Description and Tour
The fort was rectangular in plan, enclosing an area of 193m x 185m, and was built to the standard military layout. Behind a defensive ditch was a stone walled rampart, 3.5m high, protected by corner and interval towers and with four defended gateways, one in each side. In the centre of the fort was the principia or headquarters building and the prestorium or commandant's house with workshops, granaries and possibly a hospital nearby. The rest of the fort would have been occupied by barrack blocks and stables.
The fort was almost totally demolished during the Middle Ages and, with the exception of the excavated remains, there is now little to see above ground. The western section of the fort is covered by Binchester farm, the southern area lies beneath Binchester Hall, and a considerable section of the southern defences was destroyed by a landslip in the 19th century. The excavated remains open to the public lie in what would have been the centre of the fort and include a stretch of the main road, part of the commandant's house and his private bath-house. The bath-house was occupied for just over 300 years and many of the buildings were demolished and re-built during that time, most of the buildings which have been consolidated for display are from the final phase of building, the collection includes socket stones from doorways, building stones with lewis-holes cut in for lifting, examples of tufa - a lightweight limestone - from the bath-house roof. A large altar with a carving of a crude face has been re-erected opposite the wardens office, this is not it's original position. In front of you, at the end of the grass and paved walkway, the remains can be seen of a road.
The road is 5m wide and surfaced with river cobbles set into a clay and gravel base. The south side of the road is retained by a kerb of sandstone blocks while to the north it is edged by a well built stone gutter or drain. This was the viaprincipalis, the main road which ran in front of the headquarters' building and joined the forts east and west gates..
The stone footings which can been seen in the bank north of the road are thought to be the end walls of a barrack block.
The via principalis at Binchester is actually part of Dere Street here it actually runs through the centre of the fort. Dere Street crossed the Tees at Piercebrige where there was a civilian settlement and from the 3rd century, a large fort. The road then ran straight to Binchester, crossing the Gauniess but keeping east of the Wear. Leaving the fort by the west gate Dere Street ran directly down slope to cross the Wear by a stone bridge the remains of which can still be seen on the north bank when the water is low. From there the road the road went north and west to the forts at Lanchester (Longovicium) and Ebchester (Vindomora) and the to Corbridge and the Wall.
If you descent the steps and walk along the gravel path with the
road to your left or walk along the raised wooden boardwalk you will notice
the difference in height between the modern field and the surface of the
road. In places the archacological remains are 2m below ground level.
The stone walls opposite the wooden boardwalk on the other side of Dere
Street are the foundations of the commandants house.
(c) Copyright 2000 northguard