The Piercebridge Circular is a short 1 km walk exploring the roman history of this important River Tees Crossing point. Most paths are grass; tarmac surface on road crossing Piercebridge Beck at Carlbury Bridge.
Start at the George Hotel overflow car park NZ 212 154 and walk over the road bridge.
Piercebridge Roman Fort is one of a number of forts built along Dere Street, which was one of the most important roads in Roman Britain.
The Romans probably first came to Piercebridge in 70 AD when Cerialis attacked the British camp at Stanwick, three miles south of Piercebridge. Between 79 and 85 AD during Agricola’s northern campaigns it is likely that Piercebridge was a major strategic river crossing on the main eastern supply route and a military presence to guard a bridge would be expected, yet no trace of a fort of this period has been located.
Towards the end of the 2nd century the first bridge, possibly destroyed by a flood, was replaced by another further downstream to the east and the line of Dere Street diverted. A civil settlement was found near the second bridge in 1971 and excavated. The south bridge abutment excavated the following year is now preserved and open to view. Since Roman times the River Tees has altered its course and the bridge is now high and dry.
By 125 AD a vicus or civil settlement was being built in the Toft’s Field beside the early line of Dere Street. The residents were traders who relied on a permanent garrison for their living.
The fort seen today is thought to have been built around 270 AD or soon after. By 300 AD it seems to have been largely abandoned and kept on a care and maintenance basis for some 50 years, re-occupied in strength and much altered.
The finds from the excavations are on permanent loan from Darlington Borough Council to the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.
A short walk over a stile and down the green lane from the end of the car park and along the riverside takes you to the remains of the Roman bridge across the Tees, dating from the beginning of the 3rd century and probably the second roman bridge on the site.
The original medieval bridge (now the road bridge carrying the B6275) was the focus of a battle between Royalist troops moving down from the north with supplies and Parliamentarian troops tasked with defending this vitally strategic crossing of the Tees. The battle took place on 1st December 1642 and the smaller Parliamentarian force was defeated.
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