NEWS – MARCH 2011

The March lecture entitled “Recent Excavations at Roman Cockermouth” was given by Frank Giecco of Grampian Heritage & Training. Frank stated that the scouring of the area below Papcastle by the River Derwent during the 2009 floods presented a unique opportunity to look at an area that previous archaeological digs had missed. It was known that there was an early 1st century turf and timber fort at Papcastle that had been developed into a stone fort by the 3rd century and there was evidence of occupation up until the 5th century. The Time Team had uncovered evidence of buildings right down to the river but there were little physical signs there until the scouring uncovered an extensive site on both sides of the river. A geophysical survey indicated a large number of buildings and this was used as the basis to dig a number of trenches to reveal foundations of large buildings, workshops, warehouses, roads, ditches and a 60metre diameter circular structure which could have been an amphitheatre. Masses of pottery, coins and other artefacts were unearthed. In total there were 138 finds and 61 coins. The biggest discovery was that of an oak timber lined mill race and probably the best preserved Roman watermill in Britain which is judged to have had a 3.5metre diameter wheel. The fact that all the superstructure of the buildings was missing suggested that the site had been robbed of the fine Roman stone for use in later building elsewhere (including no doubt the castle). Evidence to date suggests that Roman Papcastle was much larger than previous thought – larger than Maryport and on a par with Corbridge. Funding is now being sought to return to the site later this year to investigate further.