57. How many men were in a Hadrian’s Wall turret?

There is no clear answer to this question and we do not even know if men lived in turrets, or merely used them for cover and for signalling during patrols of the Wall. Hearths in turrets show that some form of occupation, perhaps even cooking, took place there, but its permanence is a matter for debate. It seems reasonable to assume that each milecastle was responsible for the neighbouring turret on either side, but that is only an assumption.

Further reading: Breeze and Dobson 2000; Symonds and Mason 2009

55. How high were turrets on Hadrian’s Wall?

Turrets make little sense unless they were higher than the curtain wall to which they were attached. Parallels from other contemporary Roman fortifications show square towers at gates, corners, and at intervals between those key points rising above the curtain walls of forts and fortresses. When reconstructing them, scholars have generally favoured only one additional storey, although differing over whether they had a flat-topped roof or a peripheral balcony.

Further reading: Symonds and Mason 2009

54. How many turrets were there on Hadrian’s Wall?

There were two turrets between each milecastle, so there was a notional total of 160 (assuming turrets existed between Milecastles 73 and 76). However, a number of additional turrets are known, where a pre-existing tower was incorporated into the Wall, as at Pike Hill (a short distance east of Turret 52A) and Turret 45A, or a new turret was added for tactical reasons, as happened with the Peel Gap tower between Turrets 39A and 39B. Thus it is possible that there were other, as yet undiscovered, additional turrets, so it seems 160 was a minimum.

Further reading: Breeze and Dobson 2000; Symonds and Mason 2009

53. How many men were in a milecastle?

Certainty here is impossible, nor is there any guarantee that all milecastles held the same number of men all the time. Comparisons have been made between milecastle internal buildings and fort barrack blocks and the accommodation these offered and this has led to suggestions of between eight and thirty-two men per milecastle. If the upper figure were true, it would mean that nearly half of the fort garrisons would need to have been outposted to man the milecastles.

Further reading: Breeze and Dobson 2000; Symonds and Mason 2009

52. Did milecastles have towers?

milecastle towersMilecastles are usually reconstructed as having towers (see figure above), although most such reconstructions only opt for a northern tower (above, centre). However, in all cases where a milecastle has been examined, the north and south gateway foundations are identical, so it would seem logical that both were equally equipped: either they both had towers (above, right) or neither did (above, left). The logic for the existence of the towers is that the one Turf Wall milecastle examined in detail, MC50TW, had more posts than could just be accounted for in a gateway, and so it was felt that it must have had a tower. Likewise the elevation provided by the turrets would be wasted if the intervening milecastles did not share it. All towers in other contemporary Roman fortifications, whether built as part of a fort or free-standing on a frontier, were square. If the milecastles had towers, they were of a unique form.

Further reading: Symonds and Mason 2009