Midgate tower and possible fortlet

Report of excavations in 1900

The full text can be found in D.J.Christison “The Roman Road and Adjoining works from Ardoch to the Earn”, PSAS, 35, 1901.

This post or fortlet differs from the others, not only in its greater size and oblong-oval shape (illustration), but in having an outwork and being on a hillock. An anonymous writer of 1789 describes this work as being “on the east of the Drum on Thorny Hill, or the Hill of Midgate” It does not appear what he means by the Drum, but the name Midgate Hill still clings to the hillock in question, a trifling eminence, but conspicuous in a remarkably flat neighbourhood, rising in height to from 10′ to 14′, and its roots extending about 300′ from east to west, and 150′ from north to south.

The highest end of the little ridge is at the west, but the fort is constructed at the east end, its massive rampart giving that end the appearance of a second top, the dip between the two, however, being only 5′ or 6′.

The construction of the fort is very simple. A broad, but low, gently sloping, oblong-oval rampart crowns the east end of the eminence, enclosing an area of about 100′ by 75′ from crest to crest of the rampart and 75′ by 50′ of level space. At the east end and north and south sides the rampart is continuous with the slopes of the hillock, thus giving it a height of from 12′ to 14′, but to the west it has only a fall of 5′ or 6′ to the dip between it and the little western summit. Upon the latter there was no sign of fortification till our excavation revealed an’ oval nearly V-shaped ditch about 10′ wide and 5′ deep, girdling the top but destitute of a rampart, and enclosing a space of 50′ by 35′. There is an entrance over the ditch on the south side of this outwork, but there is apparently none to the fortlet. Perhaps it was in the south side, which had been partially cut away in making the modern road, or it may have been purposely filled up, as was the case at Kaims Castle. There the original entrance through the rampart was manifested by pavement, but here, as there was no pavement, all trace of an entrance might disappear once it was filled up with earth.

The whole of the interior of both enclosures was turned over, but no relic of any kind found, and the only structures were a kind of imperfect paving in the centre of both. In the main fort it was in two portions, one 6′ in length and 5′ in breadth, margined on three nearly straight but not rectangular sides by a kerb of stones set on edge, the other 4′ by 3′, with little remaining but a similar kerb. They were unsymmetrically placed with regard to each other and the sides of the fort. A similar structure of a more regular oblong form, measuring 7′ by 4′, existed in the centre of the lesser work to the west.

The present highway passes close under the hillock on the south side, and the O.M. represents the Roman road (by a dotted double line within the highway) as being under the macadam and stopping short at the west end of the hillock. A disused grass-covered road branches off from the highway at this point, turns round the end of the hillock, and then strikes northwards. Close to it, about 200 yds north of the hillock, there was something like the remains of a circular work, of the same size as the posts to the west, and it was therefore thought that this road might be either the Roman road itself or a branch from it. But we were told it was a disused road to a farm, and probably it was nothing more, as our excavations failed to reveal characteristic structure either in it or in the supposed post. A well-paved causeway, however, was found branching off from the highway at the other or east end of the hillock, and passing close under it to the middle of the north side. Here it was lost, and the final trend was not northward, but as if to go round the west end of the fort. This causeway was about 15′ wide, and it was well .arched to discharge the rain into a small trench or drain between it and the foot of the hillock on one side, and to the outside on the other.

A long term research project to study the Romans north of the Antonine Wall