Saving Hadrian’s Wall

Cawfields Crag (Milecastle 42) © David Gill

One of my favourite spots on Hadrian’s Wall is Milecastle 42 at Cawfields Crags. You can get a real sense of the way that this frontier clings to the crag.

Yet just to the west of the milecastle a modern quarry has sliced its way across the line of the wall leaving the flooded workings. My 10th edition of J. Collingwood Bruce’s Handbook to the Roman Wall (1947) noted:

In Hole Gap a short length of ditch is supplied, but from the adjacent summit to Haltwhistle Burn, the Wall has been destroyed by the gradual encroachment of Cawfields Quarry, now happily at an end.

My 13th edition (1978) merely notes, ‘Turret 42a (Caw Burn) has been destroyed by quarrying’. The 14th edition (2006) is a little more specific and links the destruction to ‘the former Cawfields Quarry’.

Saving The Wall

This threat to Hadrian’s Wall, with the new lease to quarry, dated  to July 1929, caused a national outrage. Stephen Leach and Alan Whitworth explain this conservation debate in their Saving the Wall (2011) and Cawfields plays a central role. They explore the damage to this incredible monument from the need to create a military road from Newcastle to Carlisle in the wake of the ’45 uprising. They include discussions of the different attempts to consolidate the wall. Should there be turf on the top? Should earlier attempts at restoration be removed? How can the ‘core’ be sealed to prevent further damage from rain and frost?

The book charts the acquisition of sections of the wall by the National Trust and the Ministry of Works. Appendix VI has a list of the dates of guardianship for each section of the wall from Corbridge Roman site in May 1933 to Hare Hill in October 1972.

Author: David Gill

David Gill is Honorary Professor in the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent, and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of History and an Academic Associate in SISJAC at UEA; Professor of Archaeological Heritage.

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