A new replica of a Roman watchtower
May 16th, 2004
by Robert Vermaat
The tower is situated to the immediate south of the orchard that hides the remains of the Castellum Fectio, which once guarded this stretch of the Roman Limes along the Rhenus (now the Old Rhine). However, it is Fort Vechten, the 19th-century fortress that was part of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie (New Dutch Water Line), that dominates the site. This unique meeting-point of the 2000-year old Roman frontier with this modern defensive frontier was enough reason to allocate funds in the amount of € 35.000 for the project.
The tower, which is modelled after an example near Lorch in Germany, is constructed entirely of wood and is planned to remain a focal point for the coming five years, after which a decision is made to possibly reconstruct it in stone. The tower was built over the past winter months by Jos Rams from the ‘stichting Werk aan de Linie’, together with Ronald Vrijenhoef from ‘Vrij in Hout’.
Some unexpected problems were encountered in this project. Due to the archaeological nature of the site it has been built on top of 4 concrete slabs and not on regular foundations. The construction in wood presented also unique problems. The wood needed for the construction (88 larches weighing 110 tonnes) came from a forest that saw heavy fighting during the Battle of Arnhem in 1944, and the wood is riddled with shrapnel. The tower itself weighs 40 tonnes, is 3.6 metres wide and over 10 metres high, but it will shrink at least 0.7 metres, which means adjustment will have to take place from time to time.
Some pictures of the construction can be found at www.fectio.org.uk/groep/vechten.htm.
The tower will be open to the public every Sunday from 11.00 to 17.00, when there will be Roman re-enactors present to give tours from the three Roman groups currently active in The Netherlands: Corbvlo, Fectio and Gemina.