Plans Unveiled for Roman Maryport Development

29 June 2011

Roman Maryport

Plans for a world class Roman visitor attraction in Maryport, Cumbria, have been submitted to Allerdale Borough Council by Hadrian's Wall Heritage Limited.

The £10.7 million Roman Maryport development is at Camp Farm, a Victorian model farm including a Roman fort and civilian settlement in the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The site is owned by Hadrian's Wall Heritage. 

Capita Symonds is the lead consultant and architect for the project.

Michael Baker, director of sustainable development for Hadrian's Wall Heritage said: "This key heritage development involves the restoration and conversion of the historic farm buildings into galleries and visitor facilities, and will significantly raise the profile of the west coast of Cumbria as a destination worthy of visiting to a large audience for whom the area is as yet unknown. There will be rich, varied and complementary interpretation emphasising the relevance of the story of Roman Maryport to us today - for example what is it like to live on a frontier, to be an occupying soldier, to live in an occupied country, the meeting of different cultures. We are hopeful that Roman Maryport can be open for the start of the main tourist season at Easter 2014."

The Netherhall Collection - currently in the Senhouse Roman Museum - will be showcased in the new museum.  This is the finest collection of official Roman Army religious dedications anywhere, and from which knowledge of Roman Army postings has informed the understanding of Roman historians worldwide.  Most of the collection came from the fort and civilian settlement at Maryport.

The existing museum in the battery building will be refurbished internally to provide research facilities for the archaeologists. The reconstruction of the Roman watch tower will remain.

There will be a continuous programme of live archaeological excavation, creating learning opportunities for local volunteers and students and bringing together the collection and site so that they can be managed and safeguarded together.

"Part of the proposal for Roman Maryport is a new access road which joins the A596 about four hundred metres from the traffic lights by St Mary's Church," said Mr Baker. "This will ensure that the new development is very much a part of the town and that many of the new visitors that are expected are encouraged into the town as part of their visit.  A much safer crossing of the main road, which will benefit pupils of Netherhall School, will also be created."

Roman Maryport is expected to attract 55,000 visitors a year, spending £3-4 million and creating 78 jobs in the area.  This is part of the development of the whole of Hadrian's Wall Country, designed to draw many more visitors to the north of England.

Roman Maryport is being developed as a partnership between Hadrian's Wall Heritage and the Senhouse Museum Trust which runs the Senhouse Roman Museum next to the site.

The Roman fort at Maryport - Roman name Alauna - is a key part of the Roman frontier coastal defences that extend from Hadrian's Wall, and is included in the 150 mile Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site.

Paul King, Associate Director, Capita Symonds, said: "The existing Camp Farm buildings are in a poor and derelict condition, in urgent need of extensive repair and consolidation. As far as possible we propose restoring the existing Victorian buildings and keeping as much of the original farm layout as possible.  New buildings - such as the accommodation for archaeologists - and site landscaping will be in keeping with the existing buildings. A glazed link between the cattlesheds and the main barn creates a 'street' between the buildings and forms the main entrance to the development, maintaining the visibility of the farm house to the rear of the site."

It is also proposed that the first floor of an existing two storey dovecote is used as a bat roost, which by installation of CCTV could also be an educational tool for visitors and school groups to see the pipistrelle and brown long eared bats roosting in their natural habitat.

Councillor Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council cabinet member and portfolio holder for economy and highways said: "We welcome the proposals for Roman Maryport.  This high quality visitor attraction has an important role to play in the economic regeneration of Maryport and indeed Cumbria, attracting domestic and international visitors along the length of Hadrian's Wall and through Carlisle. 

"With more to see and do in Cumbria visitors are encouraged to stay longer, and that is the key to significantly increasing visitor spending to boost the county's economy."

An archaeological excavation of the site where 17 Roman altars were found in 1870 began on 31 May, led by Professor Ian Haynes of Newcastle University.  This has been commissioned by the Senhouse Museum Trust which is providing funding of £50,000 towards the total cost of the fieldwork.