Wall Mile 54

Wall Mile 54 [HB 326–8]

After crossing the Howgill, The Trail is soon diverted off to the north to join a country lane. We turn south along the road for a short distance, looking to our right to see the line of the ditch coming across the field as a shallow depression before a Trail sign directs us off to the left. We pass through a couple of stiles and soon enter a large field, sloping down away from us. To our right, in the distance, Lanercost Priory is visible in the valley of the Irthing. As might be expected, large amounts of Hadrian’s Wall were incorporated into the fabric of the priory, as ever a fact betrayed by the inclusion of inscribed building stones within it.

Wall Mile 54 from the air

Wall Mile 54 from the air

As we walk eastwards down the field, we keep one eye on the priory. At the point where it is about to disappear behind some trees we stop, for we are now at a very interesting location. The site of Turret 54a – both of them! As elsewhere west of the River Irthing, the Wall was originally a turf rampart here, the turrets being of stone and later incorporated into the stone curtain wall. However, at some point after construction, Turret 54b collapsed northwards into the ditch and a replacement had to be provided immediately to the south of it. This meant that, when the time came to replace the turf rampart with a stone curtain wall, the new stone wall had to be aligned to butt against that secondary turret, which in turn meant that the berm between the ditch and that new stone wall was unusually wide.

Unconsolidated Wall core

Unconsolidated Wall core

Continuing eastwards down the field, the first tangible fragments of curtain wall core embedded in white mortar are visible on the left, restrained within a barbed-wire fence. This is also near the eastern limit of the Intermediate Gauge wall, built after the retreat from the Antonine Wall. At the bottom of the hill is a small burn and then a farm track before the next stretch of rising ground. This takes us up to the location of Milecastle 54 (Randylands), its position marked by a slight terrace and (more recently) a large oak tree. To the south is a large plantation, now clear-felled, and the Vallum can be seen crossing it.

Milecastle 54 (Randylands) [HB 325–6; haiku]

Site of Milecastle 54

Site of Milecastle 54

Excavated in 1933/4, this splendidly named long-axis milecastle was situated on a west-facing slope and was the most westerly reconstructed in stone before the move to the Antonine Wall in the fifth decade of the 2nd century AD. Examination also revealed the Turf Wall period milecastle underneath its stone successor.

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