Reconstructing a Roman fort: the main eastern gateway of the Lunt was rebuilt in its original position, using the original post-holes, in only 3 days. Photos: Brian Hobley
AS Roman forts go, the Lunt ought to be pretty undistin guished. Lying in the heart of the industrial Midlands, it appears at first sight to be one of the string of forts that formed the 'Fosse Way Frontier'. However, as it lies just outside the modern city of Coventry, on land scheduled for recreational use, Brian Hobley, the Field Officer of the Herbert Museum, Coventry, persuaded the Museum and Coven try Corporation to make it the site of a long term excavation to uncover the complete plan of the fort, and to rebuild it as an open air museum for educational and re creational purposes. Recently, how ever, the excavations have revealed that it is far more interesting and important than it appeared at first sight, being both later in date than the rest of the Fosse Way Frontier and having a completely anomalous and so far inexplicable design. At the same time an ambitious plan of reconstruction was launched. Hither to they had concentrated upon re building part of the turf rampart, as described in C.A.4., but in 1970
they decided to go ahead and rebuild the main eastern gateway—the Porta Principalis Sinistra—thus turning it into one of the most important and impressive Roman sites in Britain.
The initial problems were those of finance and manpower. Some £6,000 would be needed, but happily the money was forthcoming through the generosity of a wealthy patron with local interests. Manpower came from many sources: the local society carried out much of the excavation, while the construction of the 50 ft. lengths of turf ramparts on either side of the gate were achieved by approved school and Borstal boys. However, for the task of erecting the gateway the aid of the modern British army was sought. Fortunately, the main depot of the Royal Engineers was nearby and thanks are due to the Commanding Officer, and to Major T. S. Mills, who was responsible for the work.
The archaeological evidence for the gateway was produced during 1966-7 by an area excavation. The entrance consisted of a causeway with flanking ditches and six large post pits and holes which must have formed a twin portalled gate. Similar gates of this Neronian period have been found at Nanstallon in Cornwall and Brough on Humber in Yorkshire, at the latter of which the excavator John Wacher produced a paper reconstruction in his report. Although there is no contemporary Roman drawing or sculpture of gateways in Britain, yet Trajan's column in Rome, even though 50 years later, records in splendid detail the Roman Army's campaign in Dacia (modern Rumania). Here the army is shown carrying out its day to day tasks, which included the building of turf defences and timber gateways.
During the planning of the reconstruction a major problem arose; was the timber for such a gateway cut locally, and the posts erected one by one, or were they prefabricated in a central depot and then transported to the site? Some, including F. W. B. Charles, the architect who supervised the work, favoured site manufacture. It is difficult to prefabricate post-hole structures, and