Roman fort
© Flickr
A freelance archaeologist and his wife came face to face with a chunk of unique Roman history as they walked across a Wigton farm.

Karl James Langford, 36, and his wife Lisa, 43, are over the moon with their chance discovery of a sandstone fragment which still bears part of a Roman inscription.

The couple had gone with their two children - a boy aged two and a five-month-old girl - to visit the remnant of the Maglona Roman fort near Wigton last week when Lisa spotted the stone on the ground. It had been exposed by a heavy rain storm.

Still clearly visible on the sandstone fragment - which is about the size of a tea saucer - are the Roman letters M, R and P.

Karl, 36, believes the artefact may once have spelled the name of the settlement, which was abandoned a few decades before the Romans pulled out of Britain in AD 410.

He said: "We were having a short holiday to see Hadrian's Wall and wanted to see the Maglona Roman Ford, known locally as Old Carlisle. Lisa found the stone alongside a wall that overlooks the remains of the Roman fort.

"It would have been garrisoned by about 1,000 men who were mainly auxiliary soldiers and there to support the eastward side of Hadrian's Wall. I feel this is quite a significant find.

"It's impossible to know for sure but I suspect the M may have spelled out the name Maglona, and perhaps the P and the R were part of the word prefectus, [usually indicating a soldier who was the third most senior in a legion.]

"A find like this shows that important archaeological finds are not always made by people with a metal detector.

"The stone would have been inscribed at the site of the fort and it was interesting to find out that the farmer's son there is a stonemason, doing the same kind of work today."

Lisa, who shares Karl's passion for history and archaeology, said: "It was pouring with rain and very, very muddy and I was walking ahead of Karl with our daughter in her carrier when I glanced down.

"I did a double take and then called Karl over, but he thought I was joking."

Lisa said it was the second time she has made a chance archaeological find.

"When I was a teenager I dug up a vegetable patch and found a canon ball which dated from the English Civil War and the time of Cromwell. Finding the Roman stone was quite exciting."

The couple, who were on the site with the farmer's consent, hope to return to the Roman Fort to further explore it while Lisa would like the stone to possibly go to Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, which is due to open a new exhibition about the Roman Frontier in the summer.