William Hutton Walks the Wall: Day Six


Magna; now Carvoron.

This small station, thirty-eight miles from Newcastle, seems to belong rather to the works of Agricola, than to those of Severus; or perhaps it belongs to neither, being about three hundred yards South of the nearest.

The situation of the ground is a valley between two hills. Through this valley, and through the Wall, runs the river Tippal, which opening demanded a security to the pass, as well against the Britons as the Scots.

Opposite therefore to Carvoran was erected in after-ages, on the North side of Severus’s Wall, Thirlwell Castle (*Thorough Wall*) from the Scots breaking through. The situation of Thirlwell Castle is well chosen, upon an elevated round knob of earth. It is the property of the Earl of Carlisle, and far gone in decay.

Here I met with all the civility, even friends could bestow. A little beyond is the mark of a Mile castle, ten yards square.

I have now done with desolate mountains, precipices, and climbing stone walls; which have continued more than ten miles.

Half a mile short of Mumps Hall is a hollow in the mountain called *Stone Gap*, where the Scots broke through. I am now in that part of the Wall which Nature had the least defended; for the river Tippal, mentioned above, falls into the North Tyne. This last running forty miles Eastward, and parallel with the Wall, on the South side, became a kind of guard which prevented the northern plunderers from penetrating into the country. And, about three miles West of this place, the little surly river Irthing crosses the Wall, and flows into the Eden; which running Westward to Carlisle about eighteen miles, became an out-guard to the other part of the Wall. The* intermediate space of three miles between the North Tyne, aided by the Tippal on the left, and the Irthing feeding the Eden on the right, became a fine opening for plunder.

I now cross a small rivulet called Poltross which gives me an entrance into Oumberland, being forty-four miles from the Wall’s end, forty and a half from Newcastle, about sixteen and a half from Carlisle, and twenty-nine and a half from Boulniess.

The Wall, close to my left, runs along a meadow, is about a yard high, in confusion, has a hedge growing upon it, till it reaches the East bank of the Irthing, where it stops. The West bank is a precipice, which Warburton calls forty yards perpendicular: perhaps he is right. The Wall undoubtedly went to the foot of this hill, and must end there; for the side is too steep, I think, to admit a Wall; but its broken end is visible on the top.

I had this river to cross, and this mountain to ascend; but did not know how to perform either. I effected a passage over the river by the assistance of stones as large as myself, sometimes in, and sometimes out; but with difficulty reached the summit of the precipice by a zig-zag line, through the brambles, with a few scratches.

At the top I had a view of the Wall where it was broken off to the foundation. It measured seven feet exactly.


Amboglanna; now Birdoswald .

Tradition says it derived its name from Oswald, King of Northumberland, who was surprized by his enemies while fishing in a neighbouring pool. It could not be Oswald, who lost his life in battle with Penda, the Mercian King, at Oswestry. If there is any truth in the tradition, it must have been Oswald, who was raised to the throne of Northumberland by a faction, about the year 800, and was deposed after a reign of twenty-eight days.

When I entered the house of Mr. Bowman, who is the proprietor, and occupier, of these once imperial premises, I was received with that coldness which indicates an unwelcome guest, bordering upon a dismission; for an ink-bottle and book are suspicious emblems. But, as information was the grand point in view, I could not, for trifles, give up my design; an expert angler will play with his fish till he can catch him.

With patience, with my small stock of rhetoric, and, above all, the simplicity of my pursuit, which was a powerful argument, we became exceedingly friendly; so that the family were not only unwilling to let me go, but obliged me to promise a visit on my return. They gave me their best; they wished it better. I had been, it seems, taken for a person employed by Government to examine private property, for the advancement of taxation.

I assured them, that my journey rose from the idle whim of an Antiquary; that I had employed myself, and that my right hand must pay my left.

The Station at Burdoswald, forty-three miles from Newcastle, and fifteen from Carlisle, contains five or six acres, joins the Wall, like other Stations, on the North. All the Roman buildings are down; but the marks of many appear. The ground will tell us what has been laid upon it. Some have been the turrets of the Castle, One a prison. Another,

twelve yards by five, was designed for the guard. The whole Station is surrounded by a foss. All the entrances are plain. The whole in a high situation.

The Wall here is six feet thick. Mr. Bowman’s fold, &c, stand on the very work. I left these worthy people with some concern.