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Most of the locations referred to in the tablets
are military sites, lying on the main routes running through northern
England, often at river crossings. As well as their military role
as garrisons, some of the sites became centres of local administration.
There is also a reference to London (Londinium) (154).
By the early second century London was the centre of provincial
administration in Britain, as well as an important port town, monumentalised
by public buildings including the largest forum in Britain. Both
the governor and the procurator (the chief financial official)
were based in London. One Vindolanda tablet (310)
is a letter to the governor's groom in London from his 'old messmate'
(contubernalis antiquus). A detachment of 46 soldiers from
Vindolanda also contributed to the governor's bodyguard. This was
perhaps stationed in London but probably also accompanied the governor
on tours of the province (154).
There are also references to Gaul (255)
and Rome (283)
as well as references to places not yet located. Briga was
the home of a correspondent of Cerialis, Aelius Brocchus, probably
also a prefect and his wife Claudia Severa. Cordonovi (or
Cordonovae / Cordonovia) is only mentioned in the ablative
so we do not know its nominative form. It was the source of oysters
sent to a soldier as a gift (299)
so might be a coastal town. The location of Ulucium, where a soldier
asks if he might spend his leave (174),
is also unknown.
An auxiliary fort on the on the river Ribble and the road between
Carlisle and Manchester, at its junction with a Transpennine route
from York. The earliest fort was built in timber in AD 72/73 and
after a renovation in the late first century AD was rebuilt in stone
in the early second century. There was a fort on the site until
the fourth century AD.
A fort was established in the later first century at Catterick,
perhaps under Agricola, where Dere Street crossed the river Swale.
It was abandoned by the early second century, although a small town
occupied the site from the mid second to the fourth century. The
writer of one tablet (343),
perhaps a trader supplying the army, is concerned for the delivery
of a batch of hides at Catterick. As well as this letter, the large
deposit of tannery waste found in the annexe of the early fort suggests
that Catterick produced leather for much of the army of the northern
The earliest Roman military installation at Corbridge, a possible
supply base, lies west of the Roman town and was built during Agricola's
campaigns into Scotland. The first fort on the site which later
became the town was built c. AD 90 and a sequence of forts followed
till the mid second century AD. Corbridge may also have served as
a local tribal centre, but a military presence remained throughout
the Roman period. The Vindolanda tablets supplied conclusive evidence
for the Roman name of Corbridge, Coria, which was previously known
only in a garbled form. It is the most frequently occurring place-name
in the tablets after Vindolanda itself. Elements of the units garrisoned
at Vindolanda were stationed at Corbridge (154),
c. 17 miles from Vindolanda, and one soldier wished to take his
A legionary fortress, base for the legion IX hispana from c. AD
70, replaced by Legio VI Victrix c. AD 120. The fortress remained
at York until the end of the Roman period. In the early third century
the civilian settlement which had grown up south of the Ouse was
granted the title of colony. York was connected with several important
later events, including the death of the emperor Septimius Severus
in 211, while on campaign in Britain, and the proclamation of Constantine
(the first Christian emperor) as emperor by his soldiers in 306.
The early history of Isurium is poorly understood. There were two
Flavian forts a mile north-west of the town at Boroughbridge, where
Dere Street crossed the river Ure There is some evidence of late
first century occupation at Aldborough itself but it is not certain
that it is military. The site later became the capital of the Brigantes,
the main tribal grouping in northern Britain.
A timber fort was built at Carlisle in c. AD 72/73. After demolition
in c. AD c103/105, a second timber fort was built, which in turn
was replaced by a stone fort around AD 165. The earliest levels
of the timber fortress have produced the largest number of ink writing
tablets after Vindolanda. These suggest that the garrison could
have been a cavalry unit, the ala Sebosiana. The centurio
regionarius, a legionary centurion who was perhaps responsible
for local administration, was stationed at Carlisle (250).
Carlisle may also later have acted as a centre for a local tribal
grouping, the Carvetii.
A Flavian fort on the river Wear controlled the bridge that carried
Dere Street over the river. It has two timber phases before being
rebuilt in stone perhaps in the early second century. The garrison
contemporary with Vindolanda is not known, although later garrisons