Wall Mile 11

Wall Mile 11 [HB 166]

Ahead of us, we have a long, gentle climb along the pavement (passing Frenchmen’s Row on the right, home to refugee French royalists in the late 18th century) until we reach the crest of Great Hill, just east of Heddon-on-the-Wall.

On the way, we are passing more of those berm pits, explored during the water supply upgrade trenching. The berm pits are not universally accepted as evidence of an entanglement. One writer has suggested that they are no such thing and in fact represent an early timber predecessor to Hadrian’s Wall. An interesting idea, but the absence of a berm between this putative timber wall and the ditch would make it unlikely on the grounds of stability, if nothing else (and we shall encounter the results of inattention to this important point in Wall Mile 54).

Once past the houses to our right, we are suddenly greeted by the sight of the Wall ditch in their place. It is overgrown, but there nonetheless. The curtain wall, of course, still lies beneath the southern carriageway of the road, whilst the Vallum is in the fields to the south, often visible as a crop or parch mark.

The ditch near Great Hill

The ditch near Great Hill

As we reach the crest of the hill, it is time to consider the effect of the road upon the wall beneath it. In 1926, Northumberland County Council decided to improve the gradient on the road and, in so doing, grubbed up some 55m of the wall which lay beneath the original road surface. Remember, that’s a length of wall preserved by the Military Road, and destroyed by a county council! Luckily it was possible for Parker Brewis to excavate it before its destruction. It is wise to take with a pinch of salt all protestations of vandalism levelled against the original builders of the road; we shall come across plenty of sections of curtain wall destroyed in the medieval and post-medieval periods where there was no road to blame. The Military Road is just one of many scavengers that have nibbled at the corpse of Hadrian’s Wall.

Finally, we arrive at the sanctuary of the length of wall at Heddon, with its boot-welcoming turf, and we can cross over near the point where the curtain wall rejoins the Military Road at the crest of the hill, exercising all due caution as we do so. The existence of the village caused the Military Road to make a small diversion in order to avoid it, thereby preserving a rather splendid length of curtain wall and ditch for our delectation and pleasure.

The curtain wall at Heddon

The curtain wall at Heddon

The curtain wall at Heddon

This section of curtain wall is built to what is known as the broad gauge (10 Roman feet, or about 2.96m), is slightly less than 220m in length, and survives up to four courses high.

The south face of the wall

The south face of the wall and the change in alignment

One third of the way along, it features a change of alignment onto a more northerly course of some 13 degrees. Note how, near the west end, a circular kiln has been inserted into the ruins of the wall itself, possibly during the post-medieval period. Reassuringly, the Vallum survives as a subdued earthwork in the field to the south.

The Vallum at Heddon

The Vallum at Heddon

As we prepare to leave this haven of grass and wall at its western extremity, we suddenly realise that we are briefly walking along the line of the ditch, before we slip through a narrow gate and emerge into the village itself.

Once in the village, National Trail adherents will stumble up to join us, wondering what they have missed. They will never know (unless they read this, of course). The price they paid for their abject act of cowardice is that they have had to walk further than us and have missed some rather good bits of Wall. Now, dear reader, we are going to share our journey until we reach the outskirts of Carlisle when, once again, they will misguidedly wander off in search of an easy, Wall-free life.

We now turn left and then, after 50m or so, cross the road to head up an unnamed lane towards the alleged site of Milecastle 12, until we see a junction and a new-looking house ahead of us.

Milecastle 12 (Heddon) [HB 166; haiku]

The lane leading towards the probable site of Milecastle 12

This milecastle has proved quite evasive. It should be located near the top of Chare Bank but attempts to find it have so far only produced what was thought to be a bit of the north gate in 1926. When the Military Road was being constructed here in 1752, a hoard of coins was found nearby, causing something of a furore; unfortunately nobody thought to record the contents, so we know nothing about it.

PLVad2

Hadrian’s Wall Inscriptions (Benwell to Rudchester)

Introduction


This section covers Wall Miles 6 to 13, nearly all of which (i.e. WM8–13) is now beneath the Military Road. Many are unprovenanced, usually having been rebuilt into another structure, but some were recovered from the Wall during the construction of the road in 1751. Unfortunately, the locations of these stones were not accurately recorded.

Inventory

RIB 1353: VIAT (‘…]VIAT[…’).  Found 1807 built into a house near MC7. Now lost.  Source: RIB I p.446

RIB 1354

RIB 1354

RIB 1354: c(enturia) Here/nniani (‘The century of Herennianus (built this)’). Centurial stone found before 1732 beside the road at Denton. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.446

RIB 1355: N (‘N’). Building stone found before 1789. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.446

RIB 1356: c(enturia) Iuli / Rufi (‘The century of Iulius Rufus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1804 near Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1357: c(enturia) Iuli / Rufi (‘The century of Iulius Rufus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1804 near Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1358

RIB 1358

RIB 1358: leg(ionis) II Aug(ustae) / coh(ors) I / fec(it) (‘Second Legion First Cohort built this’). Building stone found 1869 near Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1359: l(egionis) II Aug(ustae) / c(o)ho(rs) VIII / fec(it) (‘Second Legion Eighth Cohort made this’). Building stone found 1716 in East Denton. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1360

RIB 1360

RIB 1360: leg(ionis) / II Aug(ustae) co/h(ors) VIII (‘Second Legion Eighth Cohort (built this)’). Building stone found 1725 at Denton Wood House. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1361: c(enturia) Tu[lli] (‘The century of Tullius (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1936 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1362: c(enturia) Val(eri) Fl(avi) (‘Century of Valerius Flavus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1934 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1363: c(enturia) Val(eri) Fl(avi) (‘Century of Valerius Flavus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1934 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1364: c(enturia) Pro(culi) (‘Century of Proculus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1934 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1365: c(oh(ortis) I / Dacor(um) / c(enturia) Ael(i) Dida(e) (‘First Cohort of Dacians the century of Aelius Dida (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1936 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.449

RIB 1366

RIB 1366

RIB 1366: Iov/i O(ptimo) M(aximo) / [... ('For Jupiter Best and Greatest...'). Altar found 1822 on the Wall west of Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1367: c(enturia) Atisi ('The century of Atisius (built this)'). Centurial stone found 1953. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1368: c(enturia) Avi/di Rufi ('The century of Avidius Rufus (built this)'). Centurial stone found 1904 in main road west of lane to Newburn. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1369: c(enturia)] / Iuli Pri[...] (‘century of Iulius Primus’). Centurial stone found before 1851 in West Denton. Source: RIB I p.449

RIB 1370: VIII (‘8′). Building stone found 1929 in Milecastle 9. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1371: VIIII (‘9′). Building stone found 1929 in Milecastle 9. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1372: X (’10’). Building stone found 1929 in Milecastle 9. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1373

RIB 1373

RIB 1373: c(enturia) p(rimi) p(ili) (‘century of the first centurion (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1794 in a stable in Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1374

RIB 1374

RIB 1374: c(enturia) Iuli Pro/culi (‘century of Iulius Proculus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1906 200 yds W of Engine Inn. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1375: coh(ortis) V[… / c(enturia) Iuli Iuv(enalis?) (‘The fifth(/sixth/seventh) cohort, the century of Iulius Iuvenalis’). Centurial stone found 1789 near Walbottle. Source: RIB I pp.450-1

RIB 1376

RIB 1376

RIB 1376: c(enturia) Pere/grini (‘century of Peregrinus’). Centurial stone found 1794 slightly east of Walbottle on south mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1377: c(enturia) Muci. / .EN (‘the century of Mucius … (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1732 in a cow shed in Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1378

RIB 1378

RIB 1378: F]elix… (‘Felix…’). Building stone found 1857 at Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1379: a) I b) III c) V d) VII[ e) VIII f) IX (‘a) 1 b) 3 c) 5 d) 7(or 8/9) e) 8 f) 9′). Building stones found 1732 in field walls near Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1380

RIB 1380

RIB 1380: c(enturia) Car[… (‘The century of Car[…’). Centurial stone found in 1864 at Milecastle 10. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1381: V (‘5′). Building stone found before 1732 in Throckley. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1382: X (’10’). Building stone found before 1732 in Throckley. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1383: C (‘C’ or ‘100’). Building stone found 1926 at Great Hill, near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1384: R (‘R’). Building stone found 1926 at Great Hill, near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1385: leg(ionis) XX / V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / coh(ors) IV (‘Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix (built this)’). Building stone found 1807 in the vicarage at Heddon and now lost. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1386: c(enturia) Iul(i) / Ruf(i) (‘The century of Iulius Rufus’). Centurial stone found 1807 in the vicarage at Heddon and now lost. This centurion is also recorded in RIB 1356 & 1357. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1387: c(enturia) Fl(avi) As/[… (‘The century of Flavius As[…’). Centurial stone found in church at Heddon-on-the-Wall. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1388: leg(ionis) VI [V]i/ct(ricis) P(iae) F(idelis) re[f]/ecit coh(ors) X (‘From the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis the tenth cohort rebuilt this’). Building stone found (probably near Heddon-on-the-Wall) during construction of the Military Road in 1751. Now missing. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1389: leg(io) VI V(ictrix) P(ia) / F(idelis) ref(ecit) Te/r(tullo) et Sac(erdote) co(n)s(ulibus) / S(…) F(…) (‘The Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis rebuilt this in the consulship of Tertullus and Sacerdos. S(…) F(…)’). Building stone found (probably near Heddon-on-the-Wall) during construction of the Military Road in 1751. Now missing. The consular date is AD 158. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1390: leg(ionis) XX V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / coh(ors) VIII (‘Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, eighth cohort’). Building stone found (probably near Heddon-on-the-Wall) during construction of the Military Road in 1751. Now missing. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1391: leg(ionis) XX V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / coh(ortis) X [c(enturia)] prin(cipis prioris) (‘From the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, tenth cohort, the century of the princeps prior (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1751 during construction of the Military Road, probably near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1392: coh(ors) pr/ima DC . L (‘First cohort…’]. Building stone found 1751 during construction of the Military Road, probably near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.454

RIB 1393: XIII (’13’). Building stone found before 1952 at Heddon. Source: RIB I p.454

RIB 1394: Cl(audius) · P[… (‘Claudius…’). Found 1932 at Heddon North Lodge. Source: RIB I p.454

RIB 3286: I (‘1′). Building stone found 1930 in Newburn. Source: RIB III p.287

RIB 3287: II (‘2′). Building stone found 1930 in Newburn. Source: RIB III p.287

RIB 3288: + (‘+’). Building stone found 1930 in Newburn. Source: RIB III p.287

Analysis

There is much that can be made from this disparate bunch of mural chisellings. The bulk of the inscriptions from this section fall into the categories of centurial or building stones, with some quarry marks thrown in for good measure. Amongst the centurial stones, there is also an apparent division between legionary centurions (building the curtain wall itself) and auxiliary centurions working on the Vallum.

The Wall sector between Milecastle 6 (just before Benwell) and around Turret 11b (just before Heddon) has traditionally been assigned to legio II Augusta (Birley 1961, 257), with legio XX Valeria Victrix building Turret 11b to around Milecastle 17, based upon the evidence of the building stones. If correct, this would suggest that Iulius Rufus (RIB 1356-7, 1386), Avidius Rufus (RIB 1368), Iulius Primus (RIB 1369), Iulius Proculus (RIB 1374), and Iulius Iuvenalis (RIB 1375) were all centurions of II Augusta, evidently belonging to cohortes I, VIII, and V[… (the primus pilus mentioned in RIB 1373 was the centurion commanding cohors I in a legion; cf RIB 1358). Two inscriptions referring to reconstruction work by legio VI Victrix (one dated to AD 158) presumably relate to their repairing original shoddy construction work (by legio XX?!) after the retreat from the Antonine Wall.

A group of centurial inscriptions from the Vallum (RIB 1361-5, 1376) indicate construction work there by auxiliaries, specifically from cohors I Aelia Dacorum (RIB 1365). This puts the lie to the old chestnut about construction work always being undertaken by legionaries (partly inspired by the images on Trajan’s Column) and this appears to be confirmed by part of Hadrian’s address to troops at Lambaesis (in modern Algeria), where he mentions troops of a mixed cohort building walls and digging ditches. It also presumably meant the legions could carry on constructing the curtain wall and its associated structures whilst the auxiliaries worked on the Vallum.

Some centurions’ names occur more than once. Iulius Rufus (RIB 1356-7, 1386) is found at both Denton and near Heddon (if the same centurion, it indicates leapfrogging by work gangs of the same legion). Avidius Rufus is encountered again to the west of Carrawburgh fort (RIB 1567 and possibly 1564-5).

Finally, the altar (RIB 1366) may originally have come from Milecastle 8 (since, outwith forts and their civil settlements, altars on the Wall usually only occur at milecastles).

References

Birley, E. (1961), Research on Hadrian’s Wall, Kendal

The Milecastle Haiku (Week 2)

Milecastle 7

Benwell Bank, not found;
A good friend rests near to this
Summer-dusty road.

Milecastle 8

Nearer Shearer than
Rome, West Denton roars at you,
Frozen by a stream.

Milecastle 9

Chapel House – park
Bench near waving ripe wheat;
A fort, once for sale.

Milecastle 10

A garden gate is
Forever open. June breeze
At Walbottle Dene.

Milecastle 11

Another low crest
And Throckley Bank Top surveys
Its neighbours through mist.

Milecastle 12

Reunited with
The trail, Heddon hails the start
Of the real journey.

Milecastle 13

Rudchester Burn with
An avenue flecked with May.
The loud road growls past.

The PLV eboojs

Wall Mile 11

Wall Mile 11 [HB 166]

Give thanks for Heddon-on-the-Wall. Why? Because the fact of its existence caused the Military Road to make a small diversion in order to avoid it, thereby preserving a rather splendid length of curtain wall and ditch for our delectation and pleasure.

Curtain wall at Heddon

Curtain wall at Heddon

The National Trail, however, now chickens out and dives off down the hillside to send the unwary wandering along the riverside for no good purpose. Don’t worry; the price they pay for this abject act of cowardice is that they have to walk further than we do and they are going to miss some rather good bits of Wall (including the smallest piece of consolidated curtain wall) into the bargain. Now, dear reader, we are on our own until we are reunited with these view-seekers at Wallsend.

There are various signs that point us towards the consolidated length of wall at the east end of the village. We slip through a narrow gate and instantly we are walking along the line of the ditch, with the wall immediately to our left. In the distance we can see the point where the Military Road and curtain wall reunite, but for the time being we can enjoy this section of Broad Wall. It is some 215m in length and survives up to seven courses high. Near the west end, a circular kiln has been inserted into the ruins of the wall, possibly during the post-medieval period. Reassuringly, the Vallum survives as a subdued earthwork in the field to the south.

View back towards Heddon

View back towards Heddon

As we leave the sanctuary of this length of wall and its boot-welcoming turf, we can cross over to the pavement near the point where the curtain wall rejoins the Military Road at the crest of the hill. Or, at least, it used to. In 1926, Northumberland County Council decided to improve the gradient on the road and, in so doing, grubbed up some 55m of the wall which lay beneath the original road surface. Remember, that’s a length of wall preserved by the Military Road, and destroyed by a county council! Luckily it was possible for Parker Brewis to excavate it before its destruction. It is wise to take with a pinch of salt all protestations of vandalism levelled against the original builders of the road; there are plenty of sections of curtain wall destroyed in the medieval and post-medieval periods where there was no road to blame (as William Hutton found at at Planetrees). The Military Road is just one of many predators that have nibbled at the corpse of Hadrian’s Wall.

The ditch at Great Hill

The ditch at Great Hill

Once we have reached the crest of Great Hill there is a long, gentle, downhill slope before us and some rather exciting archaeology buried beneath the road. From here, the Wall runs in a dead straight line to Milecastle 11. Now the ditch is to our left, albeit overgrown, the curtain wall lies beneath the southern carriageway, and the Vallum is in the field to the right, often visible as a crop or parch mark. The north carriageway lies on the line of the berm and it is this that has proved to be rather interesting. Excavation during work to improve the water mains along this stretch of the road found that the berm was covered with pits arranged quincunx fashion (like the spots on the 5 side of a die). These have been interpreted as pits designed to hold obstacles such as thorn bushes, acting like a barbed-wire entanglement. This would not only hinder an enemy coming across the ditch, from north-to south, but also stop anybody running along the berm to gain an advantage over patrols along the Wall. One writer has, however, suggested that they are no such thing and in fact represent an early timber predecessor to Hadrian’s Wall. An interesting idea, but the absence of a berm between this putative timber wall and the ditch would make it unlikely on the grounds of stability, if nothing else (remember how Turret 54a suffered from inattention to this important point).

The Military Road with the resurfaced water-pipe trench still visible

The Military Road with the resurfaced water-pipe trench still visible

Then it is just a long, steady walk along the pavement (passing Frenchmen’s Row on the left, home to refugee French royalists in the late 18th century) until we reach the crest of the hill down to Throckley, the approximate location of Milecastle 11 (Throckley Bank Top).

Milecastle 11 (Throckley Bank Top) [HB 165; haiku]

Throckley Bank Top looking back towards Heddon

Throckley Bank Top looking back towards Heddon

As you will already have deduced, this milecastle has also proved elusive, although by measurement it should lie somewhere under the working men’s club south of the road.

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