crossing N England from Tyne to Solway. The late Roman name was Vallum (Not. Dig
. and Ant. It
ca. A.D. 120-125 (S.H.A.: Had
. 11.2) as a continuous curtain with small fortlets (milecastles) and towers (turrets) only, it was modified to include larger forts moved
from the Stanegate, and a wide continuous ditch to the
S. A reduction in thickness also occurred. It was probably
finished ca. A.D. 132 and abandoned ca. 140, on the advance into lowland Scotland; it was reoccupied ca. 163?,
or ca. 180 (much disputed), and held until 387, or a
little later. The Wall was damaged by enemy action on
three attested occasions: A.D. 197 (disputed, alternatives
180 or 208), 296 (traditional date), and 367.
The barrier consists of a triple running line of wallditch (6 m wide x 4 m deep) a curtain wall, and a further ditch to the rear (today known as the vallum). The
curtain wall, now nowhere standing above 3 in high,
was originally ca. 5 m to the rampart walk, with a parapet
and merlons rising an additional 2 m. Its thickness varied
from 2 to 3.5 m (7-10 Roman feet). The whole was stone
built with ashlar faces, although the 49.6 km to the W
were originally of turf, later replaced by stone. The
vallum ditch was 6 m wide by 3 m deep with a continuous mound 6 m wide set back 9 m from each lip:
the whole was 1 actus wide. The S mound was continuous,
but the N mound was broken at intervals of a Roman
mile (1500 m) to allow access for patrols. Crossing
points, each controlled by a gateway manned from the N,
lay S of each milecastle and major fort. Later those S
of the milecastles were removed.
On flat ground the vallum was as close as 30-40 m
to the curtain wall, but where the Wall rides up onto the
Whin Sill it may be as much as 700 m to the S. At regular
intervals of a Roman mile a milecastle was built against
the S face of the Wall; it had a gateway through its N
and S walls and contained a small barracks, or sometimes two. The N gateway was topped by a stone tower
at least 10 m high, carrying an inscription recording the
emperor Hadrian, his governor A. Platorius Nepos, and
the legion that built the structure. Between each pair of
milecastles were two turrets 500 m apart. These were of
stone, 6.5 m square and partly recessed into the thickness
of the curtain. They were probably as high as the milecastle towers and, like them, flat-roofed (disputed). A
military way connected turrets and milecastles with each
other and with the larger forts.
At intervals varying from 3 to 9 Roman miles larger
forts were placed either on the Wall or adjacent to it.
In plan these were mostly of a playing-card shape, divided
internally into thirds. Barracks and stables occupied the
inner and outer sections, and the headquarters building,
storehouses and granaries, hospital and commandant's
house the central portion. Each fort was surrounded by
a wall with four principal gateways, each consisting of a
double portal flanked by a pair of towers and topped by
an upper chamber. Normally the N gate was through
the Wall itself, but many forts lay astride the Wall, with
three of their principal gates to the N. Outside the fort
lay its military bath house, official rest-house, parade
ground, temples, and cemeteries, beside which a vicus
or civil settlement grew up. Originally these were kept
S of the vallum ditch, but from the early 3d c. on they
were allowed to surround the fort itself. In form they
were vigorous villages of taverns, shops and workshops,
dwelling houses, and brothels—everything to cater for
those aspects of life not covered by the army.
The Wall ran from Wallsend on the Tyne to Bownesson-Solway, 80 Roman miles, and formed the principal
part of a larger system which began at South Shields
(the mouth of the Tyne), and continued along the Cumberland coast for 40 Roman miles beyond Bowness, in
the form of freestanding towers and mile fortlets, with
larger forts at Beckfoot, Maryport, Burrow Walls, and
Moresby. Outpost forts lay to the N at High Rochester,
Risingham, Bewcastlc, Netherby, and Birrens, and a depot (Corbridge) and supporting forts to the S.
(South Shields: NZ 365679).
A fort (ca. 189 m
N-S x 109 m E-W; 2.1 ha) defended by two ditches. The
gates, sections of the walls, and several interval towers
are known, also the headquarters building and other parts
of the central range, and several barracks of the primary
plan. In the early 3d c. the interior was converted into
a stores base, of which some 22 granaries are now known.
The headquarters building and parts of 10 granaries, with
underlying earlier buildings, are exposed to view.
(“Danum,” not located).
Presumably the next
(Wallsend: NZ 301660).
A fort (138 m
N-S x 120 m E-W; 1.6 ha), defended by a single ditch
6.3 m wide. The NE angle tower, parts of all four gateways, and a portion of the headquarters building have
been located, also the branch Wall from the fort to the
river Tyne and an external bath house. All is now completely overbuilt.
(Newcastle: NZ ?250369).
A fort is attested here (Not. Dig
.) but it is uncertain whether the
remains discovered under the Moot Hall and Keep are
from it or its vicus. Traces of the Roman bridge have
been located on the site of the present Swing Bridge.
(Benwell: NZ 216648).
A fort lying
astride the Wall (ca. 177 m N-S x ca. 119 m E-W;
2.1 ha) defended by a ditch, or possibly two. The S
wall, S gate and angle towers, most of the commandant's
house, part of the headquarters building and two granaries, most of the hospital, two barracks, and parts of the
stabling have all been excavated. The external bath house
has been located. All is now covered, with the exception
of the vallum crossing S of the fort and a small temple
in the vicus.
(Rudchester: NZ 113676).
A fort lying
astride the Wall (151 m N-S x 118 m E-W; 1.8 ha). The
four principal gates and one subsidiary postern, a granary,
part of the headquarters building and commandant's
baths have been located, and a temple of Mithras has
been excavated in the vicus. Nothing is now visible.
or Hunnum (Halton Chesters: NY 997685).
A fort lying astride the Wall (138 m N-S x 124 m E-W;
1.6 ha). An enlargement of ca. 0.3 ha was added to the
W side, S of the Wall, in the 3d c. The main N, E, and
W gates, a forehall attached to the headquarters building in the 3d c., a granary, and another building in the
central range have all been excavated, as well as barracks
and stables in the NE area. An internal bath house is
known as well as 3d c. buildings in the extension.
(Chesters: NY 912703).
A fort lying astride
the Wall (177 m N-S x 132 m E-W; 2.4 ha), apparently
defended by two ditches. All four main and two subsidiary gates, most of the interval and angle towers, and
parts of the walls are on view, also the headquarters
building and most of the commandant's house and baths.
Portions of stables and barracks are on view, and others
have been located. The external bath house is exposed
and a considerable (but unexcavated) vicus lies S and E
of the fort.
(Carrawburgh: NY 859712).
A small fort
totally S of the curtain wall (ca. 128 m N-S x 100 m
E-W; 1.4 ha). An inscription fragment suggests that it
was not built until A.D. 130-132, later than all other
forts. Parts of the W wall and W and S gates are known,
as is the external bath house. Part of the headquarters
building has been excavated, also an external Mithraeum,
a shrine to the Nymphs, and the sacred spring of the
or perhaps Vercovicium (Housesteads:
A fort wholly S of the curtain wall (186 m
E-W x 112 m N-S; 2.1 ha). The walls, towers, and all
gates stand to varying heights. The commandant's house,
headquarters building, granaries, and hospital are all
visible, as well as an internal communal lavatory and
some of the barrack blocks, one of which displays rebuilding as independent two-room units, after A.D. 296.
Excavation and aerial photography have revealed a large
vicus to the S and E, and a late gateway through the
Wall at the Knag Burn, E of the fort. Various temples,
including a Mithraeum, and cemeteries are known, also
a large unexplained enclosure to the W. The 2d c. vicus
lay S of the vallum ca. 100 m from the fort.
(Chesterholm: NY 771804).
1500 m S of the Wall (and the vallum) (155 m N-S x
93 m E-W; 1.4 ha). As a Stanegate fort that continued
in use as part of the Wall system Chesterholm was occupied from ca. A.D. 80 on, with rebuildings in the 160s
and the early 3d c. on sites beneath or adjacent to the
present fort (built ca. A.D. 300). Little of the anatomy of
the earlier occupation remains, but the side gates and
headquarters of the 3d c. fort have been located. The
walls, gates, headquarters building, and part of the commandant's house of the 4th c. fort are exposed. The vicus
has been partly excavated: it includes strip houses and
shops, a bath house, and an official rest house.
(Greatchesters: NY 704668).
A fort wholly S
of the curtain (128 m E-W x 108 m N-S; 1.4 ha); four
ditches are known on the W side. The principal S and W
gates, the NW and SW angle towers, and several buildings
against the W and S walls are to be seen. Also known are
parts of the headquarters building and commandant's
house, fragments of a granary, portions of barrack blocks,
and the external bath house. Epigraphic evidence suggests
a date of A.D. 128 or later.
or possibly Banna (Carvoran: NY 666657).
fort of ca. 1.8 ha lying 250 m S of the Wall and vallum.
The NW angle tower is visible and part of an internal
bath house has been located. Its original occupation was
(Birdoswald: NY 615663).
(177 m N-S x 122 m E-W; 2.1 ha), originally lay astride
the Wall but, after a realignment of the curtain, was
placed wholly behind it. The walls and most towers and
gates are on view, and parts of the headquarters building, commandant's house, a granary, and barracks have
been excavated or are known.
or Axelodunum, but uncertain (Castlesteads: NY 513635).
Lies 400 m S of the Wall but is
enclosed by a detour of the vallum. It is apparently ca.
122 m square (1.5 ha). Only the E and W gateways and
an angle tower are known. Possibly an earlier fort lies
under the visible one.
(Stanwix: NY 402572).
A fort (213 m E-W
x 177 m N-S; 3.8 ha) entirely S of the curtain. Parts of
the S wall and a granary and barracks are known, but the
site is now completely built over. There was apparently
a considerable vicus.
(Burgh-by-Sands: NY 328592).
A fort lying astride the Wall (apparently ca. 158 m N-S x ca.
125 m E-W; 1.9 ha). Only the E wall and external bath
house are known.
(Drumburgh: NY 265599).
A fort wholly
S of the curtain (93 m E-W x 82 m N-S; 0.76 ha).
Little is known of the anatomy but a granary in the NW
corner suggests an unusual plan.
(Bowness-on-Solway: NY 223627).
fort (ca. 191 m E-W x 119 m N-S; 2.8 ha), entirely S
of the curtain and defended by at least one ditch. The W
gate has been located and an external bath house to the
S. A branch wall ran down to the river W of the fort.
Wall, ditches, turrets, and milecastles.
stretch of the Wall farthest E is Turret 7b (Benwell,
NZ 198656); the next is at Heddon (NZ 137669). From
Heddon to Rudchester some intermittent lengths of the
vallum can be seen, and from Milecastle 18 (NZ 048684)
to Downhill (NZ 006685) a very informative stretch
survives, especially the 800 m E of Downhill. The Wall
ditch is visible intermittently over the same sector and
for the next 4.8 km the vallum and Wall ditch survive
clearly. At Planetrees (NY 929696) a fragment of Wall
stands 2.25 m high. Nearby at Brunton Bank (NY
922698), Turret 26b and a length of Wall can be seen.
From Tower Tie (NY 892709) to Limestone Bank Top
there is a stretch of curtain including Turret 29a (Black
Carts); the vallum is also clear. At Limestone Corner
(NY 875716) the ditch is rock-cut, and to the W, as far
as Milecastle 33 (NY 823705), a particularly fine length
of the vallum survives, with several stretches of the wall
ditch. At Milecastle 33 the modern road leaves the line
of the Wall; from here the vallum is generally visible
(with some exceptions) as far as Carvoran fort and,
intermittently, to Poltross Burn (NY 634663). Some
turrets and milecastles can be seen between Milecastle
35 and Housesteads fort; thereafter, the Wall rides along
the crags in a most imposing fashion (with some gaps) as
far as the Tipalt Burn (NY 659661). Many milecastles
(especially 37, 39, and 42) and turrets (45a) are on
view, and a good length of curtain survives on Walltown Crags. The military way is also visible for long
stretches between Milecastle 34 and Walltown. West of
Poltross Burn, Milecastle 48 is informative, and stretches
of the curtain wall run from there to Willowford Bridge
abutment (NY 624665). One of the most upstanding
stretches of curtain lies between Milecastle 49 and
Birdoswald fort, and W of the fort the only surviving
stretch of the Turf Wall can be seen. Apart from this,
with a very few exceptions (Turret 52a), there is little
between here and Carlisle, or W of the river Eden.
Bridge abutments may be seen on the Irthing (Willowford) and North Tyne (Chesters). At Chesters the 3d c.
stonework of the E abutment incorporates a pier of
The principal Wall museums are at Newcastle (Museum of Antiquities), Chesters (Clayton Memorial Museum), Carlisle (Tullie House Museum) and South
Shields, with others at Housesteads and Wallsend.
J. Collingwood Bruce, The Roman
(1867); id., in Handbook to the Roman Wall12
ed. I. A. Richmond (1966)MPI
; E. B. Birley, Research
on Hadrian's Wall
(1961); Map of Hadrian's Wall
; C. E. Stevens, The Building
of Hadrian's Wall
(1966); A. R. Birley, The Ninth
Pilgrimage of Hadrian's Wall
C. M. DANIELS