THE LUNT GYRUS
The completed gyrus at The Lunt, as seen from the reconstructed gateway.
Photos: Coventry Museum.
IN the second week of September
1977 the Gyrus at the Lunt Roman Fort was reconstructed by the Royal Engineers. The Gyrus has long been the problem at the Lunt. When the fort was first discovered it was thought to be a typical early Roman fort constructed in the aftermath of Boudica's revolt. However the discovery that the eastern defences curved in a sinuous bend was followed by the discovery of the reason for this, a large circular construction 107 ft in diameter, which was interpreted as a Gyrus, or training ground for breaking and training horses. As such it is unique in the Roman Empire, but the explanation has become generally accepted.
The Lunt, however, has become famous for its reconstructions or simulations. Between 1966 and 1974 first a stretch of the ramparts, then the eastern gateway and finally one of the granaries was reconstructed, and this latter now forms the fine site museum. The next feature to be reconstructed was clearly the mysterious Gyrus, to see whether in practice it could be used for training horses. Three factors made this possible. Firstly there was a very generous gift of £3,800 made for this purpose by Lord Iliffe. Then the ravages of the Dutch elm disease made large quantities of high class elm available, for the disease only affected the bark, and thus Lord Iliffe's gift was spent on purchasing elm at a bargain price. And finally the Royal Engineers, who had already constructed the gateway and the granary, also offered to undertake the reconstruction of the Gyrus. The offer was originally made in 1974, but then for three years they delayed and it was not until September 1977 that they were able to return to the Lunt project.
The Lunt Roman fort is situated in the village of Baginton just south of Coventry and adjacent to Coventry Airport (see CA24, 28 and 44). The site is owned by Coventry Corporation and the original excavations and reconstructions were carried out by Brian Hobley, the Keeper of the Field Section of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry. Since his transfer to London the latest work has been carried out by Margaret Rylatt, his successor, who also supervised the reconstruction of the Gyrus. Last year Mrs. Rylatt carried out further excavations of the western defences, which revealed that these, which had previously been thought to be straight, were in fact almost as irregular as the eastern defences. Clearly there is no room for another Gyrus inside the fort, but it is possible that the defences were swerving to miss a Gyrus outside the fort. In his new book on Boudica Graham Webster suggests that the Lunt was not intended for a regular unit, but for a group of military horse breakers and trainers. In this case there could well have been a number of Gyri in the area, only one of which was included in the defences. Only further excavation, however, outside the fort can determine the full nature of the site.
The reconstruction was undertaken by the 31 Base Workshop Squadron, Royal Engineers, consisting of 12 men plus 6 more from the Royal Pioneer Corps, and under the leadership of Staff Sergeant Smith they carried out the reconstruction in 10 days. Since they had to come every day to the