Ancient Roman fort found during ongoing construction at a British bus station

During the construction of a bus station in Exter, England, recently, workmen with Kier Construction who were preparing to build a new bus station found something that intrigued them, The Daily Mail reports:

“A Roman ditch was first uncovered, with further excavations revealing two further ditches running parallel to each other and unveiling what is being described as a fort occupied by a military unit, or a defended compound.

“Coins and local pottery made in the area for the military, as well as fine red Samian tableware imported from France, were also discovered.”

This is the first ditch that was found and later led to discovery of a long-hidden Roman fort (Via Exeter City Council)

What the workers had stumbled upon just so happened to be a previously undocumented ancient Roman fort or military position, Ancient Origins notes:

“Archaeologists found locally minted coins and shards of pottery that were once possibly owned by legionnaires. Also uncovered was some red Samian tableware that was made in Gaul (modern France), which would have been very expensive at the time.

“The recovered artifacts were from ‘the first decades of the Roman conquest of Britain’ according to This meant that the fort was built and used during the Roman conquest of Britain.”

A drawing of what the Roman fort looked like when first built. (Via Exeter City Council)

In case you were wondering, the Roman conquest of Britain began under the reign of Julius Caesar in 55 BC but wasn’t actually accomplished until many decades later:

“The Roman invasion of 43 AD, ordered by Emperor Claudius quickly captured most of southeast England. When they moved into the southwest of England they were attacked by local war-like Celtic tribes. In order to secure their control over the region, the Romans built a large ‘fort, called Isca Dumnoniorum, which was established at Exeter garrisoned by 5,500 legionaries’ in 55 AD reports the Daily Telegraph.”

Significance of the Find


Finding a Roman fort in the city of Exter shows that the city was of great strategic importance to the Romans during the 1st century AD and in later years as well. As recently as the 1970s, another fortress and baths were also uncovered beneath streets in the city.


Route of the Fosse Way, the Roman road the newly discovered Roman fort is on (Via Public Domain)

Exeter, according to historians, became a vital point of emphasis for the Romans as they sought to conquer the island nation and brings its people under control of the Roman Empire, which once stretched from northwestern Europe to the Near East and encompassed all the lands of the Mediterranean.


How Did the Fort Survive?


What makes the discovery of this fort even more incredible is the fact that Exeter was subjected to heavy aerial bombardment by the Germans  during the Second World War:

The bus station where the fort was located dates back to the 1960s, and some of the remains of the Roman fort may well have been accidentally destroyed when it was constructed. At the time, construction companies weren’t required to report any historic finds to authorities.


One of the Roman coins found at the site (Via Exeter City Council)


Difficult Work For Archaeologists


Due to its location under an existing structure which was being redeveloped, archaeologists faced a logistical nightmare.  Dereck Evans of Costwold’s Archaeology called the dig “a challenging and interesting project.”


Amazingly, construction continues on the new bus station even as archaeologists go about their work:


“Archaeologists are continuing to work on the site of the fort, even while construction continues in the area. It is expected that their work will not disrupt the project to redevelop the bus station.

“The experts hope to find more material related to the fort and its garrison. This can help them to better understand the site’s development and the history of the area during the Roman era.

A map of Exeter in 1563 showing the city walls. The settlement of Isca Dumnoniorum was developed around the Roman fortress (Via Public Domain)

For more on the excavation of the Roman fort in Exter, there’s this video:


Featured Image Via Exeter City Council 


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