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The inhabitants of Britain who dwell about the promontory known as Belerium (modern Cornwall) are especially hospitable to strangers and have adopted a civilized manner of life because of their intercourse with merchants of other peoples. They it is who work the tin, treating the bed which bears it in an ingenious manner. This bed, being like rock, contains earthy seams and in them the workers quarry the ore, which they then melt down and cleanse of its impurities. Then they work the tin into pieces the size of knuckle-bones and convey it to an island which lies off Britain and is called Ictis (St. Michael’s Mount): for at the time of ebb-tide the space between this island and the mainland becomes dry and they can take the tin in large quantities over to the island on their wagons.

Diodorus Siculus 90 B.C. – A.D. 30; Library of History, Book V, 22

Restormel takes its name from the Cornish words ‘ros tor moyl’ translating as ‘bare hilltop spur’.

The earliest known occupation at Restormel, just outside Lostwithiel in Cornwall, was a Roman fort, the banks and ditches of which can still be seen on the hill to the south west of the later castle.

The Roman fort at Restormel surviving as a rectangular earthwork. Photo courtesy of Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service.

The Roman fort was occupied between the first and fourth centuries AD housing around 160 individuals. The structure was rectangular in plan, measuring around 60 metres by 70 metres, with opposed entrances on its sides. Surrounding the enclosure were two banks and ditches whereas a similar fort at Nanstallon, west of Bodmin, had only one.

A geophysical survey at Restormel has revealed only traces of internal buildings and their layout is not yet known. Other Roman forts in Cornwall have been investigated at nearby Nanstallon overlooking the River Camel and at Calstock above the Tamar valley. All three forts were sited at the tidal limits of their rivers and were probably intended to secure trade routes into Cornwall and access its valuable mineral resources.

Roman remains are uncommon west of Exeter, in what is currently Devon, and it is believed that the Romans never had a substantial presence in the region.

With thanks as ever to Myghal Map Serpren.

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