Guidebooks to the Roman Frontier

1952 [5th impress. 1960]

The Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne has had two features on the official Ministry and English Heritage guidebooks of Hadrian’s Wall in their News Bulletin:

David W. J. Gill, ‘Guiding us along the Roman wall’, 69 (September 2020), p. 3

Nick Hodgson, ‘Guiding us along the Roman frontier, Part II’, 70 (December 2020), p. 5

Corbridge (with update); Chesters (with update); Housesteads; Birdoswald; Hadrian’s Wall

Dunstanburgh Castle: guidebooks

Dunstanburgh Castle © David Gill

Dunstanburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast was placed in State Guardianship in 1929. Construction had started in 1313. The first official guide was published in 1936 with the section on the history of the castle by C.H. Hunter Blair, and the description by H.L. Honeyman. The cover carries the arms of Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster (1277–1322). There is a foldout plan inside the back cover. The guide continued into the 1970s.

1936 (2nd ed. 1955, 4th impress. 1962)
10th impress. 1973

A colour illustrated guide was prepared by Henry Summerson (1993). The main section is dedicated to a tour of the castle, and there is a helpful bird’s-eye view to help to orientate the visitor. There is a short section with biographical notes on Thomas of Lancaster and John of Gaunt.

1993

Alastair Oswald and Jeremy Ashbee prepared the English Heritage red guide (2007). This contains a bird’s-eye view and a plan of the castle on the fold-out card cover. The tour contains helpful thumbnail plans to help the visitor located their position. There is a section on Dunstanburgh and coastal defence during World War 2.

2007 (repr. 2016)

Brunton Turret: Ministry of Works signage

Brunton Turret (1985) © David Gill

Brunton Turret (T26b) is included in a well preserved stretch of Hadrian’s Wall, just to the east of the River North Tyne (and Chesters Roman fort). The Ministry of Works sign (since removed) reminded visitors not to damage the monument. It is perhaps ironic that Brunton Turret was the target of illegal detecting.

Brunton Turret from the west © David Gill

Roman roads in State Guardianship

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Wheeldale Moor Roman Road © David Gill

The construction of roads transformed the landscape of Britain. Yet only a limited number of fragments have been placed in State Guardianship. One of the most dramatic sections is a stretch that crosses Wheeldale Moor in North Yorkshire.

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Wheeldale Moor Roman Road © David Gill

A stretch of Dere Street near Soutra in Scotland has been preserved. This passed through Corbridge and Newstead.

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Dere Street © David Gill

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Dere Street near Soutra Aisle © David Gill

Further south Dere Street crossed the river Tees at Piercebridge and remains of the bridge have been found.

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Piercebridge © David Gill

A Roman milestone on the Stanegate near the fort of Vindolanda was placed in Guardianship.

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Vindolanda, Roman milestone © David Gill

 

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.

Jupiter Dolichenus at Vindolanda

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Vindolanda, temple of Jupiter Dolichenus © David Gill

The sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus lies just inside the northern ramparts of the fort at Vindolanda. It was excavated in 2009.

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Vindolanda, altar of Jupiter Dolichenus © David Gill

One of the finds was a stone inscribed altar (now displayed in the museum). It bears a relief of Jupiter standing on the back of a bull. The inscription is dedicated to Jupiter Dol<o>chenus by Sulpicius Pudens, prefect of the Fourth Cohort Gallorum.

Sulpicius Pudens also appears on a second altar dedicated to Jupiter (but not Jupiter Dolichenus) that was found at Staward Pele in 1885 (RIB 1688). The earliest dedication to Jupiter was probably made by the prefect Quintus Petronius Urbicus dating to 213-235 (RIB 1686). Another prefect also made a dedication to Jupiter (RIB 1687). A fourth inscription, dedicated Naevius Hilarus, probably came from Vindolanda (RIB 2062). Some of these may have been dedicated in the praetorium building.

The Fourth Cohort Gallorum was stationed at Vindolanda from c. 213 to 367. The unit is identified in an inscription of c. 213 (RIB 1705). The unit is recorded in a building inscription of 223 (RIB 1706); it probably relates to the rebuilding of the south gate of the fort. The cohort is recorded on an inscription that dates to the reign of Probus, 276–282 (RIB 1710). Another prefect, Pituanius Secundus, erected an altar to the genius of the praetorium at Vindolanda (RIB 1685).

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Altar dedication by Quintus Petronius Urbicus from Vindolanda, Chesters Museum © David Gill

Norham Castle: warnings

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Norham Castle © David Gill

The polite Ministry sign in the inner ward at Norham Castle warns visitors to take care, especially in wet weather.

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Norham Castle © David Gill

Looting at Corbridge

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Corbridge © David Gill

Historic England has noted that metal-detectorists have been active on part of the scheduled Roman site at Corbridge in Northumberland.

Do we need to change the language used to describe such activity? Do archaeologists need to start talking about the intellectual implications of such illegal activity? What information is being lost from the finite archaeological record?

Further details can be found on Looting Matters.