Ambleside

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1936

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'Ambleside', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland (1936), pp. 1-4. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=120725 Date accessed: 20 September 2014.


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AN INVENTORY OF THE ANCIENT AND HISTORICAL MONUMENTS IN THE COUNTY OF WESTMORLAND

ACCREDITED TO A DATE BEFORE 1714 Arranged by Parishes

(Unless otherwise stated, the dimensions given in the Inventory are internal. Monuments with titles printed in italics are covered by an introductory sentence to which reference should be made. The key-plans of those churches which are not illustrated by hatched plans are drawn to a uniform scale of 48 ft. to the inch, with the monumental portions shown in solid black.)

1 AMBLESIDE (B.e.)

(O.S. 6 in. (a)XXVI, N.W., (b)XXVI, S.W., (c)XXVI, S.E.)

Ambleside is a small town and parish at the N. end of Windermere. The Roman station is the principal monument.

Roman

b(1). Roman Fort, in Borrans Field at the junction of the Rothay and Brathay rivers, lies on a flat delta of alluvial sand, with a rocky knoll to the N.W. The excavations conducted by Prof. R.G. Collingwood in 1913–15 and in 1920 showed the existence of two forts, the earlier of the Flavian period and the later, partly overlying it, of the 2nd to the 4th century. The first fort enclosed about 1¾ acres and the second about 2½ acres.

Fort I is in outline an irregular quadrilateral; it measures 300 ft. (N. to S.) by 250 ft. internally and lies rather to the N.E. of the later fort (Fort II). Excavation showed a rampart of puddled clay on a clay and cobble foundation, a 5 ft. berm and double ditches averaging 25–30 ft. in width. All the buildings were of wood. The main gate was in the E. side and was a single entrance with guardrooms on either side. The only other gate was in the centre of the N. side with a guardroom to the W. and a crossditch to the E. There were wooden towers along the rampart and at the angles; at the N.W. corner a rocky knoll was used as a look-out and incorporated in the fort, the W. lines being diverted westwards so as to include it. The construction of the later fort obliterated most of the remains of the internal buildings, but sufficient evidence was secured to show that the headquarters building may have occupied the normal position, looking down the via pratoria, with two granaries to the N. and presumably the commandant's house N. of the granaries. The fort was probably built during Agricola's northern campaign in A.D. 79; in the opinion of the excavator the occupation lasted only a few years.

Fort II. The 2nd-century fort overlies the S.W. two-thirds of the Agricolan fort and is roughly rectangular, with internal measurements 395 ft. (E. to W.) by 270 ft. The earlier fort was levelled and incorporated into an artificial gravel platform for the later structure, the site thus being raised higher above flood-level. Unlike the early fort, the later one does not include the knoll to the N.W. of the site, though this may conceivably still have been used as a watchtower; instead it extends some 50 yards farther W., so that its N.W. angle touches the old bed of the Rothay river.

The rampart of the new fort consists of a 4 ft. stone wall with a clay backing 10 ft. thick, separated from the double ditches (not everywhere explored), on the N. and E. at least, by a berm averaging 20 ft. in width. The gates are of stone, as are the angletowers, which are of the usual pattern. The main gate is, as before, in the E. side and is double, with guardrooms on either side. The other gates have only a gate-passage with flanking walls. The S. gate has a monolithic threshold 9¾ ft. long with a door-check and two pivot holes 7 ft. 8 in. apart.

The principal buildings, which are also of stone, face E. The headquarters building, which was excavated in 1914 and found to be badly robbed, measures 68 ft. (N. to S.) by 75 ft. and is of simple plan. A 5 ft. gravel road leads into the courtyard, which also has a gravel floor; on the N., E. and S. sides are the foundations of a portico about 11 ft. wide, which probably had a penthouse-roof carried on wooden posts and dripping into a gutter set forward 2 ft. from the walls; this gutter is connected with a drain, made of local slates, which passes under the cross-hall to emerge at the S.W. corner of the building. Beyond the courtyard is a cross-hall, with a mud floor, averaging 64 ft. by 19 ft., with a tribunal or dais about 10 ft. square in the N.W. corner. A line of buildingstones 4 ft. wide and projecting 10 ft. into the crosshall S. of the sacellum, if it is a wall at all, is a late insertion. At the back of the cross-hall is the usual range of small rooms, but three instead of five in number. The central room, the sacellum, has a sunk strong-room approached by three steps; there was nothing to prove that the latter construction was secondary. South of the headquarters building is the commandant's house, consisting of a series of small rooms fronting on a court, forming the usual courtyard type. It was not completely excavated, but its plan is rhomboidal and its dimensions are 78 ft. (N. to S.) by 69 ft. N. of the headquarters building is a double granary, 66 ft. square overall, with outer walls 3 ft. thick and supported by buttresses. The N. and S. walls have basement-ventilators between the buttresses; those in the S. wall are splayed inwards and those in the N. wall, which shows signs of rebuilding, are cut straight. Of the seven internal dividing walls, the northernmost and three southernmost are sleeper-walls to support the floors, the remaining pair, of the same thickness as the outer walls, are side walls to their respective granaries, leaving an interval which may have been unroofed. The remaining space was occupied by wooden barracks, etc., parallel to the longer axis of the fort; details and stratification had been destroyed by the plough.


Ambleside. Roman Forts.

Ambleside. Roman Forts.

The site is now in the guardianship of the National Trust and the excavated remains of the following buildings of the second fort are preserved: the headquarters building, granary, commandant's house, E. and S. gates and N.W. and N.E. angle-towers. The tops of all walls have been turfed and, except in the commandant's house, the walls have been levelled up where necessary to show the plan; the missing walls of the headquarters building have been marked out in stone. The ditches have not been cleared and show only as shallow depressions.

In addition to the main fort the following subsidiary constructions have been noted: (1) A paved area outside the main gate probably represents the paradeground. (2) In the centre of the rocky knolls N. of the fort a patch of ground about ¾ acre in extent produced signs of occupation and points to the existence of some sort of vicus (civil settlement). (3) Against the outside of the S. rampart the excavations of 1915 revealed a deposit of cobbles and waterworn gravel 20 ft. wide sloping down towards the lake and retained at its outer edge by large cobbles. It continues for a short distance round the S.E. corner as a low cobble retaining wall. Pottery found suggested it is not all of one date but had been added to periodically. Apparently it is a breakwater to protect the S. rampart during floods and southerly gales. (4) S. of the S.E. corner of the fort there are traces in the lake, at an average distance of 20 ft. from the normal shore-line, of a wall, nowhere more than a course high above the silt, composed principally of water-worn boulders and cobbles. Its total length is 270 ft. Two explanations have been put forward that it is a breakwater or a quay. Local conditions, e.g. depth of water and the absence of any paving and approach from the land, appear to rule out the latter. It appears best to consider the structure as a breakwater against southerly gales. There is no direct evidence of Roman date, but there seems no other date to which it can reasonably be assigned.

In regard to the dating of the site the pottery excavated suggests, first, a temporary Agricolan occupation of uncertain duration (c. A.D. 80); secondly, a late Trajanic or early Hadrianic re-occupation (i.e. c. A.D. 110–120). Thereafter, although Antonine and 3rd-century relics are not numerous, there is no positive evidence that the site was abandoned until the end of the 4th century. The large quantities of 'signal-station' pottery found during the excavations suggest a fairly intense occupation after the Picts War of 368, and it seems likely that the fort was manned until the final evacuation of Hadrian's Wall.

The coins found during the excavations were: Trajan, 1; Faustina II, 1; Julia Domna, 1; Constantine II, 1; Valens, 1. These and the other finds are in the Armitt Library, Ambleside.

[See C. and W. Trans. N.S. XIV, 433; XV, 1; XVI, 57; XXI, 1. Inscriptions, C.I.L. VII, 293; Eph. Epig. VII, 949–950. Finds outside the Fort, C. and W. Trans. N.S. II, 31; V, 186.]

Condition—Good; under the guardianship of the National Trust.

Ecclesiastical

b(2). Parish Church of St. Mary, to the S.W. of the town, is an entirely modern structure of 1854. It contains from the older chapel of St. Anne (a chapel of Grasmere), re-built in 1812 and still standing N.E. of the town, the following:—

Fittings—Book: Authorised version of the Bible of 1611, bound in boards and leather with brass mounts. Plate: includes a cup and steeple-cover (Plate 55) of 1618 given by James Newton to the chapel in 1684, secular cup with embossed bowl and foot, scrolled brackets to stem, steeple-cover also embossed; also a pewter flagon, cup and alms-dish.

Condition—Modern building.

Secular

a(3). Market Cross, in the market-place, is an octagonal tapering shaft of stone, perhaps of mediæval date, set on a modern base.

Condition—Good.

a(4). House on Bridge (Plate 61) over Stock Gill, 360 yards N.E. of the church. The Bridge is a rubble structure of one span with a segmental arch. On the middle of this is set the small square House, projecting slightly on two sides over the stream. It is a rubble building of two storeys with a slate-covered roof and has exposed ceiling-beams. Both house and bridge are probably of late 17th or early 18th-century date, and the house is said to have been built as a gardenhouse.

Condition—Good.

a(5). Low Sweden Bridge, over Scandale Beck, ¾ m. N. of the church, is a rubble structure of one span with a roadway about 10 ft. wide. The arch is segmental and the bridge may perhaps date from the 17th century.

Condition—Good.

a(6). High Sweden Bridge, over Scandale Beck, about ¾ m. N. of (5), is of similar construction to that just described. It is about 6 ft. wide and has no parapets.

Condition—Good.

Monuments (7–17)

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys. The walls are of rubble and the roofs are slate-covered. Some of the buildings have exposed ceiling-beams.

Condition—Good or fairly good.

a(7). Nook End Farm, house, 120 yards S.S.W. of (5), was built perhaps early in the 18th century and contains a moulded batten and plank partition of the local type.

a(8). House on the W. side of Nook Lane, 650 yards N.N.E. of the church, has been much altered. On the S. front is a tablet with the date 1661, and a second tablet bears the initials and date M.H. 1818.

a(9). House, 100 yards S.W. of St. Anne's Chapel, was built perhaps early in the 18th century.

a(10). Chapel Hill, house, 25 yards S.W. of St. Anne's Chapel, has a cross-wing at the N.E. end and a second wing on the N.W. side. A door on the N.W. front is panelled and has a scutcheon-plate dated 1693. Several windows in the building retain their solid frames with mullions. The chimney-stacks have original cylindrical shafts. Inside the building is an original newel staircase with solid steps and there are some old battened doors.

a(11). Oaks Farm, house, two tenements, 120 yards E.S.E. of St. Anne's Chapel, has a wing on the N. side In it is an original window with a solid frame and mullions. Inside the building is a partition of the local type with moulded muntins and planks; there are also two old panelled doors.

b(12). Two Warehouses, S.E. of the market-place, were built perhaps early in the 18th century. The eastern one has two original windows of four lights with mullions and diamond-shaped bars.

b(13). House and shop, at the N.E. corner of Church Street, has an added kitchen at the back and a separate block still farther to the W. The shop is mainly modern. The original N. chimney-stack has a cylindrical or oval shaft.

b(14). House, two tenements, on the W. side of Old Road, 730 yards S.S.E. of the church, retains an original window with solid frame and mullion.

b(15). Low Fold, cottage, 30 yards S. of (14).

b(16). Wateredge Hotel, 1,150 yards S. of the church, has been much altered and added to. It contains two old panelled doors.

c(17). High Skelgill, house, nearly 1½ m. S.E. of the church, is of late 17th or early 18th-century date.



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