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Roman Signal Stations
North Yorkshire Coast

 

Roman Signal Stations

The north east coast of Yorkshire saw the construction of a series of roman signal stations that were manned by the garrison from around AD 369.  These signal stations consisted of a large square timber and stone tower, a small courtyard surrounded by huge stone walls, angle towers and on the outside were protected by a ditch.  They were used by the Romans as block houses as well as look out posts, each had a beacon at the top of the tower, used to send warning signals down the coast and to the inland Roman cavalry of a "pictish" or "saxon" invasion.

Discovery of the Stations

The first Roman Signal Station was discovered in Filey, situated at Filey Brigg on the north side of the bay in 1857 after a cliff fall.  A small excavation of the site took place.  Then in 1993/94 due to increasing erosion the Filey Station was re-excavated by York Archaeological Trust, supported by Scarborough council.  Although two-thirds of the site has eroded the remains are still visable.

Filey Signal Station is one of five known roman stations along the coast.  Another of the sites was found at Scarborough, perch on the edge of the castle headland, and was excavated by Mr M G Simpson around 1917 where the foundations of the stone walls, around four and a half feet thick were found along the cliff edge.  Also another of the signal stations remains was found at Goldsborough, just 4 miles from Whitby where similar foundations, again of the walls were excavated a year earlier around 1918.

A further two roman signal stations were found along the coast, one while digging the foundations for Raven Hall, in Ravenscar a stone slab was found that indicates there was a signal station situated on the cliff tops between Scarborough and Robin Hoods Bay. The last was discovered at Huntcliff excavated in 1911 and again in the 1960's by William Hornby.  The remains of this roman signal post has since slipped into the sea and all that can be seen is now is the few roman objects found including coins, pottery and animal bones that are now in Whitby Museum.

The coins found at 4 of the 5 Roman Signal Stations indicate that the signal stations were still in use until around 500 AD when the Romans withdrew from the country and Anglo-Saxons established their settlements.

 


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