Binchester Roman Fort

Binchester Fort, also known by it's Roman name of Vinovia, was a fort in the UK that was occupied between the first and fifth centuries.

It was one of the largest Roman forts in the UK and today it's remains are considered to be one of the best examples of a Roman Fort.


The fort is an archaeology site and currently only a small portion of it has been excavated. The total size of the site is thought to be about ten acres and only a small portion of it has been excavated. Some interesting finds include the Commander's House and the Bath house.

Now this fort is pretty much hidden away in a rural area of Durham and situated near the market place of Bishop Auckland.



Most places we visit are pretty much a shell but this is just a scheduled monument site and as such it is more or less marked out with the original stones.  However, there is a bath house which has interestingly a couple of footprints embedded in the Roman mortar.  A child and an adults foot is arrowed as it is quite hard to see unless you are directly above them.  Take a look at the pictures and see if you can see them too.



There is I believe a further dig to this immense green site suggesting a find of a cemetery containing some Germanic troops buried there and further out another of civilians.  It is said that Binchester was bigger than the other Roman forts that existed between here and those that dotted along Hadrians Wall.  A small diorama in the activity hut on the site suggests what it may have looked like. 

The Bath house

The reason for our visit today was not just for the Roman remains, but rather to see and experience the Life of the Roman soldiers and Cavalry.  This Roman festival is on every Bank holiday and the re-enactors for this period visit various sites and bring history alive for adults and children alike. 

Roman Soldier

In the erected tents there were displays of Helmets, armour, swords and shields. I can honestly say that it appealed both the young children and that inner child of the adult. There was a demonstration of the cavalry cutting the head off a brigand ( not really it was cabbage and a squash mounted on a stick) 










There was a also a demonstration of a mercenary from the Netherlands training the Auxiliaries - the examples of different eras shown in their attire. Then a battle of painted Brigands and Romans. No prizes for guessing who won?

Brigand and Roman Fighting


The highlight was the description of the firepower that the Romans had. From the plumbtata which was a lead weighted and barbed dart that was thrown either upwards or underhanded and the weight brought them straight down into the enemy and which could penetrate a helmet. They were also poisoned. Archeological find of a skull with such a dart embedded and helmet still attached, support this frightening premise. (Information only) While these darts were being thrown slingshots of lead bullet shaped missiles were also projected. Coincidentally, some found with paint on them suggesting they were sky colours for disguise? ( information only)  Pole slingshots which launched larger stones Bows and arrows were common and then the biggest baddest item - of course it is the ballista which fired a massive arrow that could punch through three bodies and still keep going. Or rip the arm off any unlucky Brigand holding a shield. Invented by the Greeks but  turned out by the thousands by the Romans.

A little video showing it in action    I have taken quite a few close ups of the mechanism and its name - NEMESIS. 

I have more pictures and the video of this Ballista here.

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