Fort In The Wood


Burscough Roman Fort And Sections Of Roman Roads

Known as the Fort in the Wood “There are a number of recognised Roman forts scattered throughout the historic counties of Northern England, with the very notable exception of South West Lancashire, where none have been found…until Now! Discovered in 2003 and kept a closely guarded secret until 2018. Fort in the Wood’ is a crowd funded excavation project managed and directed by Bluestone Archaeology CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in West Lancashire”.

This newly discovered archaeological site is the most significant Roman discovery made in Lancashire for over 100 years. Its recognition as a Roman auxiliary fort brings the total of known Roman forts on the coastal south-west Lancashire Plain to only 1.

The site was first discovered by Steve Baldwin in 2003 when large sandstone blocks were displaced during agricultural works in the field to the north-west of the survey area.

Since then field walking, geophysics (resistivity) and limited trial trenching have demonstrated the presence of stratified archaeological deposits at the northern end of the present survey area and these are believed to relate to a Roman Fort occupied from the late 1st century into at least the 4th century AD. Aerial photographs show parts of what appears to be a roughly square ditched enclosure with rounded corners, characteristic of a Roman military site.

A narrow trench was cut to evaluate the site, to determine the character, preservation and dating of the site, in 2013. This was subsequently widened in one area at a concentration of masonry to expose a wider area of structural evidence. Within the boundaries of the fort there is excavated evidence for hearths, though their function is unclear, stone structures (including a possible granary), road surfaces and other structures.

In order to help fund and support research and archaeological excavation a ‘”Friends of Fort in the Wood” group that brings its members even closer to the work at this important site and supports seasonal excavation and post-excavation activities was formed.

The Burscough Roman fort is on land to the west of Flax Lane, Burscough, and sections of associated Roman roads, are scheduled for the principal reasons of Rarity, Survival: Potential: Period: Documentation: and  Group value: taken together with other Roman forts in the region, including Wigan and Ribchester, Burscough will provide great insight into Roman military strategy.

Early in July there were reports of heavy earthmoving machinery digging in one of the fort fields. Historic England said this could potentially damage the fort and they were dealing with it as a hot case. The Secretary of State signed a Government protection order on Friday 10th of July and the fort was then (in theory) protected from damage by law. This was reported to the groundworks company on the Monday morning (13th July) but sadly the digging only ceased when the Police arrived on Tuesday afternoon.

Professional archaeologists and Roman Fort experts are currently assessing the potential damage which is feared to be up to 5% of this rare archaeological site. It is thought that we may have lost a lot of irreplaceable evidence which might have given us more knowledge on the Roman and post-Roman occupation (Dark Ages) of Burscough and North-West England.

Following the recent damage to the buried archaeological remains the landowners of the northern part of the fort have applied for Scheduled Monument Consent to put in new tracks , roads, drainage and a new campsite marked out with large fencing posts.

All of these works have the potential to cause extensive damage to the underlying archaeology. If you can help us please send your comments and/or objections to Historic England at the following email address…Inspector of Ancient Monuments North West , Please send your comments before 14th August 2020. If you would like to support us in our efforts to prevent further damage to the Roman Fort please join us as a friend of Fort in the Wood, see our website for details on how to join.

Latest news reports confirm the fort had survived regular ploughing through the years before the archaeology group took an interest in the site but concerned residents noticed diggers on the field in recent weeks and feared that the invaluable findings could be lost forever. But now it is a scheduled monument. 

Notice was served that means it is a criminal offence to destroy or damage it; do any works to remove, repair or alter it; use a metal detector without prior consent; or remove any historic or archaeological object from the site without prior consent.

A spokesman for Historic England said “DCMS recently agreed with our advice that this site should be protected as a scheduled monument because it is a highly significant find of a Roman fort which has survived well. ‘We are actively in contact with the owners and local authority to offer advice and support on how best to manage this site to ensure its future”.

More to the point, what will WLBC do about development without permission? Hopefully, despite the upcoming new free for all planning blitz , WLBC conservation will defend this site from being wrecked!


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