Colchester Castle Museum: engaging with the past

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Colchester Castle Museum © David Gill

The collection within Colchester Castle contains one of the best presented collections of objects from Roman Britain. It is displayed in an imaginative and engaging way from the mosaics and (funerary) sculptures to the inscriptions and pottery.

In spite of this Colchester has, surprisingly, not featured as high in the list of museums for the RSA Heritage Index.

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Roman funerary monuments in Colchester Castle © 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.

Brougham Castle: guidebooks

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Brougham Castle © David Gill

Brougham Castle in Cumbria was placed in State Guardianship in 1928. The first paper guidebook was written by John Charlton in 1950. It has a section on the history of the site, including the adjacent Roman fort. There is a separate section on the ‘periods of building’, followed by a description. A plan of the castle is provided on the centre pages.

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1950 (repr. 1976)

The Ministry guide evolved into an English Heritage guide (1985) and a second edition was prepared in 1988. This contains a Tour of the Castle followed by a History. The text is considerably expanded. There is a short separate section on the Roman fort with an illustration of an altar to Mars.

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2nd ed. 1988 (repr. 1997)

This English Heritage guide is one of the ‘Gateway‘ sponsored guides.

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2nd ed. 1988 (repr. 1997)

The Charlton guide was replaced in 1999 by a joint guide with Brough Castle prepared by Henry Summerson. The histroy of each castle is presented followed by a tour. One of the sections is on ‘Wordsworth and Brougham’. Plans of both castles are placed inside the back cover.

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1999 (rev. 2014)

Colchester: Roman walls

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Colchester © David Gill

There are still substantial remains of the Roman walls surrounding the colony at Colchester (Camulodunum). The more recent civic desire to protect the Roman heritage of the town is made clear in the signs discouraging exploration of the walls (‘by checking children … climbing upon or otherwise injuring it … any wilful damage to it’).

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Colchester, town wall © 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.

Pevensey Castle: 1939–45

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Pevensey Castle © David Gill

During the Second World War gun emplacements and pill boxes were inserted into the Roman and medieval remains at Pevensey Castle in Sussex (see here). A gun emplacement was constructed on the north side of the perimeter where parts of the Roman wall had collapsed.

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Pevensey Castle © David Gill

These later additions to the defences were marked by the attachment of Ministry signs.

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Pevensey Castle © David Gill