86. Who provided the first detailed accounts of Hadrian’s Wall?

Many cite Bede as the supplier of our first account of the remains of Hadrian’s Wall, but he does not go into any great detail. A long succession of antiquarians visited Hadrian’s Wall from the 16th century onwards, one of the earliest and most prominent being William Camden in 1599, although he used the work of a number of others. He was followed at the beginning of the 18th century by Alexander Gordon and John Horsley, as well as William Stukeley and Roger Gale, the second following the first (and to some extent borrowing from him), and the third and fourth travelling together. Horsley’s text was subsequently plagiarised (it is difficult to think of a more polite way of putting it) by John Warburton, whose map – drawn up by one Nathaniel Hill – also bore a striking resemblance to the survey undertaken shortly beforehand for the Military Road. That same survey demonstrated an unusual fascination with the Roman Wall, fortuitously including an elevation drawing of a length of it (since it was subsequently destroyed by the road itself) and a plan of its main features.

Further reading: Birley 1961; Shannon 2007