The South gate of Melandra Fort now faces the Gamesley Housing Estate. The gate comprised a single entrance, measuring 10 ft in width, flanked by large towers with guard rooms. 2000 years ago, this very same land was home to a substantial population of the Brigante tribe; British Celts who lived in the shadow of the Roman fort. If you were a Roman soldier how would you know which Britons were friendly and which one’s were your enemy?
Buildings & Architecture
You should be standing in the small car park next to the remains of the Roman fort.
Almost 2,000 years ago the fort Melandra (probably known to the Romans at Ardotalia) comprised a wooden barracks, a small bath-house, kitchens, and a principio (operational headquarters). The fort was engineered and built by the 1st Cohort of Frisiavones under the command of Velarius Vitalis and later garrisoned by the Portuguese auxiliary 3rd Cohort of Bracara Augustani. The structure was initially a wooden construction but was rebuilt in stone around 70 CE. The new fort was built in the shape of a rectangle, often described as a ‘playing card’ shap, with watch towers were erected at all four corners of the fort.
The sketch below was undertaken my archaeologist and illustrator, Mike Brown. You are in the area marked ‘MODERN CAR PARK’
In the centre of the East – West roadway lie the remains of a small square building. This is the Principia or Command and Administration headquarters. The Principia was also the spiritual centre of the fort and the central room would contain the regimental shrine as well as a sunken pit which acted as a ‘strong room’ for the regimental pay chest. The money was kept here as a deterrent to thieves who would be committing sacrilege if they stole from the shrine.
The East Gate is now the main point of access to the site of Melandra. Excavations suggest that this was the largest of the gates. It was on the land outside this gate that excavations uncovered tent pegs, leather slings, and sling-stones. This would suggest that the first Roman soldiers to arrive at Melandra were billeted in tents and that they used their own weapons, such as slingshots, which would have been a familiar weapon brought from home.
We are standing at the edge of the civilised world. Before us, to the North and West, thick dark forests cover the hills as far as the eye can see. To our right, jagged outcrops of rock pierced by tree-spiked peaks – like broken, bloodied, spears embedded in the mud after battle.
In the valleys below, the cursed marshlands where evil spirits dwell. Hostile tribes surround us. War with The Brigante’ tribe has led us here. Here, where the four corners of the earth converge in a windblown, sodden hell. Hell is where we build our forts. Hell is where we stand and fight. We are the 1st Frisiavones and 3rd Bracara Augustani Cohort, and this hell is Melandra!
The King William pub was built around 1830 on land purchased by the Belper surveyor and architect John Hutton.
In December 2001, the Derwent Valley Mills in Derbyshire was inscribed on the World Heritage List. This international designation confirms the outstanding importance of the area as the birthplace of the factory system where in the 18th Century water power was successfully harnessed for textile production.
Find out more information about the history of Milford here
You can also find out what else there is to see and do in Milford here