Mastiles Lane marching camp from the air MYD4072 (c) YDNPA, 2023
The Mastiles Lane marching camp was probably built during the second half of the 1st century AD, when the Roman governor of Britain, Petillius Cerialis was forced to put down a rebellion among the Brigantes, the tribe which ruled over most of the north of England at that time. The camp lies on a high plateau and the flat open area would have made it perfect for marshalling and manoeuvering a large force of soldiers.
The camp is a large one, covering an area of nearly 8.1 hectares (20 acres). The site is defined by a slight but well-defined earthen bank 0.5 metres high and 5.2 metres wide, with superficial traces of an external ditch. Original entrances guarded by clavicula (curved internal extensions of the banks), on the north, east and south side are clearly recognisable from aerial photographs, but the bank on the west has been damaged by modern breaks.
Building marching camps was all part of the day’s work for a Roman soldier on the move. Soldiers carried trenching tools, baskets for moving the earth and two wooden stakes as part of their kit. As soon as the army came to a halt at the end of the day’s march, men would dig a rectangular ditch all around the area chosen, and throw up a bank inside it with the wooden stakes placed on top to form a palisade.
Inside the camp, the soldiers slept in leather tents, 8 men to each tent. The commander had his own tent, safe in the centre of the camp.
Welfare, H and Swann, V (1994) Roman Camps of Britain. London: HMSO