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Ravenglass is a coastal village in Cumberland, Cumbria, England. It is between Barrow-in-Furness and Whitehaven. Historically in Cumberland, it is the only coastal village in the Lake District National Park. It is located at the estuary of three rivers: the Esk, Mite and Irt.
The village dates back to at least the 2nd century, when it was an important naval base for the Romans. The Latin name of the settlement was long thought to be Glannoventa. The discovery of a lead seal in excavations at the Roman fort during the 1970s named the Cohors Prima Aelia Classica (First Cohort of Hadrian's Marines). This unit is listed in the Notitia Dignitatum as being garrisoned at Itunocelum during the fourth century. Due to this it was suggested that Ravenglass was not Glannoventa but actually the Itunocelum. Since the lead seal was discovered two other objects, a Roman military diploma from the beach by the fort at Ravenglass and a fragment of a Roman altar from Muncaster, have been found. These both name the Cohors Prima Aelia Classica and prove beyond reasonable doubt that Ravenglass was the Roman Itunocelum. The fort occupied the most southerly point of the Cumbrian coastal defence system, which can be seen as an extension of Hadrian's Wall and the western extremity of the Roman frontier World Heritage Site.
Ravenglass was occupied by the Romans for over 300 years and had a Roman garrison (castra) of 500 soldiers. The town was a regional supply point for much of north-western Roman Britain, with a road from Ravenglass over the Hardknott Pass to the Roman forts at Hardknott and Ambleside. The location is featured in The Fort at River's Bend, a book in Jack Whyte's A Dream of Eagles (Camulod Chronicles) series, and is also mentioned briefly in Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy under the name Clannoventa. Today, there are few Roman remains, with the notable exception of a bath house, known locally as Walls Castle. This is one of the largest remaining Roman structures in England, originally covering an estimated area of 30 yards (27 m) by 13 yards (12 m) and with walls up to 12 feet (3.7 m) high, though only one end is now visible. Excavations of the rest of the foundations have since been covered and are not visible. The property is now maintained by English Heritage.
Approximately a mile's walk from the bath house is Muncaster Castle, which it is believed was built partly with the remains of a Roman fort which was located near Ravenglass. The grade II listed Muncaster War Memorial, designed by Edwin Lutyens, sits between Muncaster and Ravenglass.
'Renglas' appears in charters and other records of the late 12th century. In 1208 King John granted Richard de Lucy, Earl of Egremont a charter for a market at Ravenglass on Saturdays and a yearly fair on the festival of St. James, 5 August. In 1297 Ravenglass was described as a port along with Lancaster, Cartmel and Workington.
There are multiple explanations of the origin of the name Ravenglass. One is that it may be derived from, or from words equivalent to Welsh yr afon glas, meaning "the greenish or blueish river". The name may also be of Norse-Irish origin, containing the Irish personal name Glas and meaning "Glas's part or share". The terminal element might be Gaelic glas, "small stream". Also suggested is derivation from the Old Norse personal name Hrafnkell, suffixed with Old Norse óss, "estuary".
Ravenglass is served by Ravenglass railway station on the Cumbrian Coast railway line, with trains to Carlisle and Lancaster. This station is also a terminus of the narrow-gauge Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, which runs inland up Eskdale. This serves both as a tourist attraction and as local transport during its operating season.
Ravenglass is connected by a minor road to the nearby A595 trunk road. It also has minor tracks running northwards and southwards via tidal fords, which are unsuitable for normal motor vehicles.
Eskdale and Rafnglass (modern Ravenglass) feature in Rosemary Sutcliff's final novel (1992) Sword Song, set in the 9th century. The 1972 Granada television serial The Intruder - based on the novel of the same name by John Rowe Townsend - was predominantly filmed in Ravenglass which represented the fictional location of Skirlston.
- Tomlin, R.S.O. (2019). "Inscriptions". Britannia. 50: 495–496. doi:10.1017/S0068113X19000473. S2CID 231735073.
- Holder, Paul. (2004) "Chapter 2. Roman Place Names on the Cumbrian Coast" from Wilson, R. J. A. & Caruana, I. D. (eds), Romans on the Solway: Essays in honour of Richard Bellhouse pp.52-65, Kendal: CWAAS
- "Ruins of a Roman Bath and the Foundations of a Castle – Ravenglass and Muncaster". 30 April 2015.
- "Ravenglass Roman fort: Project to unearth civilian settlement". BBC News. 3 May 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
- Historic England. "Muncaster War Memorial and area wall (1086636)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
- Taylor, A. R. (n.d.). Port of Lancaster (PDF). Lancaster: Kasulu.org.
- "St Patrick".
- "St Patrick – the Welsh Speaker".
- "The place-names of England and Wales". Retrieved 17 July 2017.
- Millward, Roy; Robinson, Adrian Henry Adrian Wardle (1972). Cumbria - Part 2 - Volume 5 of Landscapes of Britain. MacMillan. p. 38. ISBN 9780333032480. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- Sedgefield, W J (1915). The Place-Names of Cumberland and Westmorland. Manchester University Press. p. 14. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- Pixley, Andrew (2022) The Intruder - booklet included with the blu-ray release of the series by Network
- Cumbria County History Trust: Muncaster (nb: provisional research only – see Talk page)
- Ravenglass Community website
- Muncaster Castle and Ravenglass Bath House article at www.cambridgemilitaryhistory.com