High Rochester Roman Fort
The Roman fort of Bremenium lies within the modern parish of Rochester in upper Redesdale, and is situated just to the north of Rochester village on bluffs overlooking the Sills Burn to the west. The hamlet of High Rochester is enclosed within the fort circuit, and includes two bastles still used as dwellings and a couple of ruined cottages of uncertain date, as well as farm buildings and holiday cottages. The site is a scheduled ancient monument and lies within the Northumberland National Park.
The Roman name of the site, Bremenium, signifies "the place on the roaring stream" (Rivet and Smith 1979, 276-277), presumably a reference to the Sills Burn in spate. Bremenium long played an important role as an outpost fort beside Dere Street, the easterly Roman route into Scotland, and had a large mixed garrison usually consisting of a milliary equitate cohort and a unit of scouts (numerus exploratorum). The base was occupied during Flavian period and from Antonine period onwards with rebuilding phases in the early 3rd century and at the beginning of the 4th century. Military withdrawal from the site seems to have taken place in the early 4th century, perhaps under Constantine (Casey & Savage 1980).
A civil settlement has recently been located by geophysical work, lining Dere Street in the dip just to the east of the fort, an area previously dismissed as having been too marshy before modern drainage (Tomlinson 1888, 322; cf. Charlton & Mitcheson 1984, 1). A small annexe has been identified attached to the west side of the fort (Crow 1992; 1993, 2004a, 215-17), and a possible Iron Age (?) promontory fort has also been identified on this side beyond the annexe.
The main mortuary zone lay to the south-east of High Rochester. Four tombs, three square and one circular, situated beside Dere Street 750 m to the south-east of the fort, were excavated in the middle of the last century (Bosanquet 1933-1934). Only the circular one survives today. In 1975 a large cemetery of small barrows was discovered c. 250 m north-west of the tombs, next to Petty Knowes farm (Charlton & Mitcheson 1984).
A quarry exploited in the Roman period lies beside the cemetery. Other smaller clusters of similar burials are dispersed in the neighbourhood. A second funerary zone, attested by the reported finding of two tombstones, may have lined Dere Street just north-east of the fort on the north bank of the small stream known as Coal Cleugh.
Picture : Roman Quarry South East of Petty Knowes