A new guide for Corbridge

(2015)
(2015)

The new English Heritage Guidebook for Roman Corbridge: Fort, Town and Museum (2015) is now available. The text is by Nick Hodgson who has also written the new guide for Chesters Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall.

This replaces the earlier guides for the site by Eric Birley (1935) — that remained as the Department of Environment ‘blue guide’ — and John Dore (1989), reprinted as recently as 2013. The title has evolved from Corbridge Roman Station (Corstopitum) to Corbridge Roman Station, and now to Roman Corbridge: Fort, Town and Museum. 

There are three main sections to the new guide: Tour of the Site; Corbridge Museum; and History of Corbridge. There are seven special features: The Corbridge Hoard; Roman Water Supply; Roman Legionaries at Corbridge; Oriental Cults at Corbridge; Shorden Brae Mausoleum; Septimius Severus: an African Emperor in Britain; and Hexham Abbey. There are several reconstructions of the site: c. 142 (pp. 4-5); c. 225 (pp. 42-43).

The publication, perhaps unknowingly, marks the centenary of the death at Gallipoli of one of the original excavators, Leonard Cheesman, a former student of the British School at Athens. (The contribution of students of the British School at Athens to the archaeology of Roman Britain is discussed in Sifting the Soil of Greece (2011)). The excavations at Corbridge are illustrated with some early photographs as well as the famous image of (Sir) Leonard Woolley and T.E. Lawrence at Carchemish.

Some of the most imposing structures are the Severan granaries constructed at the end of the second century.

Corbridge granary
Severan granary at Corbridge © David Gill

MPBW Guide to Hadrian’s Wall

HW_card_MoWOne of the guides to Hadrian’s Wall is “A short Ministry of Public Buildings and Works guide to the monuments in the care of the State situated in Northumberland and Cumberland”. The price is 1 s 6 d. There is no date but the code ‘5/70’ probably indicates May 1970, and therefore just before decimilisation in 1971.

There are six ‘panels’ on each side. The front (with the cover) includes a map of the wall over three panels; my copy has annotations with the milecastle and turret numbers. There are two panels on the history of Hadrian’s Wall with a reconstruction of Walltown Crags by Alan Sorrell. On the reverse are details of the three main sites: ‘Corbridge Roman Station’, ‘Housesteads Fort, and ‘Chesters Roman Fort’. (For guides to Corbridge.)

A similar guide was published by the DOE for the Antonine Wall.

Guides to Corbridge

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Interpretation of sites is crucial. Guide books were produced to help visitors understand the sites. The ‘green’ guide to ‘Corbridge Roman Station (Corstopitum) Northumberland’ was prepared by Eric Birley in 1935 and the copy shown is the 3rd edition (1954; Fourth impression, 1958; 1 shilling) (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office / Ministry of Works: Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings). The guide has the following information:

I. The Site

II. The History of the Site

III. Description of the Remains

IV. The Museum

There are black and white plates, and a folding plan inside the back cover.

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My 10th impression (1970) of the 3rd edition (1954) has the more traditional ‘blue’ cover (Ministry of Public Building and Works, Official Guidebook; 2 shillings and 6 d [helpfully with the new decimal currency, 12.5 p]. This follows the structure of the ‘green’ guide but with black and white images in the text at appropriate points. In the spirit of decimalisation there is a ‘Conversion Table’ at the end converting feet and inches into metres.

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J.N. Dore’s ‘Corbridge Roman Site’ was published by English Heritage in 1989 (HMSO). Note the change from ‘Roman Station’ (£1). This has a fuller structure with the main themes:

a. Tour

b. History

c. The Museum

There are plans, reconstructions, and black and white images in text.

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The Dore guide was revised in 2012 (with an image of the ‘Corbridge Lanx’) with a colour cover.

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