Roman Site at Scarborough The remains of the Roman signal station on the Castle Headland at Scarborough are the best preserved of all those along this costline; although even here coastal erosion has taken its toll. 2005
Photo: Alan Staniforth
©Alan Staniforth

The Romans in Yorkshire
The Romans had been in Yorkshire for over three hundred years before they constructed their signal stations along the coastline. The occupation of Yorkshire had generally been a very quiet affair with the native population mingling with the invaders. The main threat of the day had been from the Scots, but the latter part of the third century saw an increasing number of raids from over the North Sea. The Angles, Saxons, Danes and Vikings were arriving!
Early warning
It was to give early warning of these invaders that the signal stations were built at Huntcliffe near Saltburn; Goldsborough; Ravenscar; Scarborough and Filey. There may also have been a station at Whitby but as yet no concrete evidence has been discovered. Built to a similar plan the stations consisted of a square stone tower surrounded by a stout stone wall which in turn was surrounded with earthworks. Communication with the Roman fleet or inland military units was by means of beacons or smoke signals.

Vulnerable locations
Coastal erosion has affected all the sites with the exception of Goldsborough which is situated on rising ground a short distance from the cliff edge, only earthworks remain. The best remains to visit are those within the castle walls at Scarborough where both earthworks and some stone walling remain.

Macabre remains
As pressure from the east increased the Romans gradually withdrew and by the early years of the fifth century they were gone. Excavations at the Goldsborough site revealed some macabre remains. The skeleton of a large dog, its jaws at the throat of a mans’ skeleton were found together with the skeleton of another man, face down and bearing sword cuts. At Huntcliffe a pile of human remains, many with detached skulls, was discovered in the corner of the courtyard. Given that several of these skeletons were of women and older men it is assumed that these were local people who had taken over the site after the Romans had left.

Author: Alan Staniforth. 2005
Region: North York Moors, Yorkshire Coast
Published: 2005-10-20