Galava (Ambleside Roman Fort)

Galava was a 1st/2nd century fort in the Roman province of Britannia. Its ruins are located on the northern edge of Lake Windermere at Waterhead, near Ambleside, in the English county of Cumbria. It guarded the Roman road from Brocavum (Brougham) to Glannoventa (Ravenglass).

The fort was described in 'Roman Britain' in 1914, by F. Haverfield:


“The excavation of the Roman fort in Borrans Field near Ambleside was continued by Mr. R. G. Collingwood, Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, and others with much success. The examination of the ramparts, gates, and turrets was completed; that of the main interior buildings was brought near completion, and a beginning was made on the barracks, sufficient to show that they were, at least in part, made of wood.

The fort, as is now clear, was an oblong enclosure of about 300 × 420 feet, nearly 3 acres. Round it ran a wall of roughly coursed stone 4 feet thick, with a clay ramp behind and a ditch in front. Turrets stood at its corners. Four gates gave access to it; three of them were single and narrow, while the fourth, the east gate, was double and was flanked by two guard-chambers. As usual, the chief buildings stood in a row across the interior. Building I — see plan — was a pair of granaries, each 66 feet long, with a space between. They were of normal plan, with external buttresses, basement walls, and ventilating windows (not shown on plan). The space between them, 15 feet wide, contained marks of an oven or ovens (plan, B) and also some corn (plan, C) and may have been at one time used for drying grain stored in the granaries; how far it was roofed is doubtful. Building II, the Principia or Praetorium, a structure of 68 × 76 feet, much resembled the Principia at Hardknott, ten miles west of Ambleside, but possessed distinct features.

As the plan shows, it had an entrance from the east, the two usual courts (EF), and the offices which usually face on to the inner court F. These offices, however, were only three in number instead of five, unless wooden partitions were used. Under the central office, the sacellum of the fort, where the standards and the altars for the official worship of the garrison are thought to have been kept, our fort had, at A, a sunk room or cellar, 6 feet square, entered by a stone stair. Such cellars occur at Chesters, Aesica, and elsewhere and probably served as strong-rooms for the regimental funds. At Chesters, the cellar had stone vaulting; at Ambleside there is no sign of this, and timber may have been used. In the northernmost room of the Principia some corn and woodwork as of a bin were noted (plan, C). The inner court F seemed to Mr. Collingwood to have been roofed; in its north end was a detached room, such as occurs at Chesters, of unknown use, which accords rather ill with a roof. In the colonnade round the outer court E were vestiges of a hearth or oven (plan, B). Building III (70 × 80 feet) is that usually called the commandant's house; it seems to show the normal plan of rooms arranged round a cloister enclosing a tiny open space. In buildings II and III, at D, traces were detected as of ditches and walling belonging to a fort older and probably smaller than that revealed by the excavation generally.

Small finds include coins of Faustina Iunior, Iulia Domna, and Valens, Samian of about A.D. 80 and later, including one or two bits of German Samian, a silver spoon, some glass, iron, and bronze objects, a leaden basin (?), and seven more leaden sling-bullets. It now seems clear that the fort was established about the time of Agricola (A.D. 80-5), though perhaps in smaller dimensions than those now visible, and was held till at least A.D. 365. Mr. Collingwood inclines to the view that it was abandoned after A.D. 85 and reoccupied under or about the time of Hadrian. The stratification of the turrets seems to show that it was destroyed once or twice in the second or third centuries, but the evidence is not wholly clear in details. The granaries seem to have been rebuilt once and the rooms of the commandant's house mostly have two floors.”