Dere Street - From York to Melrose in seven days.

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Dere Street is the Roman road from York to Chew Green situated at the eastern end of the
Roman Antonine wall. This road was a major supply route to the forts and the eastern section of both Roman walls Hadrians Wall and the Antonine wall.

The Start of Dere Street

Dere Street has a clear starting point at York and a clear direct route:

Up to the 1850s Dere Street was often referred to as Watling Street this has caused confusion in the past. Dere Street starts in York (Eburacum), and heads north via Aldborough, Catterick, Piercebridge, Binchester, Lanchester, Ebchester, Corbridge, Halton, Chesters, Risingham and High Rochester. Then finally on to complete the journey at Chew Green at the eastern end of the Antonine wall. There is a further extension of the road to Cappuck Marching Camp and Melrose, this makes the route unusual as it is one of the few roads to continue north of Hadrians wall.

The journey described in this Entry would have been possible between 100-200 AD. You will see 14 settlements and camps, from the grand to the rural, some of which existed just to serve the garrison of the fort near where they are built, and to give shelter to the travellers on Dere Street. The journey on foot will take a minimum of about seven days - that's assuming you walk eight hours a day, travelling an average of 32 to 33 miles per day. It is interesting to note that the longest distance between any two points on this journey is the 24 miles between Catterick and Aldborough. This is less than one day's travel for foot soldiers, although wagons and carts could be as slow as eight miles a day.
All distances given are starting from York.

The condition of the towns and sites today1.

1 = No longer visible. Or built over.

2 = Building platforms, mounds and crop marks.

3 = Some ruins are visible above ground.

4 = Visible site with museum support.

5 = A major site and tourist attraction.


Roman name: Eburacum
Translation: 'Place of Yew Trees'

Condition: 5

The name Eburacum has an alternate interpretation as the Land or estate of Ebracus or Ebros, this explains why in the history by Geoffrey of Monmouth the founding king of York was Ebracus.
Founded in 71 AD, York was originally a fortress for the Legion IX The Spanish or Hispania. It was constructed at a suitable point near the Rivers Fosse and Ouse where a bridge could be built. It had a ready supply of timber for construction work. And positioned on a sandstone outcrop and protected by the river Fosse to the south and the river Ouse to the east, and with substantial walls and the legionary fort, York thrived. The houses were mostly built from stone. The town had many fine stone municipal buildings, a legionary baths. The streets were mainly paved and the town was prosperous. Theatres and temples to the towns Gods.

In the years 209-211 AD Septimus Severus moved his imperial court to York and a palace was built. By 320 AD the city was capital of northern Britannia. Other visiting Emperors were Constantius I2 in 306 AD who is buried in the city, and his son Constantine the Great who took the imperial throne in York.

The city was the northern terminus of Ermine Street.

Roads leaving York at this important road junction:

  • To the north east to Malton (Derventio) 17 miles
  • On Ermine Street south east to Brough on Humber (Petvaria) 28 miles
  • To the south by ferry to Winteringham the southern ferry crossing point of the river Humber
  • On Ryknild Street south west to Tadcaster(Calcaria) 10 miles
  • To start your journey on Dere Street proceed north west to Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum) 15 miles

Total so far 0 miles.


Roman name: Isurium Brigantum
Condition: 3

Romano-British Tribal City of the Brigantes.
defended by stone walls and earth ramparts and ditches with strong gateways. There were paved streets a Basilica and several temples and alters, and a mansio3 and a bath house. The housing was of good quality with stone and timber-framed construction. The presents of the army is shown by;

Stamped on a tile Property Of Ninth Legion Hispanic.

A milestone was found three miles from the town, on Dere Street there were two inscribed pillars one dedicated to Caesar Gaius Messius and the other to Caesar, our lord Gaius Messius and date to about 230 AD.

To continue your journey:

  • On Dere Street continue north west to Catterick (Cataractonium) 24 miles.
  • To the east to Malton (Dervento) 24 miles.
  • To the south to Ilkley (Verbeia) 21 miles.
  • To the south to Newton Kyme 14 miles.

Total so far 15 miles.


Roman name: Cataractonium
Translation: 'The Waterfall Town'

Condition: 3

The fort was founded around 70 AD, and was in position to guard the supply route for the campaign into Scotland. The Roman civil settlement was prosperous and the home's were of timber and stone and mosaic floors were in evidence. There was a wide variety of shops in the town which had grown to a settlement of 15,000 sq metres, by this time, and enclosed by low earth and stone walls and a defensive ditch. At this time the fort was refurbished. The settlement had by this time expanded beyond the walls on either side of Dere Street and there is evidence of industry in the settlement outside the walls.

  • On Dere Street continue north to Piercebridge 12 miles
  • To the south east Aldborough 55 miles.

Total so far 35 miles.


Roman name: Morbium

Condition: 2

The fort was built in 125 AD, it was of a substantial size 45,000 sq meters, and there was a full range of buildings including a headquarters, barracks blocks, granaries and workshops, there was also a commanders house. The fort was of the standard layout similar in shape to a playing card. There was a gate in each of the four walls and the walls were protected by towers and there is some evidence that Dere Street passed through the fort. A settlement developed to the east of the fort the construction was of good quality with paved roads and buildings of stone and timber-framed construction with workshops and trading areas.

There is a crossing of the river Tees at Piercebridge, there is a stone arched bridge that carried Dere Street north.

  • On Dere Street continue north to Binchester 8 miles

Total so far 43 miles.


Roman name: Vinovium
Translation: 'The Winemakers Way'

Condition: 2

Built to control Dere Streets crossing of the River Wear, this is one of the largest forts in the area Constructed in a rectangular plan was a gate in each of the four walls and the walls were protected by towers. And there was a complex of stone and timber buildings built within the fort. The facilities included a heated bath house and workshops. There was a large settlement established around the fort, this included some civic buildings and public facilities. There was also a large cemetery with three military tombs.

  • On Dere Street continue north to Lanchester 14 miles
  • To the south west Bowes 17 miles.
  • To the east Chester le Street (Concangis) 15 miles.

Total so far 57 miles.


Roman name: Longovicium
Translation: 'The town of the fighting ship'

Condition: 3

The Roman Fort was built in 140 AD to house a garrison of 1000, these would have been cavalry and foot units. There is evidence that some of the men stationed here were from Spain and Germany. The fort was of the standard layout similar to Piercebridge and was in shape to a playing card. There was a gate in each of the four walls and the walls were protected by towers. And there was a complex of stone and timber buildings built within the fort, aqueducts were constructed to supply water to the fort. There was also a civilian settlement near the fort, there is evidence that the housing was of good quality with stone and timber-framed construction.

  • On Dere Street continue north to Ebchester 6 miles

Total so far 71 miles.


Roman name: Vindomora
Translation: 'The camp on the end of the Hill '

Condition: 3

The Roman Fort was built to house a unit of around 500 men the first recorded unit was Cohors Quartae Breucorum Antoninianae recruited from what is now Bosnia. The fort would have probably have housed a command headquarters, granaries, barracks and workshops. Although there is no evidence a small settlement would have grown up near the fort.

  • On Dere Street continue north to Corbridge 9 miles

Total so far 77 miles.

Stanegate Fort Corbridge

Roman name: Corstopitum
Translation: 'Valley of Great Noise'

Condition: 4

A Stanegate Fort founded in 79 AD, with command headquarters, granaries, barracks and workshops. The fort pre-dates the building of the Wall by approximately 43 years. The original garrison was probably a unit of 500 cavalry guarding a Bridge at the point when Dere Street crosses the River Tyne. After the construction of the Wall the fort was garrisoned by infantry units in support of the Wall itself.

  • On Dere Street continue north to Halton Chesters (Onnum) 3 miles
  • On Stanegate south east to Washing Wells 14 miles.
  • On Stanegate west to Chesters (Cilvernum) 7 miles.
  • On Dere Street south east to Ebchester (Vindomora) 10 miles.

Total so far 86 miles.

Wall Fort 11. Halton Chesters

Hadrian's Wall Fort and Settlement

Roman name: Onnum
Translation: 'The Rock'

Condition: 2

Hadrian's Wall Fort (size, 20,903 sq meters with an extension in the south west corner of 37500 sq meters) originally built by the Legion VI the Victrix. This fort was built across the wall and extended to the walls northern and southern sides with garrison of mainly infantry with cavalry support. The settlement on the southern side of the wall included well-built housing and a market and there was also a bath house and temple. The settlement and fort had access to Dere Street Roman road with access to the granary and store houses in the settlement. The gods of Onnum included Fortuna and the spirit of the Emperors.

  • On Dere Street continue north to Risingham 11 miles
  • To the north Learchild (Habitancum) 14 miles.
  • To the west follow the wall Rudchester (Vindobala) 8 miles.
  • To the east follow the wall Chesters (Cilvrnum) 6 miles.

Total so far 89 miles.


Roman name: Habitancum
Condition: 2

First built in 189 AD, and located south of the River Rede and on the eastern side of Dere Street. The fort was first built to guard the river crossing and support the Antonine expansion north of Hadrian's wall, under the orders of Emperor Severus. The original fort was rebuilt in stone in 206 AD, with gates in the northern, southern and western walls. It was usually garrisoned by 1,000 foot and horse troops. There was a bath-house built within the walls of the fort, and a small trading and service settlement developed nearby.

  • On Dere Street continue north to High Rochester 10 miles

Total so far 100 miles.

High Rochester

Roman name: Bremenium
Translation: 'The Roaring Stream'

Condition: 2

The fort at Bremenium is sited south east of Dere Street, with substantial stone walls enclosing an area of 18,400 sq metres, with stone walls protected by ditches. There was a gate in each wall and the buildings within the walls were mainly stone. And there are traces of platforms for light artillery pieces. The fort was provided with a garrison that was a mixture of horse and foot troops numbering 500 strong. There are also several 'marching camps' in the area surrounding the fort.

  • On Dere Street continue north to Chew Green 9 miles
  • To the east Learchild (Alavana) 7 miles.

Total so far 110 miles.

Chew Green

Condition: 2

The Chew Green Marching camps were not permanent; they were banks enclosed by ditches, with wooden walls with gates and watchtowers. They would be built by a legion at the end of a day's march to provide shelter for the troops whilst moving through hostile territory. The enclosed area was used to set up the legion's tents and house the legion's supplies. There has been a succession of camps (2) and forts (1) and fortlets (2) built on the site showing many phases of military activity.

From here the route of Dere Street is not certain, however some sources suggest that it terminates at Melrose so to complete the journey this section has been included.

  • To the north Cappuck Marching Camp 9 miles
  • To the north Melrose 26 miles

Total so far on Dere Street 119 miles.

Cappuck Marching Camp

Condition: 2

Built by a legion at the end of a day's march to provide shelter for the troops whilst moving through hostile territory.

  • To the north Melrose 16 miles

Total so far 128miles.


Roman name: Trimontium

Condition: 2

The fort built in 80 AD was garrisoned for about 100 years At its largest the fort was 60700 sq meters and the garrison was 1000 infantry and 500 cavalry. In al the fort extended to 80937 sq meters of fortified areas and enclosures grouped around a parade ground. A large settlement developed to support the garrison there were shrines and a military amphitheatre. The water supply for the fort and town came from over 200 wells dug around the site.

Journey Total 154 miles.

1Please note this is based on personal visits and a thorough search of the sites on the internet. Please use this as a guide only, and check any site prior to any visit.2He was the father of Constantine the Great, the founder of Constantinople.3 The privately owned mansios were also established along the routes, to provide basic hostel-like accommodation.

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