Wall Mile 66

Wall Mile 66 [HB 347]

The Wall now crosses former railway yards whilst the Trail, diving under an old railway viaduct, hugs the riverside, ultimately arriving at Bitts Park, on the floodplain of the Eden and just north of Roman Carlisle.

Carlisle from the air

Carlisle from the air

The fort at Carlisle (Luguvalium) was never part of the Hadrian’s Wall system, but was rather connected to the ‘Stanegate frontier’ (itself a notion which regularly comes into, and then goes out of, fashion). The redevelopment of the city centre has seen large portions of the extramural settlement and the southern portion of the fort being excavated (the northern part is situated under the castle, which is still Crown property), the earlier levels showing a degree of organic preservation second only to Vindolanda. It has the distinction of its first fort being dated very precisely to AD 72, thanks to dendrochronology, and there is then a cycle of renewal approximately every ten years, with the garrison probably changing each time. Writing tablets (similar to, but less famous than, the Vindolanda examples) mention the presence of ala I Gallorum Sebosiana in AD 105. Like the Roman fort at Corbridge, its later garrison included detachments from the three British legions, II Augusta, VI Victrix, and XX Valeria Victrix.

The curtain wall crossed the Caldew and then the Eden by means of stone bridges and Camden observed that ‘within the chanell of the river mighty stones, the remaines thereof, are yet extant’. This lay just downstream of the bridge that carried the Roman road to the outpost fort at Netherby across the Eden and through the Wall (probably with a gateway like that at Portgate, north of Corbridge). Stones from one (or more) of the bridges can be seen in Bitts Park, just after crossing the bridge over the Caldew, off the path to our left.

Stones from a Roman bridge in Bitts Park

Stones from a Roman bridge in Bitts Park

After Bitts Park, the National Trail continues along the south bank of the Eden before crossing the river, but we are going to deviate and cross by means of the road bridge, about 200m from the site of the Roman bridge carrying the Wall, so that we can keep more closely to the line of the frontier and explore the neglected remains of Stanwix fort.

Milecastle 66 (Stanwix Bank) [HB 346; haiku]

Site of Milecastle 66

Site of Milecastle 66

Milecastle 66 (Stanwix Bank) – to the left as we cross the bridge – was noted by Thomas Pennant in 1772 on his way north to explore Scotland again. He saw it perched on the edge of the north bank of the river, recording ‘vestiges of some dikes describing a small square’ but no trace now remains.

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