Record Details

NHER Number:27513
Type of record:Monument
Name:Cropmarks of ring ditches, Iron Age or early Roman field system and a mid to late Roman vicus


Two possible Bronze Age round barrows or Iron Age roundhouses, an Iron Age or early Roman field system and a mid to late Roman settlement are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs. The mid to late Roman settlement is represented by cropmarks of a road and enclosures and would have been a 'vicus' associated with Caister Roman shore fort (NHER 8675). It extended for up to 720m to the southwest of the fort and much of its site is now covered by housing.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 51203 12199
Map Sheet:TG51SW

Full description

August 2005. Norfolk NMP.
Cropmarks of an Iron Age to Roman field system and a mid to late Roman vicus and road and are visible on aerial photographs (S1 to S8). These cropmarks were previously recorded as part of NHER 12872 and 11657 and are centred on TG 5120 1220. This complex of cropmarks extends for up to 720m to the southwest of the fort and is likely to represent the vicus to the west of Caister Roman shore fort (NHER 8675) and an adjoining earlier field system.

Two parallel ditch cropmarks are present on a curving east to west alignment between TG 5153 1235 and TG 5133 1232. The ditches are up 2.5m wide and are spaced up to 7.5m apart. It is likely that these ditches define the main Roman road leading to the west gate of the fort. The location of the west gate is not known, but the projected line of this road would place it almost centrally on the west side of the fort. A previously published plot of these cropmarks places them slightly too far to the south (S9). The eastern continuation of this road was not positively identified by previous excavations in this area (NHER 12872 and 8675). However, the slight inaccuracy of the earlier cropmark plot may mean that ditches identified in the ‘Tessera Park’ excavation did relate to this cropmark (S9). Two parallel ditches extend for 100m to the northwest of the main road cropmark between TG 5149 1234 and TG 5143 1241. These ditches have been interpreted as a second road leading off of the first. However they appear to overlap the main road to the south and are possibly part of a separate group of enclosures of earlier date. In particular the western ditch appears to be attached to a rectilinear enclosure on its northeast side. This incomplete enclosure measures 40m by at least 28m. A second group of ditches on a similar alignment, immediately to the north around TG 5148 1242, may be of contemporary date.

At least one incomplete rectilinear enclosure is present to the south side of the main road around TG 5140 1230. This is cut to the south by the modern A1064 Norwich Road but measures at least 38m by 45m. Immediately to the west was a further group of incomplete rectilinear enclosures that appear to be cut by the road. Further rectilinear enclosures are present to the south of Norwich Road (S2 to S6). An enclosure measuring 55m by 45m is centred on TG 5135 1222. The eastern side of this is formed by two 2m wide parallel ditches possibly defining a 6m wide north to south aligned road. However the northern end of this road appears to be blocked by a west to east aligned ditch. Underlying these ditches were northwest to southeast aligned ditches of probable earlier Roman or late prehistoric date. This group of rectilinear enclosures to the north and south of Norwich Road form part of the western vicus associated with the Roman fort (NHER 8675). Metal detecting prior to the construction of Caister bypass recovered a concentration of Roman coins in a strip 100m either side of Norwich road, corresponding to the location of these enclosures (NHER 12872). The date range of these coins, from the late 2nd to late 4th centuries, was equivalent to the operational life of the fort.

A north to south aligned ditch cropmark between TG 5126 1209 and TG 5128 1222 provides a link between the rectilinear enclosures in the northeast of the group and the southwest to northeast aligned enclosures to the southwest. Two ditches extend for up to 90m to the east of the north to south aligned ditch. These ditches are roughly parallel to the rectilinear enclosure 30m to their north and are likely to be of a contemporary mid to late Roman date. Two ditches also extend to the west of the north to south ditch. One of these forms the southern side of an incomplete rectilinear enclosure centred on TG 5125 1217. This enclosure overlapped a southwest to northeast aligned ditch that extends for 106m between TG 5118 1217 and TG 5127 1222. This ditch forms the axis of a rectilinear field system which appears to partly underlie the mid to late Roman vicus enclosures. A roughly square field in the earlier field system, measuring 49m by 52m, is located at TG 5121 1216. An incomplete ring ditch with a 16m diameter is present in the northern part this field. A second ring ditch with a 14m diameter is located further to the northeast at TG 5128 1224. It is possible that these ring ditches could relate to Iron Age roundhouses or Bronze Age round barrows. Two alignments of parallel ditches to the south and southwest of this field at TG 5119 1212 and TG 5125 1207 probably represent trackways between fields. This field system appears to extend across the whole of the southern and western part of the cropmark complex. However, the cropmarks are too intermittent for any other individual fields to be clearly defined and several phases of field system are probably present. It is likely that the northwest to southeast ditches around TG 5136 1222 and enclosures at TG 5148 1240 form a continuation of this field system to the northeast.

This group of cropmark contains at least two phases on different alignments. The earliest of these lies on a southwest to northeast alignment and extends for 640m by 300m across the whole area. This rectilinear field system has a similar alignment to more extensive field system and enclosure cropmarks located 800m to the northwest (NHER 27512). It is likely that this field system is of Iron Age to early Roman date. The presence of the ring ditch cropmarks may indicate contemporary settlement activity. Evidence for early Roman activity in this vicinity comes from the excavation of an enclosure ditch at TG 5119 1234, which was not visible as a cropmark (NHER 12737). Pottery of 1st century date was recovered during this excavation, confirming the presence of early Roman activity in this area prior to the construction of the fort.

A group of roughly west to east aligned rectilinear enclosures is present along a road to the west of the fort. These enclosures form part of the vicus associated with the fort and probably date to the mid 2nd to mid 4th centuries. Although these enclosures overlie the earlier southwest to northeast aligned field system close to the fort, the direct relationship between the two is uncertain. It is possible that some elements of the earlier field system in the southwest could have remained in use alongside the new vicus development.

The full extent of the Caister vicus is not known, although isolated finds and excavations indicate that it also continued on the south and southeast sides of the fort (NHER 8675 and 35843). The limited cropmark evidence from Caister can be contrasted with that of the other Norfolk shore fort vici. Unlike Brancaster, and to a lesser extent Burgh Castle, the limited cropmark evidence from Caister does not suggest an extensive well planned extra mural settlement was present around the fort. The rectilinear east to west aligned enclosures to the west of the fort only overlie part of the existing field system. This suggests that the main focus of the vicus lay to the south and southeast of the fort. This location may have been chosen because it lay between the shoreline and the fort, making it ideal for trade and industrial activities.

Although much of the area around the fort was covered by housing development in the later 20th century, this is not the principle reason for the lack of cropmark evidence to the south and southeast of the fort. Earlier aerial photographs, pre dating the housing developments, do not show any cropmarks in these areas. Excavations to the southeast of the fort have identified thick colluvial deposits overlying the Roman layers that may have prevented any cropmark formation (NHER 35843). A possible west to east road had previously been identified between approximately TG 5119 1217 and TG 5167 1217 (S9). However, no evidence of this road was visible as a cropmark. Part of this cropmark complex was destroyed by Caister bypass and a further area to the north of Norwich Road has been covered by housing development.
J. Albone (NMP), 15 August 2005.

Monument Types

  • RING DITCH (Unknown date)
  • RING DITCH (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • ROUND BARROW? (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • FIELD (Early Iron Age to Roman - 800 BC to 409 AD)
  • FIELD SYSTEM (Early Iron Age to Roman - 800 BC to 409 AD)
  • RECTILINEAR ENCLOSURE (Early Iron Age to Roman - 800 BC to 409 AD)
  • RING DITCH (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • ROUND HOUSE (DOMESTIC)? (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • SETTLEMENT (Early Iron Age to Roman - 800 BC to 409 AD)
  • TRACKWAY (Early Iron Age to Roman - 800 BC to 409 AD)
  • RECTILINEAR ENCLOSURE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • ROAD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • SETTLEMENT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • VICUS (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status


Sources and further reading

<S1>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 5036 09-JUL-1946 (NHER TG 5112A).
<S2>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1974. NHER TG 5112E-H (NLA 12/ACU5-9) 12-JUL-1974.
<S3>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1974. NHER TG 5112J (NLA 12/SLIDE) 12-JULY-1974.
<S4>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1979. NHER TG 5112S-T (NLA 72 AMR1, AMR16) 17-JUL-1979.
<S5>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A.. 1979. NHER TG 5112AH-AJ (AAF 201/21-22) 30-JUL-1979.
<S6>Oblique Aerial Photograph: CUCAP. 1976. CUCAP BYB71 24-JUN-1976.
<S7>Oblique Aerial Photograph: CUCAP. 1976. CUCAP BYB75 24-JUN-1976.
<S8>Oblique Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1977. NHER TG 5112P-R (NLA 55/AKW14-15, AKW18) 01-AUG-1977.
<S9>Monograph: Darling, M. J. and Gurney, D. 1993. Caister-on-Sea Excavations by Charles Green, 1951-55. East Anglian Archaeology. No 60. pp 42-43; Fig 5.

Related records

52660Related to: Features recorded in southern portion of the Ormesby St Margaret Pipeline (Monument)

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