Wallsend: viewing the fort

Wallsend Roman fort © David Gill

The most easterly fort on Hadrian’s Wall can be viewed from an elevated platform. It overlooks the east gate of Segedunum; Hadrian’s Wall joined at the west gate. To the south side of the road can be seen the commander’s house and the praetorium; on the north side are the end of two barrack blocks.

To the south of the fort can be seen the reconstructed bath-house.

Wallsend Roman fort © David Gill

Hadrian’s Wall: Benwell Vallum Crossing

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Benwell © David Gill

The vallum crossing lay 55 m from the south gateway of the cavalry fort at Benwell (Condercum). The crossing has a monumental gateway, 3.56 m wide, which was controlled from the north.

The vallum crossing is in the care of English Heritage (with links to plan).

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Benwell © David Gill

Hadrian’s Wall: official guides

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1963 (1969)

A.R. Birley prepared ‘an illustrated guide’ to Hadrian’s Wall in 1963. This supplemented the guides to individual forts on the wall (Chesters, Housesteads) as well as the Stanegate (Corbridge). (See now the English Heritage guide to Birdoswald.) A foldout plan inside the card cover showed key locations between Wallsend and Bowness. There are some excellent reconstructions by Alan Sorrell (including one with an overlay to show the inside of the bath-house).

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1970

There was a fold-out MPBW guide to the Wall in 1970.

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1987 (3rd ed. 1996)

David J. Breeze prepared the Souvenir Guide to the Roman Wall, which is described inside the cover ass ‘The greatest monument to the Roman occupation of Britain’. Breeze has also prepared the Handbook to the Roman Wall. The guide includes South Shields and Vindolanda, as well as the Roman fort at Maryport on the Cumbrian coast.

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2006

The souvenir guide was replaced by Breeze’s ‘Red Guide’ to Hadrian’s Wall. The tour goes from west to east and includes non English Heritage sites such as Maryport, Vindolanda, Wallsend and South Shields.

Hadrian’s Wall: Carrawburgh Roman fort given to the nation

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Carrawburgh Roman fort © David Gill

The Roman fort of Carrawburgh (Brocikitia) on Hadrian’s Wall has been given to the nation by its present owner (“Hadrian’s Wall Roman fort ‘gifted to the nation’“, BBC News 9 January 2020). It lies between the forts of Chesters and Housesteads.

The fort was garrisoned by a number of units including the First Cohort of the Aquitanians.

The Mithraeum and Coventina’s Well lie to the west of the fort.

Hadrian’s Wall: unfinished ditch at Limestone Corner

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Hadrian’s Wall, Limestone Corner © David Gill

One of the reminders of the difficulty in constructing Hadrian’s Wall can be seen at Limestone Corner (MC30), to the east of Carrawburgh, where the ditch to the north of the wall was left unfinished. It is estimated that one of the single blocks removed from the ditch originally weighed 13 tons.

Heritage Book Cover Challenge

Day1_HoskinsA former colleague challenged me to Tweet seven book covers. The challenge did not allow me to comment or explain my choices, and here are my short explanations.

I was introduced to Hoskins’ classic study of the English landscape in my teens. It explained the layering and development of the countryside around me. I suspect the appeal was that it expanded on my love of maps. (I was very tempted to include The Making of the Cretan Landscape.) The book connects me with archaeological landscapes from field-surveys in Greece to walking in the Cheviots.

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Northumberland is a county rich in heritage. One of the key features is Hadrian’s Wall and my companion on numerous occasions has been Collingwood Bruce’s Handbook (I have chosen the cover of the edition I had as a student). For a more recent waterproof edition see here.

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My copy of Dilys Powell’s The Traveller’s Journey is Done which explores the life of Humfry Payne, Director of the British School at Athens, was purchased in a secondhand bookshop in York. This book captures Greece in the inter-war period. I was later invited to revise Payne’s memoir in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (See Payne’s grave at Mycenae.) This is probably one of the books that stands in the background of my own research into the history of archaeology in Greece.

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Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy set in Bucharest and Athens is the only work of fiction in my list. I love the characterisation of the novels: Guy, Harriet, and Prince Yakimov. The fall of Greece connects with my study of Alan Wace who (like the Pringles) was evacuated to Egypt (The Levant Trilogy).

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There are two guidebooks in my selection. The handbook by Sumner-Boyd and Freely prompted me to explore the more remote corners of this complex city.

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To my surprise there is no Greek archaeological book on my list. But Zanker’s approach to material culture challenged my approach to the visual world of antiquity.

Day5_Harts_RulesMy last book is a much loved companion that continues to sit on my office desk (though I do have a more modern edition). It was a recommended purchase as a graduate student and has been a welcome addition to my working library.

Vindolanda: organic finds

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Vindolanda Museum © David Gill

Some of the organic finds from the excavations at the site of Vindolanda to the south of Hadrian’s Wall have now been put on display in a series of impressive displays in the site museum (see press release). The focus is on the wide range of objects made from wood.

The new displays have been funded through support from the HLF.

UK UNESCO World Heritage site damaged

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Brunton Turret, Hadrian’s Wall © David Gill

Part of Hadrian’s Wall at Brunton Turret has been damaged by metal-detectorists “‘Nighthawk’ metal detectorists damage Hadrian’s Wall“, BBC News 20 June 2018). Some 50 holes have been noted around this well-preserved section of the Roman frontier. This raises questions about how internationally significant heritage assets can be protected for future generations. Equally important is the question, how can the archaeological and heritage communities make it clear that such activity cannot be accepted?

Hadrian’s Wall: Pike Hill tower

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Pike Hill tower © David Gill

The tower on Pike Hill lies between MC52 (Bankhead) and T52a (Banks East). Only the south corner survives after the road was adapted in 1870. The tower was excavated in 1931, and associated pottery suggests that it was probably constructed around the reign of Hadrian. Unlike the turrets on Hadrian’s Wall, the wall is attached at an angle suggesting that the tower predates the later defensive line.

An inscription recording Antoninus Pius was found  here in 1862 (RIB 1957). The slab is now in the Tullie House Museum.

Legio II at Benwell

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Inscription from Benwell, Hadrian’s Wall © David Gill

A small inscription was found on the north side of the fort at Benwell on Hadrian’s Wall (RIB 1341). It was first recorded in J. Brand’s History and Antiquities of the Town and County of Newcastle upon Tyne (1789). It is now displayed in the British Museum.

The inscription records work of the Legio II Augusta (repeated on the vexillum) based at Caerleon in south Wales. To the left is a goat, and to the right Pegasus, symbols of the legion.

Other building inscriptions of the Legio II Augusta, relating to the 2nd, 4th and 10th cohorts, are known from round Benwell (RIB 1342, 1343, 1344). David Breeze (Handbook, 14th ed., 158) suggests that they come from the line of the wall around Milecastle 7 (just to the west of the fort): ‘their style suggests a late-second-century date, implying that the Wall in this sector required repair at that time’.