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| Melandra Roman Fort |
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|Description ||View of the bank and ditch of Melandra Castle Roman Fort, Derbyshire. SK009951
Melandra 'castle' is a small Roman garrison fort, and is situated on the western edge of Glossop with the Gamesley estate encroaching upon it from the south. The fort has been excavated by Manchester University and is a scheduled monument in the care of English Heritage. However, in modern times its major function seems to be as an exercise area for the estate's dogs.
The fort was built as a turf and wood construction around AD 78, when Agricola's troops took over northern England. It would have housed a cohort (500 men) of auxiliary soldiers and had a Principia (headquarters building), barracks and granaries. There is evidence that a vicum (civilian settlement) grew up nearby, as well as a Mansio (a sort of hostel run by the Imperial government and used by officials moving about the provinces) and a military bath-house has been found north-east of the fort. The name Melandra cannot be found in Roman records and the real name of the fort was probably Ardotalia.
The fort was rebuilt in stone around AD 120 in the time of Hadrian, but was abandoned only 20 years later. In the 18th century an inscribed stone was found which read 'First cohort of Frisiavonians the century of Valerius Vitalis' - this is assumed to be the soldiers who rebuilt the fort, the inscription indicating that they were Frisians from North Germany.
The fort's position is a good one, situated on a bluff overlooking the Etherow and commanding the route into the Longendale Valley. Archaeological research has indicated that this was probably just a part of a network of defences designed to control the east-west route over the Pennines. The visible remains are a disappointment though - all that can be seen is a low rampart enclosing a rectangular area of approximately 3 acres, with the foundations of the main buildings just visible in the centre.
The finds from the site are split between Manchester Museum and Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. Buxton Museum has an interesting naturally formed, large, stone that was built into the walls of the fort that resembles a horned head. The stone is currently in the stores.
Manchester Museum has (again in the stores !!!) a well head found close to the fort at the source of the River Etherow. This is a flat, semi-circular, trough that has carved onto the front three Celtic style heads with water weeds between them and would seem to be Romano-Celtic in date.
At the other end of Glossop close to the Snake Pass can be seen the remains of the Roman road, known locally as Doctors Gate, that runs from Melandra eastwards over the moors - this eventually joins the Snake Pass.
To get to the fort go from the centre of Glossop and take the A57 towards Hyde, then at Dinting Vale turn left onto the A626 towards Marple. Go up the hill and after about 500 metres turn right, to follow the road which goes around the edge of the Gamesley council estate.
Please note: the Gamesley estate has something of a bad reputation. If you drive to the site don't leave valuables in your car and it is advisable not to go to the site at night.
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