Wall Mile 71

Wall Mile 71 [HB 349]

Burgh-by-Sands fort (ABALLAVA)

Burgh church

Burgh church

As with the earlier fort sites, Roman Burgh is all around us, quite literally. Many of the buildings and much of the church are built out of the red sandstone blocks originally used for the curtain wall and fort. Otherwise, as at Bowness and Drumburgh, there is nothing to see of it now. A visit to the church will, however, reveal a stone in the chancel that is claimed (somewhat implausibly) to be a Roman or ‘Celtic’ moustachioed head. ‘Celtic’ heads tend to draw the strangest people out of the woodwork and this one did not make it into the definitive account of Roman sculpture, the Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani; make of that what you will.

There were three distinct sites at Burgh. Burgh I was a late-1st-century AD turf-and-timber fort, possibly belonging to the Stanegate series of sites. Burgh II was the Hadrianic Wall fort and covered an area of 2ha (4.9 acres). It was situated on top of Turret 71b, near Sandwath ford, one of the lowest crossing points of the Solway Firth. In the 3rd century, the garrison was a numerus of Mauri from North Africa – recalling an episode in the Historia Augusta  (Life of Severus 22) when Septimius Severus had an unpleasant encounter with a Moor near the Wall. Other units recorded include ala I Tungrorum, cohors I Germanorum Nerviana, part-mounted and milliary, and a cuneus Frisiorum (also found at Housesteads).

Herringbone construction exposed by erosion

Herringbone construction exposed by erosion

The course of the curtain wall leaves Burgh more or less on the line of the road but makes a sharp turn to the north-east about 150m east of the eastern end of the churchyard. The Trail, meanwhile, takes us off the road and down a field next to it (the wall crosses the path about half way down the field, although there is nothing to show it), before we rejoin the road and then turn north up a track, cross a small bridge, and rejoin the line of the curtain wall (at NY 333 591), heading north-east. A shallow, marshy depression resembles the ditch but is in fact later disturbance, although the hedgeline now follows the line of the barrier, which is marked by a series of gnarled old hawthorn trees. Amongst the roots you can occasionally glimpse pieces of stone from the fabric of the wall. The trail then takes us into a lane that approximates to the course of the Wall ditch and this is the site of Milecastle 71.

Milecastle 71 (Wormanby) [HB 349; haiku]

Milecastle 71 (Wormanby) has been examined by excavation in 1960 and again in 2000, although there is nothing to see, once more.

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