Tyne and Wear HER(5262): Benwell, Condercum Fort, vicus - Details
Benwell, Condercum Fort, vicus
The precise extent of the vicus is not known, but it appears to have been a very large settlement, gathered around the road leading south from the fort. The bath house (HER 5263) was circa 274 metres south-west of the fort, the temple of Antenociticus (HER 5265) and associated burials circa 91.5 metres east. There may have been another temple in the vicinity of Condercum House, as indicated by a column shaft and 3 pieces of sculpture (or alternatively these may have merely been brought in to ornament the grounds of the house). A tombstone was found circa 500 yards (circa 458 metres) east of the fort, suggesting that this area included a cemetery. Pottery has been found as far as 450 metres from the southern defences. It seems unlikely that the vicus spread far to the west of the fort as trial trenching at Pendower Hall in 1977 and 2001 found no evidence of Roman activity. It is therefore possible that a very large vicus lay to the south and south-west of the fort. The vicus probably originated in timber under Severus, and was rebuilt in stone in the early C3. The southward road was lined with buildings north and south of the vallum, including a mansio (HER 5264). Excavations in the 1930s showed that the development of the vicus can be divided into 3 phases. Phase 1 - the vallum was infilled in the Severan period and a timber building was constructed east of the road, overlapping the north lip of the vallum ditch. A similar structure may have existed on the opposite side of the road. These structures subsided into the ditch and were destroyed by fire. Phase 2 - the subsided ruins of these buildings were levelled with rubbish and a number of stone houses and shops were built within the first half of the C3. Excavations revealed a strip-house with flagged floor and hearths, associated with C3 pottery and sealed by a layer of burning. To the south of this was another burnt building. Another stone strip-house was found in 1938 overlying the south lip of the vallum. It had double doors onto the road, perhaps a shop front. Fragments of querns were found in this structure. To the north of this, and west of the road, was a building with an oven and clay floor. A building was found with flagged floor and a possible kiln. Phase 3 - the burnt strip-house was rebuilt and the stone strip-house modified. The precise date of this phase is unknown, but C4 pottery up to 367 is known from the site. The vallum causeway and gate were later refurbished probably in order to fortify what remained of the substantial stone-built vicus which had grown up in place of the vallum. Excavations at Sunnybank Ave and Dorcas Avenue have provided evidence to suggest that the Vicus at Benwell may have been comparable to larger extra-mural settlements at Maryport and Birdoswald.
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