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Hardknott Roman Fort is one of the UK’s most remote Roman forts, situated in the Eskdale Valley in Cumbria and dating back to the early years of the second century AD. The fort is on land owned by the charity The National Trust – you can find out more about the work of The National Trust via the infographic attachment to this post.

There are many Roman historic sites in Britain that are accessible to the public, including Roman roads and other areas that do not require special permission to enter. Fiyaz Mughal has a passion for exploring the Roman history of Great Britain, often visiting sites of special interest along the coastline and inland. As one of the most remote outposts of the ancient Roman Empire, Hardknott Roman Fort was not occupied for long, yet its remains can still be viewed almost 2,000 years later.

History of the Fort

Hardknott Roman Fort was constructed and used between the years 120 and 138 AD, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. It is known to have garrisoned the Fourth Cohort of Dalmatians, who hailed from the Balkans, as recorded in an inscription from the south gate of the fort of which fragmentary evidence remains to this day.

In the late 130s, Hardknott was demilitarised as Roman forces reoccupied the south of Scotland and was later regarrisoned in the 160s under the leadership of Marcus Aurelius. It was sometime in the early years of the third century AD that the fort, which was known in Roman times as Mediobogdum, was finally abandoned. Objects that have been found in the surrounding area suggest that for some time after this the fort was used by travellers and passing patrols as an area of temporary shelter.

Stone Buildings

In the centre of Hardknott Fort we can see the ruins of three stone buildings, as the lower courses of these buildings have survived almost intact. The headquarters building lies directly opposite the south entrance, comprised of a main courtyard flanked by several smaller, narrow rooms which it is thought were used as the garrison’s armouries.

The ‘cross-hall’ lies to the far end of this main courtyard, which is where justice would have been dispensed to defaulters by the fort commander. A small temple lay just beyond this, housing dedicated altars and the standards of the garrison. Offices for record-keeping and administration lay to either side of this temple.

The commander’s residence lay to the left of the headquarters; in the case of Hardknott we can deduce only intermittent use of the fort as this was left largely unfinished. The granaries lay to the right of the courtyard, with flooring raised up on piers to prevent infestation by vermin and promote air circulation. The site today is managed by English Heritage, which you can find out more about by watching the attached short video.

Bath House and Parade Grounds

The bath house lies externally from the main fort buildings and is comprised of several rooms. One would have housed the furnace, with three bathing rooms for hot, warm and cold bathing. A further circular room lying just to the left contained its own furnace and was used for steam like a modern sauna.

The parade grounds are also external, evidenced by a flat plateau approximately 200 metres to the east of the fort. It is here that soldiers would have practised drill manoeuvres and exercised. There is no evidence remaining of soldier’s accommodation, suggesting they were instead housed in leather tents.

In the PDF attachment you can find details of the walk that encompasses Hardknott Roman Fort.