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A barrier crossing N England from Tyne to Solway. The late Roman name was Vallum (Not. Dig. and Ant. It.). Begun 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.

Arbeia (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.

Jarrow (“Danum,” not located).

Presumably the next fort.

Segedunum (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.

Pons Aelius (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.

Condercum (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.

Vindobala (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.

Onnum 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.

Cilurnum (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.

Brocolitia (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 goddess Coventina.

Borcovicus, or perhaps Vercovicium (Housesteads: NY 790688).

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.

Vindolanda (Chesterholm: NY 771804).

A fort 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.

Aesica (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.

Magna, or possibly Banna (Carvoran: NY 666657).

A 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 possibly pre-Hadrianic.

Camboglanna (Birdoswald: NY 615663).

The fort (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.

Uxellodunum 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.

Petriana (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.

Aballava (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.

Congavata (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.

Maia (Bowness-on-Solway: NY 223627).

Terminal 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.

The surviving 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 Hadrianic date.

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 Wall3 (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 (Ordnance Survey2 1972)M; C. E. Stevens, The Building of Hadrian's Wall (1966); A. R. Birley, The Ninth Pilgrimage of Hadrian's Wall (1969)P.


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