William Hutton Walks the Wall: Day One


or the Wall’s End.

When part of a building remains, we can sometimes comprehend the whole; but where nothing is left, conjecture is hazardous. This is our present case. No buildings are left in this Station, or any other, to guide the judgment. The spot, now a green pasture, about four acres, three miles and a half below Newcastle, gently declines to the river Tyne; is uneven, as having been covered with buildings. At the top of this green pasture, and parallel with the water, runs Severus’s Ditch; so that the Station lies between both.

From the beginning of Severus’s Ditch, to the water, the Wall, now gone, must have made a right angle, perhaps eighty yards or more, to the Tyne, so that this cross Wall, would also make a right angle with the river. Here stood the Castle. The North corner of the Wall must have been where now stands a cottage, and have entered the water at what they call a trunk, or high timber bridge.

Wallsend c.1850 (Newcastle Libraries)

Wallsend c.1850 (Newcastle Libraries)

I could not learn from tradition, that time had made any alteration in the tides. As securing this end of the Wall must have been a point of some magnitude, I have no doubt but the Romans took the advantage of low water to form their butment as deep as circumstances would allow.

Here we see a town full of streets and houses, immured in stone walls; where every man, though a soldier, might, when not upon duty, follow his occupation.

The Bank and Ditch are nearly complete; the last is ten yards wide. Proceeding two hundred yards, it passes a house, late Cousens’, now belonging to John Baddle Esq. Then Slate’s house, to a stile in the valley. Now we rise a hill, with the Wall under the very path we tread. The Ditch twelve yards wide. Along a close called Old Walker’s Hill. Byker’s Hill. A hedge now runs in the Ditch, a part of which, this year, for the first time, is levelled, and converted into a bed of potatoes, which the proprietors will allow gratis, during three years, to any one who will level, and improve the ground. This is the taste of the neighbourhood for the grandest piece of antiquity in the whole Island.

Byker Hill, some 70 years before Hutton’s visit

The Ditch now leaves a windmill close on the right, crosses the road from Newcastle to Shields, about thirty yards North of the toll gate. Goes down the steep hill called Ewsburn, and up to another windmill. Over Shieldfield, where, by the name, I suppose a mile-castle has stood, and where the whole is invisible.

Ouseburn c.1840 (Newcastle Libraries)

Ouseburn c.1840 (Newcastle Libraries)

We now enter Newcastle, leaving a small part of the town on the right, or North side; but inclosing the principal, and perhaps the whole, when the works were erected. Its passage through these premises is unseen; but it must have been up and down steep hills, till we arrive at Pandon Gate.

During this space of three miles and a half, Severus’s Ditch is plainer, nearly all the way, than could he expected in so populous a country. Not the least remains of the Wall, Castles, or Turrets, are to be seen.

At the Wall’s end the first cohort had their station.


now Newcastle

Here I must follow my predecessors, who all through this populous town groped their way in the dark. Busy life ruins antiquity. The faithful Warburton will lead me along this crowded place, where nothing of the Roman is seen; after which I shall be able to walk alone, and perhaps correct my leader.

Though we are arrived at Pandongate, I apprehend we are not arrived at the Station, but a gate in the town wall, where a turret of the Roman Wall once stood. Pandon, in the time of the Romans, and for ages after, was a distinct village, and given to Newcastle by Edward the First.

Warburton proves that Severus’s Wall lies a little to the North of St. Nicholas’s church; that the Wall, which passes through the church porch, was the Eastern wall of the Station itself, and that of Severus was the Northern; thus having found two walls of this great square, the other two will follow. He justly allows the medium of a station to be an area of one hundred and thirty-six yards square; which, in this case, will reach near the present castle. This points out the Station.

“There are,” says my hostess, where I applied for a dinner, “some gentlemen to dine here: should you have any objection to dine with them?”

“Not the least, Madam. I am open to all kinds of company.”

My landlord afterwards applied: “Perhaps, Sir, you would chuse to dine in this room alone, upon a dish of fish, and a beef steak?”

“No. I have agreed with my landlady to dine with some gentlemen.”

I waited longer than the promise; saw dinner taken in; but no notice taken of me. Disappointment is irksome. “Why am I not,” said I to the waite, “summoned to dinner?” “I will inform you.” — The notice came.

I found seven gentlemen fully employed, and a niche left for an eighth.

I was treated with a distant respect; and a small degree of awe governed the whole board.

Dinner over; they requested me to return thanks. Which done; — “You seem, gentlemen, to take me for a clergyman; but, I assure you, I am in a far preferable state; for I am a freeman, which a great part of the Clergy are not. I have nothing to expect from any man but common civility, which I wish to return with interest; but he who is under promises, expectations, or even wishes, his sentiments perhaps may not be his own, and he cannot be deemed free.”

Their countenances brightened.

“I have,” says one of the gentlemen, “seven relations in the Church.”

“Then, Sir, if you are an independant [sic] man, are not you the happiest of eight?”

It seemed, their apprehensions of my black dress, from which they were glad to be freed, had nearly deprived me of a dinner.

One of the gentlemen gave, “The King’s friends!” To this, though I am no votary for healths, I made no objection; for a friend will not lead a man wrong. But afterwards entering upon indelicate healths, which neither suited the prayer they had requested, nor my pursuits, I withdrew.