Fendoch The Forgotten
I accumulated amongst my post card collection of Crieff and Strathearn a late Victorian or early Edwardian picture of a horse drawn charabanc ( bus ) drawn up at a place called Fendoch at the entrance to the Sma Glen and entitled “ Roman Camp , entrance to the Sma Glen near Methven “ Apart from the fact that it was somewhat closer to Crieff than Methven , it depicted a scene all but forgotten locally . In the days prior to the automobile , it was a popular excursion for the better off citizens of the town to enjoy a Sunday afternoon trip up by horse drawn coach into the mysterious hinterland that lay northwards of the Strath . Indeed until comparatively recently there was an aging sign painted on the gable end of a house on East High Street stating “ McArthur’s Charabancs trips to the Sma Glen ” The destination was the Amulree Hotel on the road to Dunkeld and Aberfeldy . An old coaching inn it was allegedly the base for General Wade who with the assistance of more than a few Highlanders constructed a network of military highways to facilitate movement of the Hanoverian redcoats in their task of “ pacifying “ the Highlands in the aftermath of 1714 Rising . the “ Roman Camp “ located at Fendoch was a point of interest en route to their ultimate destination .
Why did the Romans construct not just a fort but a camp in such an isolated spot ? We have covered in previous blogs the fascinating tale of the Gask Ridge , the oldest Roman frontier in the World . Thanks to the detailed and well documented investigations by Professors David Woolliscroft and Birgitta Hoffman we are able to piece together a fascinating account of this turbulent period in our history . Their publication “
First Frontier “ ( The History Press.Stroud . 2011 ) includes their analysis of
Fendoch ‘s location and function . Fendoch was termed a “ glen blocker “ - intended by the Romans as a preventative measure against intrusion by the Caledonii tribes who inhabited
the wild terrain north of the Gask Ridge defensive line . Rome
Fendoch was first excavated in 1936 and 1939 by
and McIntyre and their plan of the site became quite famous . It
transpires from Woolliscroft’s findings that perhaps the accuracy of the
information on this plan is somewhat suspect The fort was not excavated in
entirety and it appears that Richmond and McIntyre interpolated their
findings and made more than a few
assumptions based on a
limited dig . Richmond
It is clear however that Fendoch did follow a similar pattern of layout to the
“ standard “ type fort constructed by the Romans in 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 and in all probability a shrine to the gods . The commanding officer would have had a separate dwelling from the barracks whilst there would have been a granary . In the case of Fendoch , ovens were discovered built into the external rampart . There may have been a workshop and hospital accommodation . Probable strength was between 500 and 1 000 men . It had been assumed prior to the second investigation that Fendoch existed as a single phase occupancy being abandoned systematically when the Romans withdrew. A pollen analysis has suggested that there would have a lack of suitable trees to use in the construction of the fort and that these would have to have been brought from further a field . These gives credence to the belief that these timbers would have been dismantled and removed rather than merely burned on the abandonment .
Recent findings of pottery and other artefacts suggest that the occupancy was perhaps earlier than had been initially thought . Findings were Samian ( 69 -79 ) and late Neronian ( 54 – 68 ) .
It has been the belief since the initial excavations in those far off pre war days that to the west of the fort , the Romans had constructed a watch tower of the type found on the Gask Ridge . Woolliscroft has raised some doubts concerning this and no doubt future excavations will throw light on its authenticity .
Recent excavations carried out on account of the Beauly to Denny power line have revealed an iron age ( 1000 BC ) settlement and roundhouses similar to those found at Pittentian near Crieff .
Fendoch is intriguing and an oft forgotten part of our local Roman heritage . One trusts that it will soon recover some of its past glory !