greenmarker, investigating the bath-house, some of the fort's defences, and discovering the surrounding settlement. Further investigations and surveys have been done since 1937, mostly by the University of Durhammarker, the Bowes Museummarker, and Durham County Council.

In April 2007, Channel 4's Time Team came to Binchester, primarily to uncover the vicus. Apart from discovering the remains of a larger, earlier fort, they also found a row of three military mausolea, "the first to have been found in Britain for 150 years." The Binchester programme was broadcast on Channel 4 on January 13th 2008.

As of summer of 2009 Durham University began undertaking of several years of excavations concentrating on the fort and the outside Vicus.

References

  1. Roman Britain: Vinovium
  2. Durham County Council: Binchester Roman Fort
  3. The Northguard: Binchester Roman Fort - Description and Tour
  4. The Northguard: Binchester Roman Fort - History
  5. The Northguard: Binchester Roman Fort - Discovery and Excavation
  6. Binchester Roman Fort: Investigation History
  7. Time Team: Binchester - What they found


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