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.
The sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus lies just inside the northern ramparts of the fort at Vindolanda. It was excavated in 2009.
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).
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.
At the heart of the Roman fort at Vindolanda lay the headquarters building. Excavations in 1933 revealed the 4th century phase of the construction. On the south side lay the sacellum and the strong room. This part of the building was indicated by a Ministry of Works sign (see other signage from the site including the milestone).
The Roman milestone on the Stanegate near Vindolanda was placed in State Guardianship (‘Chesterholm Roman Milestone’). The fort was place in State Guardianship in 1939 and also had Ministry signs.
A second milestone lies one Roman mile to the west. It originally carried the inscription, bon[o] reipublic[ae] nato (RIB 2308).
The 1959 Regional Guide notes: ‘The earliest occupation dates from the time of Agricola whose road, the Stanegate, runs past the north gate of the fort and retains, near the burn, a Roman milestone; the base of another (not in the Ministry’s guardianship) stands a Roman mile to the west.’
I have a photograph of the milestone from the late 1970s with some of the bushes encroaching on its space and obscuring the line of the road.
The military bath-house at Vindolanda lies on the northern side of the excavated vicus outside the west gate of the fort. The bath-house was one of the first structures to be excavated by the Vindolanda Trust as it was felt that it would provide visitors with something to see and therefore would generate income for the site. This was undertaken over two seasons in 1970 and 1971.
This view from the mid 1970s shows the view across the bath-house looking south towards the replica stretches of the stone and turf walls. Note the placing of a seat within the bath complex to allow visitors to look across the excavations. The conservation was undertaken by a team from the Department of the Environment.
This same view, some 40 years later, shows the present display of the bath-house taken from the viewing platform. Note how the grass has been replaced with gravel.
In 1972/73 the Vindolanda Trust decided to construct a possible replica of the turf wall that had formed part of Hadrian’s Wall west of the river Irthing. This photograph must have been taken in the mid 1970s as the ditch appears to have been cut relatively recently.
The replica did not meet with enthusiasm. J. McMillan, the Deputy Director of Education for Gateshead, wrote to The Times (27 April 1974) in defence of the project: ‘the replicas add another dimension to the site’. Indeed there was a libel case that found in favour of the archaeologists working at Vindolanda (‘Apology to Vindolanda archaeologists’, The Times 21 May 1974).
The Roman fort at Vindolanda was purchased by Eric Birley in the sale of the Clayton estate in 1929. Birley placed the fort itself into state care in November 1939. The Vindolanda Trust was formed in 1970 and the fort is now managed as part of the larger site including the vicus.
It is thought that the first fort was erected c. AD 85.
The Ministry of Works sign appears to be located at the west entrance to the fort.
This building stone was found in a field wall near Vindolanda by the Reverend Anthony Hedley prior to 1835 (RIB 1708). It appears to show a boar, and the inscription states the name of the unit: Legio XX V(aleria) V(ictrix).
The stone is now in the museum at Chesters Roman Fort (inv. CH256).