William Hutton Walks the Wall: Day Three

At the eleventh mile stone is the village of Wall-houses: there are five. Severus, distinct as before; and Hadrian, thirty yards on the left, but faint. Here must have been a Mile castle. Now a young grove, fills Severus’s ditch, which will tend to preserve it.

At the twelve mile stone, Agricola is bold, and Severus perfect.

At the thirteenth, High-wall house.

And at the fourteenth stone, we pass by Sir Edward Blackens, who is the proprietor of all the works of the General and the two Emperors; and who has converted a *little* farmhouse into a *little* castle; so that our favourite banks and ditches have not lost their warlike appearance.

Hadrian, fifty yards on my left, is very conspicuous; I, upon Severus’s Wall, and his ditch on my right.

At the fifteenth mile stone, we pass Halton Shields, a village of twelve houses. I rapped at some doors, tried the latch at others, and hollowed at all; but I believe not a soul was left within, the fine hay-day had emptied the village.

I now enter a common, where the two partners appear in bold, and broken lines.

Severus, through the long line of the Wall, seems to chuse the high ground, perhaps the better to observe the approach of an enemy; and Agricola the low, for the benefit of water to supply his ditches; but I was surprized, at the close of this Station, to observe this rule was reversed; for Agricola passes over a steep on my left, and the other seems obliged to take the low ground on which I tread. Perhaps Agricola durst not attempt the swamp; which Severus was obliged to do, as the other had left him no alternative.


Hunnum; now Halton Chesters.



From whence Halton Hall derives its name, the antient seat of the Carnabys.

I am eighteen miles from the Wall’s end, fifteen and a half from Newcastle, and seven from the last Station. I passed through the centre of this Station without knowing it, till an intelligent gentleman set me right. It is near the foot of the hill I just now mentioned; is flat, which is uncommon for a Station; seems less rough than some other Stations, owing perhaps to its being more cultivated, for it was now covered with standing corn. Severus’s Wall passes through the centre of this Station.

The moment I saw it, Severus appeared to have been cramped in his design, that he was obliged to take the low ground, because his predecessor had before taken the high; and, as he could not go behind him, was obliged to proceed over the verge of the swamp.

Rising a long and gentle hill, I was shewn what was once a Mile castle, now a piece of wheat in the open field.

One hundred yards, more bring us to Port Gate; that is, two roads cross each other at right angles, both Roman. One is the Watling Street, which, I have no doubt, was made first; the other, the line of the Wall upon which I tread. This being formed after the other, a kind of gate-way, or thoroughfare, was left in the Wall, to facilitate a passage: hence the name.

See in the annexed Plate, a profile of the Roman Wall and Vallum near this Gate, as it appeared in Warburton’s time, 1722.

Cross-section of Hadrian's Wall

Cross-section of Hadrian’s Wall

I now travel over a large common, still upon the Wall, with its trench nearly complete. But what was my surprize when I beheld, thirty yards on my left, the united works of Agricola and Hadrian, almost perfect! I climbed over a stone wall to examine the wonder; measured the whole in every direction; surveyed them with surprize, with delight, was fascinated, and unable to proceed; forgot I was upon a wild common, a stranger, and the evening approaching. I had the grandest works under my eye, of the greatest men of the age in which they lived, and of the most eminent nation then existing; all which had suffered but little during the long course of sixteen hundred years. Even hunger and fatigue were lost in the grandeur before me. If a man writes a book upon a turnpike road, he cannot be expected to move quick; but, lost in astonishment, I was not able to move at all.

Upon this common, which is very high ground, I more than once observed some of the facing stones of Severus’s Wall under my feet, just as the Romans placed them, which proves, that the road is raised so high, as to bury some part of the Wall; this simple sight I could not observe without surprize and pleasure.

At St. Oswald’s the road turns a little to the left, for a few yards; and leaves the Wall to the right; but very soon crosses it again.

Had I been some months sooner, I should have been favoured with a noble treat; but now that treat was miserably soured.

At the twentieth-mile stone, I should have seen a piece of Severus’s Wall seven feet and a half high, and two hundred and twenty-four yards long: a sight not to be found in the whole line. But the proprietor, Henry Tulip, Esq. is now taking it down, to erect a farm-house with the materials. Ninety-five yards are already destroyed, and the stones, sit for building removed. Then we come to thirteen yards which are standing, and overgrown on the top with brambles.

A piece of the Wall, as it still appears at this place, is shewn in the annexed Plate.*

Wall elevation at St Oswald's

Wall elevation at St Oswald’s

The next forty yards were just demolished; and the stones, of all sizes, from one pound to two hundred weight, lying in one continued heap, none removed.

The next forty yards are standing, seven feet high.

Then follows the last division, consisting of thirty-six yards, which is sacrificed by the mattock, the largest stones selected, and the small left. The facing-stones remain on both sides. This grand exhibition must be seen no more. How little we value what is daily under the eye!

Here was a fine opportunity for measuring. The foundation was one foot below the surface of the ground, and consisted of two courses of stone, each six inches thick, extending to the width of six feet and a half. The second course set off three inches on each side, which reduced the foundation to six feet, and the third, three inches of a side more, reducing the Wall to five feet and a half, its real thickness here.

The Plate here subjoined gives a profile of the remains of the Wall as it now appears at this place. The foundation of which is laid in the native earth, the rest is cemented with mortar.

The soil being afterwards thrown up on each side of the Wall two feet high, caused the foundation to be three feet deep.

I desired the servant with whom I conversed, “to give my compliments to Mr. Tulip, and request him to desist, or he would wound the whole body of Antiquaries. As he was putting an end to the most noble monument of Antiquity in the whole Island, they would feel every stroke.

If the Wall was of no estimation, he must have a mean opinion of me, who would travel six hundred miles to see it; and if it was, he could never merit my thanks for destroying it.”

“Should he reply, ‘The property is mine, and I have a right to direct it as I please;’ it is an argument I can regret, but not refute.”

I am now descending a hill of some magnitude, called “Wall Fell*, and am within half a mile of the river of North Tyne. Could I follow the line of the Wall, it would lead me to what was once the Roman Bridge over that river; the foundation of which, I was given to understand, I might see, if I would wade; but as I could not do one, nor wished to do the other, I submitted to the turnpike road, and the present bridge, which perhaps is half a mile above that of the Romans, and which obliged me to quit the line of the Wall for two miles.

And here I must be allowed to call in question the wisdom of the moderns, who have erected a bridge at twice the expence; for the water is here twice as wide, two hundred and fifty feet; and, by quitting the Roman line, caused the traveller to march two miles instead of one. But private interest is known to prevent public good.

The eye can easily carry the works of the three great men over the water, across the valley; and up one inclosure of perhaps two hundred yards, five or six acres; and in the next close, we see it terminates in our Fifth Station, full of hills and hollows, from which it has acquired the modern name of Chester Holes.

Wall cross-section

Wall cross-section


Cilurnum; now Walwick Chesters.

I am not far from the twenty-second-mile stone, between Newcastle and Carlisle. The inclosure where this City stood seems, like the other Stations, to be five or fix acres; but is in reality an oblong of 400 feet by 570, nearly eight acres. It is in grass, very uneven, owing to former use, and rather elevated, though near the bottom of high ground. But the Romans were obliged to six here, or they could not guard the river.

The annexed plan of this Station, with part of the plan, of Severus’s Wall and Hadrian’s Vallum, shews how they were connected at the Stations; and, their mutual relation to one another must have been one entire united defence or fortification.

Chesters and the attached works

Chesters and the attached works

The Banks, Wall, and Trenches, having crossed the water of North Tyne, and passed this Station, keep together, and proceed by the spacious seat of Nathaniel Clayton, Esq. who holds the honour of being proprietor of the works of two Emperors, and the Bonaparte of the day.

*Amusingly, Hutton appears to have modified the elevation of the Wall from Wall Mile 16 that Campbell and Debbeig included in their survey, subsequently copied by Warburton’s engraver, Hill.

Campbell and Debbeig's piece of curtain wall

Campbell and Debbeig’s piece of curtain wall