It is precisely on such a site, commanding a valley and with a river at its feet, that we might have expected to light upon a Roman entrenchment. Vindonissa overlooking the Aar and the Reuss, Birdoswald high above the Irthing, Inveresk with the stream winding round the hill on which it stands, are all obvious parallels. As a matter of fact, we shall find that Newstead commended itself to more than one generation of Roman military engineers, for we shall have to deal with at least two quite distinct military works—a camp sufficient for an army, occupied probably for no long period, and a fort, much smaller in size, showing unmistakable signs of what may fairly be called permanent inhabitation. In what follows, these two will be distinguished as the 'camp' and the 'fort' respectively.

The History of the Site

In each of the Roman forts hitherto excavated in Scotland, some trace of the entrenchments had survived above the surface, and, with the solitary exception of Cappuck, plans or descriptions more or less imperfect were to be found in the pages of Roy, Gordon, Horsley, or other writers. At Newstead, not only had every surface trace disappeared, but the entire obliteration of the Roman works had probably taken place long before the first awakening of an intelligent interest in the military antiquities of our country. The earliest reference to the site will be found in a short history of Melrose written in the year 1743 by the Rev. Adam Milne, minister of the parish. Mr. Milne carefully noted all traces of camps and other antiquities in his parish, but of the exact nature of the remains at Newstead he clearly had no inkling. After describing the monastery of Old Melrose, he goes on to say:

'About a mile to the west on the Tweed stands Newstead, a place noted for an ancient lodge of masons, but more remarkable for another abbacy on the east side of it, called Red Abbey-steed. Whether it got this name from the colour of the stones wherewith it was built, or because it was an house belonging to the Templars, they wearing a red cross for their distinguishing badge, I cannot determine; but it is certain, when the ground here is plowed or ditched, the foundations of several houses are discovered, a great deal of lead got, and some curious seals. At this place likewise there has been a famous bridge over Tweed; the entrance to it on the south side is very evident, and a great deal of fine stones are dug out of the arches of the bridge when the water is low.'[1]

1 A Description of the Parish of Melrose in Answer to Mr. Maitland's Queries, 1769, p. 6.