In 1846 the construction of a Victorian railway cutting east of Newstead village led to the rediscovery of Trimontium Roman Fort. The works cut though several pits which contained Roman artefacts. People were now aware that a rich Roman site lay under the fields awaiting investigation.
In 1905-1910 the Trimontium site sprang to the forefront of archaeological attention. James Curle, a Melrose solicitor and amateur archaeologist excavated the site on behalf of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. His finds were staggering, both for the artefacts found and the story that they told. His immediate 1911 publication ‘A Roman Frontier and its People’ is still the most decisive work published in Scotland for that period.
The complete publication can be viewed online at www.curlesnewstead.org.uk.
Curle’s discoveries at the fort site include over 100 pits or wells in which were deposited all manner of domestic artefacts, military equipment, cavalry horses and even a human body.
When the Roman army crossed the Cheviots and looked into the Tweed valley, they could see an undulating landscape with the triple peaked Eildon Hills as the most prominent feature. They headed to the banks of the river, under the gaze of the ancient hillfort atop Eildon north and called their camp Trimontium, ‘the place of the three hills’.
The site was well chosen, built on a natural mound overlooking the river and at a crossroads for the traffic moving north/south along the Leader and east/west along the Tweed. As fortunes and influence changed the fort became a frontier post, a supply base, abandoned, rebuilt and finally deserted.
Successive occupations made their mark on Trimontium, using it as the pivot of Roman defences in southern Caledonia. With a main garrison of 500 or more mounted troops this force could react to threats from any direction. Add the backup troops, supply logistics, extensive manufacturing and trading operations and it is evident there was a substantial & formidable presence within Trimontium.