Castleshaw Roman Fort signpost

In Focus

Project Gallery 

Current residents oblivious of the survey   Risks and Issues - is the entrance to the site too cluttered?  
View NW along western rampart of fortlet   Risks and Issues - the hazard posed by the old trenches  
Remnants of the old field layout   Risks and Issues - is graffiti an issue?  


Castleshaw Roman Fort

Moving Forward: securing the future of Castleshaw Roman Forts

The Castleshaw Conservation Management Plan is now complete. We would like to thank all of those who help to make the project a success, including everyone who took part in the public consultation. NAA would like to wish the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Fort (FCRF) and the Castleshaw Working Party (CWP) every success with their future plans to conserve and enhance site.

For more information or to join the FCRF click here.

The following is preview of some of the report findings and potential recommendations or to download a copy of the final Castleshaw CMP click on the links.

icon-pdf-smallFinal Report

What makes Castleshaw so special?

The archaeological significance of the site has long been recognised; in fact Castleshaw was one of the first sites to be designated a scheduled monument back in 1935, affording it special protection. However, while this provides an idea of the national importance of the forts it does not really identify those specific elements which could so easily be lost or affected by any future changes. In order to assess these we have been looking at a broad range of criteria, not just the physical fabric of the monument but its setting, use, history, ecology, traditions, local distinctiveness and community value.

Undeniably, the quality, range and preservation of the archaeology at Castleshaw is the predominant factor contributing to its significance. As one of only 180 or so recognised Roman auxiliary forts in the country, the monument is of considerable importance alone, but it is the very rare opportunity of studying a fort, later fortlet, related civilian settlement and Roman road all together, in one place, that makes Castleshaw so exceptional. But it is not just the Roman archaeology which is of significance; there is also evidence of prehistoric occupation including an important Bronze Age pottery assemblage which is rare for the Oldham area. This suggests that the site may have been the focus of human activity thousands of years before the Romans ever set foot in Britain.

Connected, but not directly part of the archaeology of the site, one interesting element which has surfaced as being important is the long history of investigation and excavation at Castleshaw. Some of the greatest names in the discipline have been involved with the site, not least Sir Ian Richmond, later Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Oxford, who cut his teeth on establishing the first detailed chronology of the fort when he was still in his early twenties. Other figures of note include Ammon Wrigley local poet and writer who 'rediscovered' the site in the late 19th century, and Thomas Percival who, when he was not plotting the course of Roman roads, was the author of the first code of medical ethics in 1794.

The long history of excavation also tracks the development of archaeological field methods over the last century and a wide range of excavation techniques have been employed including the grid system developed by Mortimer Wheeler in the early 20th century, although now long since superseded. There is also a social history aspect to these works, with many local people having relatives who worked on the site and a number having fond memories themselves of battling the wind and the rain during the GMAU excavations in the 80s and 90s.

The level of interest shown during the public consultation programme undertaken as part of the project stands in itself as testimony to the affection in which the site is held. It is one of very few sites in the region with open access to Roman archaeology and the stunning location makes Castleshaw a stop off point for ramblers, long distance walkers and day visitors, as well as numerous school children who regularly visit as part of the Castleshaw Centre teaching programme. There is undoubtedly a huge amount of civic pride tied up in the site and a strong connection with local identity which goes beyond the historic and archaeological significance and taps into the powerful aesthetic and emotional responses Castleshaw evokes. So many people mentioned the importance of the peaceful isolation of the location and how it still encapsulated the harshness and remoteness of frontier life. The natural environment is obviously a key element contributing to this and the site is of considerable importance in ecological terms and several habitat communities are supported within the boundary of the study area including meadow pipits and snipe.

The future

The major challenge now facing the site is how best to enhance the public's experience of the forts without jeopardising any of those factors which make the place so special. A series of initiatives have been put forward in the Plan to improve interpretation which includes:

A programme of community excavation - this would predominately be a re-examination of the old excavation within the 1st century fort but might also include the opening of new areas to inform outstanding research questions. A research strategy for the site has been formulated as part of the Plan.

Website - to include details of the archaeology and history of the site, along with themed, downloadable site tours (including MP3 audio tours), activities, visitors' forum and online finds catalogue. These would all be targeted for various interest groups and ages.

Activity programme - looking at developing a programme of activities built around the significance of the site, not just the archaeology but also the ecology and history of Castleshaw and the wider valley. Events will also aim to attract new users including Walking For Health initiatives.

Touring exhibition - for those without direct internet access, a more traditional exhibition would be put together to tour local libraries and community centres.

Improving the onsite experience -a permanent visitors' centre on the site would not be in keeping with the overall sense of isolation and the important ecological balance of the area but other options are being explored. On site information will also be improved with the imminent erection of new interpretation panels.

Improving the access to finds information - finds from the site are stored in a number of local museums and public access is limited. One of the initiatives proposed in the CMP is the production of a database of all the Castleshaw material, containing photographs and details of the finds. This would be compiled with the help of volunteers and made available online.

All of the above are under discussion but the go ahead will depend on securing all important funding as well as necessary permissions. Nevertheless, an exciting future looks in store for Castleshaw with lots of opportunity for local people to get involved.

If you would like to get involved, then why not join the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts (FCRF) by emailing email: or write to: Friend of Castlshaw Roman Forts, c/o The Curator, Saddleworth Museum, Uppermill, Oldham, OL3 6HS

Click here for how to join the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts