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Roman Wall - grant for survey work
A grant has been received to carry out initial survey work of the present condition of the Roman Wall at the Community Centre


A grant of £6,360 will make it possible to find out what needs to be done to conserve the remains of the Roman walls which once protected Horncastle. They're thought to date back around 1,800 years and may have begun to fall into disrepair as the Romans withdrew from Britain in the years up to AD 410.

The project has been made possible by a number of organisations working together, coordinated by Sheila Jonkers of the History and Heritage Society: English Heritage, Historic England, Historic Lincolnshire, Horncastle Community Centre Association and Horncastle History and Heritage Society.

The grant will enable a report to be prepared on the condition of the visible remains of the walls. An ecologist will report on whether there are any protected species of flora or fauna in or near the walls. A horticulturist with specialist knowledge of working on ancient sites, will deal with vegetation, especially a large, live tree stump embedded in one section and decide on, or advise on, the management of an adjacent large Dutch elm tree. A specialist consultant will also undertake a metric survey and recording as a base line for recording current conditions. This will provide scaled elevation images for mark up by the architect/surveyor. Once the condition of the walls has been assessed, then English Heritage will estimate the cost of conservation, to prevent further deterioration (but not to rebuild the walls).

Originally, the walls would have been faced with Spilsby green sandstone, but after the Romans left Horncastle, the stone was taken for other uses – some can be seen in the structure of St Mary's Parish Church.

Sheila Jonkers, from the History and Heritage Society, who has coordinated the fund raising, says the old Roman town fortifications are thought to have been built in the second century AD, taking over what had been an Iron Age settlement of the Coritani tribe. Aerial surveys show evidence of fields, which indicate that Iron Age people lived around present-day Horncastle. The settlement would have been attractive to the Romans – it had water, it was not far from the sea, as the Wash was then but nine miles distant and salt was available to preserve fish and other foodstuffs.

Roman Horncastle was not thought to be a military settlement from what has been found in excavations: it was a Walled Settlement of about two hectares (five acres). The boundaries were round the back of the Manor House, the Library (where there is a south bastion) and then Manor House Street and the north side of the Market Place, where it is thought overlapping sections of the walls gave further protection from from invaders.

In the 1970s, when Horncastle Library was built, some archaeological work was carried out, which showed that the walls were trapezoidal in shape. They were massive fortifications – four metres thick (around 13 feet) – with bastions built integral in the wall, as they are at Caistor, 21 miles to the north.

The Romans are thought to have arrived in the area in AD 78 . Sheila Jonkers says: "No military artefacts have been found from Roman times in Horncastle, but they were protecting something of strategic importance, as at Caistor. They may have had a connection to the Saxon shore forts (built to keep out marauding Saxons), so within the walls in Horncastle, there may have been administrative or storage facilities, which the Romans needed to protect. It was a thriving community, although small. There was a large unwalled settlement outside of 135 acres and that's where pottery shards have been found. That covered Mareham Road, Boston Road and indeed so many shards were once found, that they were put in a wheelbarrow and put back in the ground!

"Some of the remains found were of luxury pottery, imported from Gaul (present day France)”.

The population of Roman Horncastle is not known; nor are the trades practised in the settlement – but the Romans' legionaries were organised into groups and regiments, some of which had been trained in specific skills, such as road building, masonry, carpentry.

Today, a lot more is known to survive from the Roman walls under the surface than above ground. A small section can be seen near Dog Kennel Yard; there are traces in a shop; in the former Dexel Tyre and Auto premises in Wharf Road; on the corner of Manor House Street at the site of the former Manor House NHS Centre, with some in the grounds. Originally, the walls would have been faced with Spilsby green sandstone, but after the Romans left Horncastle, the stone was taken for other uses – some can be seen in the structure of St Mary's Parish Church.

Once the report has been compiled, it will be passed to the bodies which are part of the project for their consideration. The wall's remains are already on English Heritage's Grade I list "at risk” register.

Sheila Jonkers adds: "There have been thoughts of how best to conserve the walls for many years and now with the various interested parties coming together and a grant to pay for this survey, we may be close to the point where the remains can be protected and conserved for the future”

 Issued 10th September 2017

Roman wall survey - Progress report
Report from Sheila Jonkers on the proposed survey of the Roman Wall

Subject: Report Roman Wall Preservation Project

Mary Silverton and I had a discussion at the beginning of September 2016 and we agreed that the whole subject had become eerily silent. We agreed that I, Sheila Jonkers, would take up the project again and try to find out why the whole business seemed to have stalled.

I spoke with Ben Robinson at Historic England on September 7th. Ben at this point said he had heard nothing from Horncastle and from the Horncastle side I was told that they had heard nothing from Ben Robinson and had not been able to gain contact with him. At this point in time it is not important who did, or did not do what.

This is how my negotiations have proceeded.

I spoke several times with Ben Robinson and he appointed Hanna Darby to be an intermediary contact at Historic England. So, at the request of HHHSoc. and also at the request of the Horncastle Community Centre Management Committee I am the new contact for the grant application, initially for funding for a survey of the condition of the Wall. An official funding application was made on behalf of the HCCMC on the 15-01-2016. Historic England confirmed the application for funding had been received by them and they sent me a copy.

A Mr. David Watt, who is a Chartered Building Surveyor and Historic Buildings Consultant, Associate Director (Easton) Hutton + Rostron Environmental Investigations Ltd.,Lovedon House, Gelston, Lincs. , was approached to submit a tender relating to sections of the Roman Wall. A full tender was submitted by him in November 2015. I also discovered that the outgoing chairman of the Community Centre Commitee had given papers to Mr. Bob Wayne, who was very helpful in allowing me to see the papers relating to the Wall and also made photocopies for me during our meeting. The papers contained a copy of the tender submitted by David Watt. I contacted him and he confirmed that, despite the time-lapse, he would still like to do the survey.

Although I was assured that the tender had been sent to Historic England, they seemed unsure whether they had received it, so I promptly offered to send them a copy which was received with thanks. The outcome of the phone-conversations, emails etc., over a period of 4 months was that the tender submitted by David Watt contained everything they'd asked for in 2015.

On 20th of December 2016 Hanna Darby confirmed on the telephone that we would get funding. That is to say, the cost of David Watt's tender 00000, excluding VAT. I yet have to ascertain if the cost has gone up as the tender dates back a year.

This includes site visits,travel and expenses. Of that amount we, as a community, have to find 20%. I have also been fundraising and have £127 in the Bank, and a promise of a further £200, but this has problems, as paperwork appears to have been lost. I can only hope that the problems can be resolved, because that would be a useful sum of money.

What will happen now is that the project will go to Penny Evans for her perusal.

During the business of trying to get this project moved on I have built up good contact with Stewart Attwood, the new chairman of the Community Centre Committee. We had meetings and his input has been extremely useful. I have met with the Committee and Stewart has also reported back to the Committee on the progress we are making. We await communications from Penny Evans and hopefully work can begin soon.

Sheila Jonkers January 2017

Persons mentioned above:

Ben Robinson --- Principal advisor heritage at risk for Historic England

Hanna Darby --- Business officer and Planning group at Historic England

Penny Evans ---Heritage at risk surveyor at Historic England

Additional Note – M Silverton

At the Executive Committee meeting on 12th January 2017, it was agreed that, in the event of the £200 being unavailable, the balance of the 20% deposit for this survey would be met by the HHHS.