A wide choice of topics covered from the dawn of history right up to present days . Many of these have a wider relevance than purely within the context of Strathearn . The author's viewpoint often is at variance with the accepted opinions espoused elsewhere eg The Jacobite Uprisings and The Reformation .
Sunday, 14 July 2013
A Roman Fort on the Edge of Their World
Fendoch The Forgotten
I accumulatedamongstmy post cardcollection of Crieff and Strathearn a late
Victorianor early Edwardian picture of
a horsedrawn charabanc ( bus ) drawn up
at a place called Fendoch at the entranceto the Sma Glenand entitled “
Roman Camp , entranceto the Sma Glen
near Methven “ Apartfrom the factthat it was somewhat closerto Crieffthan Methven , itdepicted ascene all butforgotten locally . In the days priorto the automobile , it was a popularexcursionfor the better off
citizens of the town toenjoy a Sunday afternoon trip up by horse
drawn coach into the mysterious hinterland that lay northwards of the Strath .
Indeeduntil comparatively recentlythere was an aging signpainted on the gable end of a houseon East High Street stating “ McArthur’s
Charabancstrips to the Sma Glen ” The
destination was the Amulree Hotel on the road to Dunkeld and Aberfeldy . An old
coaching inn itwas allegedly thebase for General Wade who withthe assistance ofmore than a few Highlandersconstructed a network of militaryhighways to facilitatemovement ofthe Hanoverian redcoats in theirtask of “ pacifying “ the Highlandsin the aftermath of1714 Rising .
the “ Roman Camp “ locatedat
Fendochwas a point of interest en route
to their ultimate destination .
Why did the Romansconstruct not just a fort buta
camp in such an isolatedspot ? We
havecovered in previous blogs thefascinating tale of the Gask Ridge , the
oldest Roman frontier in the World.
Thanksto the detailedand well documented investigationsby Professors David Woolliscroft and Birgitta
Hoffman we are able to piecetogether a
fascinating account of this turbulent period in ourhistory . Theirpublication “ Rome’s
First Frontier “ ( The History Press.Stroud . 2011 ) includes their analysis of
Fendoch ‘s location and function . Fendoch was termeda “ glen blocker “ - intendedby the Romans as a preventativemeasure against intrusionby the Caledonii tribeswho inhabitedthewildterrain north of the Gask Ridgedefensive line .
Fendoch was first excavated in 1936 and 1939 by Richmond
and McIntyre and their plan of the site became quite famous . It
transpiresfrom Woolliscroft’sfindings that perhaps the accuracy of the
information on this plan is somewhat suspect The fort was not excavated in
entirety and it appearsthat Richmondand McIntyre interpolatedtheirfindings andmade more than a few
assumptionsbasedon alimiteddig .
It isclear however
that Fendoch didfollowa similarpattern of layout to the
“ standard “ type fortconstructedby the Romansin the Gask Ridge vicinity in the 1st
Century AD . What type of buildings were constructed within it’s ramparts? According
to Woolliscroft it would in probability have had an administrative block ,
store rooms and offices andin all
probability a shrine to the gods . The commanding officer would have had a
separate dwelling from the barracks whilst therewould have been a granary . In the case of
Fendoch , ovenswere discoveredbuilt into theexternal rampart . There may have been a
workshop and hospital accommodation . Probablestrength wasbetween 500 and 1
000 men . Ithad been assumedprior to the secondinvestigationthat Fendoch
existed as a single phaseoccupancy
being abandoned systematically when the Romans withdrew. A pollen analysis has suggested that there would
havea lack of suitable treesto use in the construction of the fort
andthat these would have to have been
broughtfrom further a field . These
givescredence to the belief that
thesetimberswouldhave been dismantled andremoved
rather than merely burned on the abandonment .
Recentfindingsof pottery and other artefactssuggest that the occupancy was perhaps
earlier than had been initially thought . Findings were Samian ( 69 -79 ) and
late Neronian ( 54 – 68 ) .
It hasbeen the
beliefsince the initial excavations in
those far off pre war daysthat to the
west of the fort , the Romans had constructed a watch tower of thetype found on the Gask Ridge . Woolliscroft
has raised some doubtsconcerning this
and no doubt future excavationswill
throwlight on its authenticity .
Recent excavationscarried outonaccount of the Beauly to Denny power
linehave revealed an iron age( 1000 BC ) settlement androundhouses similarto those found at Pittentian near Crieff .
Fendoch is intriguing and an oft forgotten part ofour local Roman heritage. One truststhat it will soonrecover some of
its past glory !