Wall Mile 34

Wall Mile 34 [HB 227–8]

To our north are the earthworks that are all that remains of Sewingshields Castle, still visible from the air, but our principal concern for the moment is that the ditch has now ceased, since we are now on the crags and it had become superfluous.

Before we get too carried away, we soon have another turret to inspect, lurking behind a stone field wall. This is Turret 34a.

Turret 34a (Grindon West) [HB 227]

Turret 34a

Turret 34a

Furnished with exceedingly small wing walls, this was another of those turrets which was only occupied in the 2nd century and, after abandonment, had its northern recess filled in. In the doorway, the curious will note the settings for the stone jambs of the door as well as the socket for the door pivot on the east side.

We resume our westerly tramp and approach the plantation that surrounds Sewing Shields farm. To the south of us, the Vallum suddenly opts for a more south-westerly course, in order to remain at the base of the dip slope leading up to the crags. Emerging on the far side of the woodland, we are treated to the spectacle of some splendid stretches of consolidated curtain wall.

Curtain wall with a post-Roman cist

Curtain wall with a post-Roman cist

The wall along here is very obviously narrow gauge on broad foundations (some of which were of whin) and we may take note of a narrow cleft which William Hutton thought was a tunnel dug by adventurous Picts in order to sneak under the curtain wall. About 50m east of Milecastle 35, there is a small stone box next to the south face of the curtain wall. This is the remains of a cist (the ‘c’ is hard) burial, presumed to date to the post-Roman period.

Milecastle 35 (Sewingshields) [HB 228–30; haiku]

Milecastle 35

Milecastle 35

Excavated in 1978–82, the first thing the visitor notes is that this long-axis milecastle has no north gate. This is one of those few instances where it would be truly superfluous. The interior of the fortification is occupied by several phases of Roman building on either side of the central roadway, culminating in its re-use as a medieval farmstead. The later Roman phases included evidence of metalworking on the site. For the curious, the milecastle (Sewingshields) and farm (Sewing Shields) names differ, presumably a quirk of the Ordnance Survey’s making.

The reason a north gate would be unnecessary at Milecastle 35

The reason a north gate would be unnecessary at Milecastle 35

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