Hadrian’s Wall Inscriptions (Benwell to Rudchester)

Introduction


This section covers Wall Miles 6 to 13, nearly all of which (i.e. WM8–13) is now beneath the Military Road. Many are unprovenanced, usually having been rebuilt into another structure, but some were recovered from the Wall during the construction of the road in 1751. Unfortunately, the locations of these stones were not accurately recorded.

Inventory

RIB 1353: VIAT (‘…]VIAT[…’).  Found 1807 built into a house near MC7. Now lost.  Source: RIB I p.446

RIB 1354

RIB 1354

RIB 1354: c(enturia) Here/nniani (‘The century of Herennianus (built this)’). Centurial stone found before 1732 beside the road at Denton. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.446

RIB 1355: N (‘N’). Building stone found before 1789. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.446

RIB 1356: c(enturia) Iuli / Rufi (‘The century of Iulius Rufus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1804 near Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1357: c(enturia) Iuli / Rufi (‘The century of Iulius Rufus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1804 near Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1358

RIB 1358

RIB 1358: leg(ionis) II Aug(ustae) / coh(ors) I / fec(it) (‘Second Legion First Cohort built this’). Building stone found 1869 near Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1359: l(egionis) II Aug(ustae) / c(o)ho(rs) VIII / fec(it) (‘Second Legion Eighth Cohort made this’). Building stone found 1716 in East Denton. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1360

RIB 1360

RIB 1360: leg(ionis) / II Aug(ustae) co/h(ors) VIII (‘Second Legion Eighth Cohort (built this)’). Building stone found 1725 at Denton Wood House. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1361: c(enturia) Tu[lli] (‘The century of Tullius (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1936 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1362: c(enturia) Val(eri) Fl(avi) (‘Century of Valerius Flavus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1934 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1363: c(enturia) Val(eri) Fl(avi) (‘Century of Valerius Flavus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1934 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1364: c(enturia) Pro(culi) (‘Century of Proculus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1934 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1365: c(oh(ortis) I / Dacor(um) / c(enturia) Ael(i) Dida(e) (‘First Cohort of Dacians the century of Aelius Dida (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1936 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.449

RIB 1366

RIB 1366

RIB 1366: Iov/i O(ptimo) M(aximo) / [… (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest…’). Altar found 1822 on the Wall west of Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1367: c(enturia) Atisi (‘The century of Atisius (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1953. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1368: c(enturia) Avi/di Rufi (‘The century of Avidius Rufus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1904 in main road west of lane to Newburn. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1369: c(enturia)] / Iuli Pri[…] (‘century of Iulius Primus’). Centurial stone found before 1851 in West Denton. Source: RIB I p.449

RIB 1370: VIII (‘8’). Building stone found 1929 in Milecastle 9. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1371: VIIII (‘9’). Building stone found 1929 in Milecastle 9. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1372: X (’10’). Building stone found 1929 in Milecastle 9. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1373

RIB 1373

RIB 1373: c(enturia) p(rimi) p(ili) (‘century of the first centurion (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1794 in a stable in Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1374

RIB 1374

RIB 1374: c(enturia) Iuli Pro/culi (‘century of Iulius Proculus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1906 200 yds W of Engine Inn. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1375: coh(ortis) V[… / c(enturia) Iuli Iuv(enalis?) (‘The fifth(/sixth/seventh) cohort, the century of Iulius Iuvenalis’). Centurial stone found 1789 near Walbottle. Source: RIB I pp.450-1

RIB 1376

RIB 1376

RIB 1376: c(enturia) Pere/grini (‘century of Peregrinus’). Centurial stone found 1794 slightly east of Walbottle on south mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1377: c(enturia) Muci. / .EN (‘the century of Mucius … (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1732 in a cow shed in Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1378

RIB 1378

RIB 1378: F]elix… (‘Felix…’). Building stone found 1857 at Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1379: a) I b) III c) V d) VII[ e) VIII f) IX (‘a) 1 b) 3 c) 5 d) 7(or 8/9) e) 8 f) 9’). Building stones found 1732 in field walls near Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1380

RIB 1380

RIB 1380: c(enturia) Car[… (‘The century of Car[…’). Centurial stone found in 1864 at Milecastle 10. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1381: V (‘5’). Building stone found before 1732 in Throckley. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1382: X (’10’). Building stone found before 1732 in Throckley. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1383: C (‘C’ or ‘100’). Building stone found 1926 at Great Hill, near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1384: R (‘R’). Building stone found 1926 at Great Hill, near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1385: leg(ionis) XX / V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / coh(ors) IV (‘Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix (built this)’). Building stone found 1807 in the vicarage at Heddon and now lost. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1386: c(enturia) Iul(i) / Ruf(i) (‘The century of Iulius Rufus’). Centurial stone found 1807 in the vicarage at Heddon and now lost. This centurion is also recorded in RIB 1356 & 1357. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1387: c(enturia) Fl(avi) As/[… (‘The century of Flavius As[…’). Centurial stone found in church at Heddon-on-the-Wall. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1388: leg(ionis) VI [V]i/ct(ricis) P(iae) F(idelis) re[f]/ecit coh(ors) X (‘From the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis the tenth cohort rebuilt this’). Building stone found (probably near Heddon-on-the-Wall) during construction of the Military Road in 1751. Now missing. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1389: leg(io) VI V(ictrix) P(ia) / F(idelis) ref(ecit) Te/r(tullo) et Sac(erdote) co(n)s(ulibus) / S(…) F(…) (‘The Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis rebuilt this in the consulship of Tertullus and Sacerdos. S(…) F(…)’). Building stone found (probably near Heddon-on-the-Wall) during construction of the Military Road in 1751. Now missing. The consular date is AD 158. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1390: leg(ionis) XX V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / coh(ors) VIII (‘Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, eighth cohort’). Building stone found (probably near Heddon-on-the-Wall) during construction of the Military Road in 1751. Now missing. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1391: leg(ionis) XX V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / coh(ortis) X [c(enturia)] prin(cipis prioris) (‘From the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, tenth cohort, the century of the princeps prior (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1751 during construction of the Military Road, probably near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1392: coh(ors) pr/ima DC . L (‘First cohort…’]. Building stone found 1751 during construction of the Military Road, probably near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.454

RIB 1393: XIII (’13’). Building stone found before 1952 at Heddon. Source: RIB I p.454

RIB 1394: Cl(audius) · P[… (‘Claudius…’). Found 1932 at Heddon North Lodge. Source: RIB I p.454

RIB 3286: I (‘1’). Building stone found 1930 in Newburn. Source: RIB III p.287

RIB 3287: II (‘2’). Building stone found 1930 in Newburn. Source: RIB III p.287

RIB 3288: + (‘+’). Building stone found 1930 in Newburn. Source: RIB III p.287

Analysis

There is much that can be made from this disparate bunch of mural chisellings. The bulk of the inscriptions from this section fall into the categories of centurial or building stones, with some quarry marks thrown in for good measure. Amongst the centurial stones, there is also an apparent division between legionary centurions (building the curtain wall itself) and auxiliary centurions working on the Vallum.

The Wall sector between Milecastle 6 (just before Benwell) and around Turret 11b (just before Heddon) has traditionally been assigned to legio II Augusta (Birley 1961, 257), with legio XX Valeria Victrix building Turret 11b to around Milecastle 17, based upon the evidence of the building stones. If correct, this would suggest that Iulius Rufus (RIB 1356-7, 1386), Avidius Rufus (RIB 1368), Iulius Primus (RIB 1369), Iulius Proculus (RIB 1374), and Iulius Iuvenalis (RIB 1375) were all centurions of II Augusta, evidently belonging to cohortes I, VIII, and V[… (the primus pilus mentioned in RIB 1373 was the centurion commanding cohors I in a legion; cf RIB 1358). Two inscriptions referring to reconstruction work by legio VI Victrix (one dated to AD 158) presumably relate to their repairing original shoddy construction work (by legio XX?!) after the retreat from the Antonine Wall.

A group of centurial inscriptions from the Vallum (RIB 1361-5, 1376) indicate construction work there by auxiliaries, specifically from cohors I Aelia Dacorum (RIB 1365). This puts the lie to the old chestnut about construction work always being undertaken by legionaries (partly inspired by the images on Trajan’s Column) and this appears to be confirmed by part of Hadrian’s address to troops at Lambaesis (in modern Algeria), where he mentions troops of a mixed cohort building walls and digging ditches. It also presumably meant the legions could carry on constructing the curtain wall and its associated structures whilst the auxiliaries worked on the Vallum.

Some centurions’ names occur more than once. Iulius Rufus (RIB 1356-7, 1386) is found at both Denton and near Heddon (if the same centurion, it indicates leapfrogging by work gangs of the same legion). Avidius Rufus is encountered again to the west of Carrawburgh fort (RIB 1567 and possibly 1564-5).

Finally, the altar (RIB 1366) may originally have come from Milecastle 8 (since, outwith forts and their civil settlements, altars on the Wall usually only occur at milecastles).

References

Birley, E. (1961), Research on Hadrian’s Wall, Kendal

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Wall Mile 48

Wall Mile 48 [HB 285–91]

Wall Mile 48 is one of the finest on the whole Wall for understanding the basics of the system, both ‘as designed’ and ‘as built’. This is not only because it is mostly intact, but also because it has both flanking milecastles surviving (Milecastles 49 and 48) and both intervening turrets (Turrets 48b and a), as well as substantial lengths of ditch in various states of preservation.

The Wall and ditch just above the Irthing Gorge

The Wall and ditch just above the Irthing Gorge

Before continuing along the Trail and down the track, we can take the time to examine the short stretch of wall and ditch between the milecastle and the gorge. Originally more survived, but the river has eaten into the hillside over the years removing all trace of how Hadrian’s Wall originally negotiated the west bank of the river. Large amounts of the spoil excavated from Birdoswald were dumped down here, only to be carried away again by landslips. Looking back towards the west, the original line of the Turf Wall was that followed by the Stone Wall in this sector and the Irthing gorge was the easternmost extent of that rampart.

The curtain wall (and the Military Way) crossed the river by means of a bridge, the remains of which we shall inspect in a short while. First, the Trail wends its way down the hillside to the floodplain of the Irthing, which it crosses by means of the (intentionally rusty) Millennium Bridge. Follow the path along, through the kissing gate, and only then does it bring you to the eastern abutment of the Roman bridge at Willowford.

Willowford Bridge abutment

Confronted by the bridge abutment at the end of a long section of Wall descending into the floodplain of the Irthing, one can be forgiven for being slightly nonplussed. The river is some distance to the west and has probably destroyed the western abutment. The bridge piers would have lain beneath the field between the river and the surviving abutment, whilst the abutment as it survives reveals several distinct phases to its existence.

The bridge abutment, with the later masonry to the left

The bridge abutment, with the later masonry to the left

If we start on the southern side of the abutment, the sequence is clearer. Easternmost was a simple abutment, angled back from the end of the curtain wall (which was broad gauge for a short distance and had a turret near the end), and now embedded within later masonry that was added to repair the abutment after damage (probably from flooding), also providing mill races for one or more undershot water mills. One of these races preserves two large, shallow, square sockets in its upper surface that would have taken timber uprights for one of the bridges crossing here. The basic rule here, then, is the nearer to the river, the later it is. Indeed, excavation has shown that the bridge went through several phases, starting with a simple pedestrian crossing, presumably fortified in a similar manner to the curtain wall on either side of it (although we cannot even take that for granted). It was then enlarged to allow the Military Way to cross, so had to be big enough to carry vehicles.

The later tower and repairs to the curtain wall

The later tower and repairs to the curtain wall

A new (larger) tower was also added, slightly to the east of the original one, and we may suppose that it was matched by a twin on the other lost abutment. The later phases reused earlier stone – one piece of opus quadratum (large, heavy stones that were usually jointed using iron or lead cramps, rather than mortared into position) on the southern edge has cramp holes set into it that imply it was originally joined to another stone, but now finds itself as an edge piece. If we walk round to the northern side we can see just how rough some of the later stonework was in places. The re-use of Hadrian’s Wall began early: to repair the Wall itself.

One niggling thought intrudes at this point, as we envisage this massive bridge structure majestically crossing the river. What was to stop intruders sneaking under the bridge? The answer is, depressingly, we don’t know. That there was some system in place seems beyond doubt, but no hint of a suggestion of an indication of an answer is known as yet. Sometimes archaeology is like that.

The curtain wall running to Willowford bridge abutent

The curtain wall running to Willowford bridge abutent

Continuing on the northern side of the curtain wall, you are next to a stretch of narrow gauge wall (about 2.3m) on broad foundations and, for the first time, we have left the territory of the Turf Wall, since Milecastle 49 was its easternmost extremity. We can take a few moments to examine the fabric of the curtain wall and observe how the blocks are fashioned (roughly squared at the face, tapering in to towards the core) and how the whole thing sits upon a footing which protrudes slightly at ground level. This is a barbarian’s eye view of the Wall and it is difficult not to be impressed. We may also note how rounded river cobbles have been incorporated in the core. The keen-eyed might even notice lime staining on the northern face of the wall, leached out from the lime mortar used to point it. This whole stretch is an example of the ‘as found’ consolidation style used in more recent years, with none of the reconstruction we shall see later in the Central Sector.

Willowford centurial inscription

Willowford centurial inscription

As the curtain wall ascends the river terrace, note how the coursing is kept level whilst the footings tend to follow the contours. Once we reach the top, the wall itself is briefly interrupted by the farmyard entrance but there is a centurial inscription (RIB 3407) built into the corner of an outbuilding. It was found nearby in 1986 and has been incorporated above a convenient plaque recording its contents.

Turret 48b (Willowford West)

Turret 48b

Turret 48b

Now, the path (by means of a rather elaborate timber edifice, designed to stop visitors walking on – and damaging – the remains of the curtain wall itself) delivers you to Turret 48b, which was excavated in 1923. Standing up to nine courses high, the turret has lost its south wall, but still gives a good impression of the limited space available within its ground floor. Before we move on, inspect the curtain wall immediately east of the structure. Note that the rear face is stepped (there is a foundation course, four courses of a plinth, then the main curtain wall) and that it soon changes, becoming abruptly narrower. The reasons will become more readily apparent once we reach Turret 48a (thus providing an incentive to be moving on).

The Trail to the south of the curtain wall and the track in the ditch

The Trail to the south of the curtain wall and the track in the ditch

As we follow the Trail immediately south of the curtain wall (and yes, you are not wrong, it is a bit cramped, especially if we encounter walkers coming the other way: footpath people call this a ‘pinch-point’), we can look to the right at the farm track, which is at this point within the Wall ditch. We shall see roads and tracks using the ditch again before our journey is complete. The curtain Wall itself is now sitting on a broad foundation and parts of the footings of the broader wall had clearly begun construction when the decision was made to narrow it. Soon the farm track crosses the line of the curtain wall to continue behind it and the curtain wall runs along the edge of the Irthing gorge.

Short length of curtain wall next to the track

Short length of curtain wall next to the track

As we join the track, we can still see the ditch off to our left, beyond the drystone wall. Before very long we find a short length of the curtain wall. Walking around to its northern side reveals just how much of it survives and shows off the offset footing courses rather nicely. Both the ditch and part of the curtain wall have been destroyed by the ingress of river bank erosion for a short distance, but we soon encounter another stretch of the wall leading up to Turret 48a.

Turret 48a (Willowford East)

Turret 48a

Turret 48a

Turret 48a, also excavated in 1923, similarly survives up to seven courses in height and we may observe that its entrance is on the western side of the southern wall. Since this turret is easier to understand than 48b, unencumbered as it is by fences and destroyed walls, it is time for a bit of wall width exposition.

What is interesting about this turret from our point of view is that it betrays something of the way in which the curtain wall was constructed. We noted the wall at Willowford abutment was built to what is known as the broad gauge (10Rft or 2.74–2.97m) and immediately to the east reduced in width, whilst still on broad foundations. Turret 48a is also constructed to that same broad gauge, as are short lengths of curtain wall on either side (known as ‘wing walls’), but then the width of the curtain is similarly reduced to only 8Rft, sitting on a broad foundation. We can conclude from this that a) the foundations of the stone wall were built separately to the superstructure; b) Turrets 48b and a (and probably the abutment) were started independently of the curtain wall on either side; and c) somebody had changed their mind about how wide the curtain wall needed to be to do its job and that they had done this after the foundations, some of the superstructure, and some of the features (in this case the turret and abutment) had already been constructed.

The old vicarage and its length of wall

The old vicarage and its length of wall

When we reach the end of this section, we must cross the road and look for the Trail path to the right of the school. The final section of curtain wall in this mile actually lies to the left of the school but, although it is in Guardianship (or ‘in care’ as they like to say these days, making it sound more than a little delinquent). It is on private land next to the dilapidated (but allegedly still occupied) old vicarage where Hunter Davies stayed when he walked the Wall and cannot, unfortunately, be visited. It can however be seen at a distance as you climb towards the railway crossing, as can the depression of the ditch to the north of it, and it is apparent how the railway embankment passes over the Wall and effectively masks the original lie of the land (the curtain wall climbs abruptly beneath that embankment). Once the path reaches it, take care crossing the railway line.

Milecastle 48 (Poltross Burn) [HB 285–7; haiku]

Milecastle 48

Milecastle 48

With the appetite whetted by Milecastle 49 and Turrets 48b and 48a, there is now the opportunity to examine Milecastle 48, one of the best preserved along the line of the Wall. First excavated in 1886, and then subsequently in 1909 and 1911 (and again in 1965 and 1966), it is perched rather precariously behind and sloping down towards the curtain wall. Its own perimeter wall joins the curtain perpendicularly (and is bonded to it), but its southern corners are rounded as Roman fortifications of the 2nd century AD usually were. On the eastern side (and on the western, but no longer visible) is a short wing wall similar to those on Turrets 48a and 48b, confirming that the milecastle had been built to the broad gauge before the (now narrow) curtain wall reached it. Here it differs radically from its later neighbour, Milecastle 49, which, as we have seen, was built after the curtain wall.

There are two internal structures, aligned on either side of the roadway that passes between the gates, the northernmost of which, rather excitingly, led out into Barbaricum (these days represented by the side of the embankment of the Newcastle to Carlisle railway). The north gate is well preserved and is of a type (III, if you must know) that scholars have suggested mean it was constructed by legio VI Victrix. The gate was subsequently narrowed to only allow pedestrian access, as happened at other milecastles.

Within the milecastle, a north–south road way ran between the north and south gates and on either side of it were structures thought to be barrack buildings. The slope is rather extreme and the floors were probably levelled up on joists inside. It is thought that the milecastle garrisons were outposted from neighbouring forts, in order to provide the manpower to patrol the Wall and man the turrets. ‘Thought’ because, in the absence of direct evidence from Hadrian’s Wall itself, we have to use comparisons with other provinces, where we know outposting was practised widely.

Remains of the oven

Remains of the oven

In the north-east corner are the remains of the oven used for cooking (the Roman army preferred to keep their celebrity chefs at arm’s length), so it is in the equivalent position to ovens in larger forts and fortresses. Roman ovens worked like a traditional pizza oven: the fabric is heated by inserting hot embers which are then raked out and the food to be cooked (mostly bread) placed inside. Carbonised Roman bread (as well as wall paintings of the uncarbonised original) is known from Pompeii, but as yet no pizza.

The steps

The steps

Milecastle 48 also provides another important fact that sheds some (but not quite enough) light upon our understanding of the Wall. This is the survival of a staircase in its north-east corner. Only the lowest three (and part of a fourth) steps actually survive, but by projecting their line upwards, it is possible to deduce that the wall-walk height here must have been in the region of 12 Rft (3.55m). The astute observer will note that the stairs were constructed after the north and east walls of the milecastle, since it butts against and is not bonded with them (the coursing of the facing stones is different).

The eastern 'wing wall' of Milecastle 48

The eastern ‘wing wall’ of Milecastle 48

This then leads on to the question of whether the curtain wall had a walkway along the whole length of its top, or just in select places, such as round the perimeter of the milecastle defences. Scholars can be found who favour either; the evidence is suitably and intriguingly ambivalent; but, in the end, it all comes down to a matter of personal preference. Those brought up on a diet of Alan Sorrell illustrations, with a crenellated Wall striding across the crags, wind-blown Roman soldiers atop it warily eyeing distant squalls, find it hard to escape the image, even though we know other contemporary frontiers (notably those in Germany) had no such feature and modern military walls (like the Berlin Wall or the coyly named Security Fence around the West Bank in Palestine) get by quite happily without being patrolled from the top. No certainties there, then, but there are many who would argue that the Wall only makes sense with a walkway.

Wall Mile 50

Wall Mile 50 [HB 309–16]

It might justifiably be argued that this is one of the most interesting of the Wall Miles. Not by me, I hasten to add, but I can see why it could be. Immediately after Milecastle 51, the Turf and Stone Walls separate, the most obvious manifestation of this being the fact that, whilst the Stone Wall ditch continues to the north of the road, the Turf Wall ditch now strides away from it across the field: two ditches for the price of one! Why do they separate here? Better scholars than I have debated this, but it may well be because it was felt that more room was needed north of the Vallum so when the time came to replace the Turf Wall, the new Stone Wall line was moved north and downhill from its predecessor.

Wall Mile 50 from the air

Wall Mile 50 from the air

The Trail takes us across the field, next to the Turf Wall (a low mound north of its ditch) and then across it on a nice new bridge and onto a lane. At this point, those who dislike livestock (there are people who like walking in the country but dislike livestock?!) are offered an alternative animal-free route along the road and this will be of use if we wish to follow the Stone Wall. The main Trail will take us along the Turf Wall, so make your choice.

The Stone Wall

Apart from the ditch to the north of the road and the comforting knowledge that the curtain wall lies beneath the road, there is not much to see if we go this way, although it does provide continuing assurance of the way in which the Romans used the terrain to enhance the effect of the Wall. Climbing up a gentle rise we arrive at a high point which marks the location of Milecastle 50 SW.

The Stone Wall ditch

The Stone Wall ditch

Milecastle 50 SW (High House) [HB 314–15; haiku]

Milecastle 50 SW (High House), a long-axis stone milecastle, was excavated in 1911 and produced three building inscriptions, two of them by legio VI Victrix and one by legio II Augusta. The fortlet platform can just about be discerned by peeking over the southern roadside wall at the right point.

Site of Milecastle 50 SW

Site of Milecastle 50 SW

The Turf Wall

Those opting for the Turf Wall route will find themselves walking along the northern lip of the Turf Wall ditch, with the mound of the rampart itself to the south of it and beyond that the earthworks of the Vallum, crammed into the limited space between the Turf Wall and the edge of the scarp north of the Irthing. It was along this stretch that the existence of the Turf Wall was first proved conclusively by Frances Haverfield and his co-workers when they cut a trench across it (they were less than impressed by his excavation methodology, it seems) and that section is reopened and cleaned up every ten years when the Pilgrimage wanders this way.

After a reasonably level stretch we start to climb up towards the site of Milecastle 50 TW and this affords a good opportunity to look back at the separated Walls west of us.

The Turf Wall and ditch near Milecastle 50 TW

The Turf Wall and ditch near Milecastle 50 TW

Milecastle 50 TW (High House) [HB 309–12; haiku]

To say that there is not much to see of Milecastle 50 TW (High House) is probably something of an understatement but no less true for all that. It has the distinction of being the only Turf Wall milecastle without a Stone Wall successor on top of it. Excavated in 1934, it was found to have an undug causeway across the ditch, a rampart of turf and gateways of timber (which, it is suggested, had towers, since there were thought to be too many timbers just for revetting the gateway). The Vallum ditch swerved south to avoid the milecastle, but more interestingly the excavations found a timber inscription, restored as recording its construction under A. Platorius Nepos. It is customary to think of Roman inscriptions as being carved in stone, but (as we shall see later, in Wall Mile 43) they could be painted on stone or carved (or painted) on wood. These are amongst the Rumsfeldian ‘known unknowns’ of Roman archaeology.

Wall Mile 66

Wall Mile 66 [HB 347]

The Wall now crosses former railway yards whilst the Trail, diving under an old railway viaduct, hugs the riverside, ultimately arriving at Bitts Park, on the floodplain of the Eden and just north of Roman Carlisle.

Carlisle from the air

Carlisle from the air

The fort at Carlisle (Luguvalium) was never part of the Hadrian’s Wall system, but was rather connected to the ‘Stanegate frontier’ (itself a notion which regularly comes into, and then goes out of, fashion). The redevelopment of the city centre has seen large portions of the extramural settlement and the southern portion of the fort being excavated (the northern part is situated under the castle, which is still Crown property), the earlier levels showing a degree of organic preservation second only to Vindolanda. It has the distinction of its first fort being dated very precisely to AD 72, thanks to dendrochronology, and there is then a cycle of renewal approximately every ten years, with the garrison probably changing each time. Writing tablets (similar to, but less famous than, the Vindolanda examples) mention the presence of ala I Gallorum Sebosiana in AD 105. Like the Roman fort at Corbridge, its later garrison included detachments from the three British legions, II Augusta, VI Victrix, and XX Valeria Victrix.

The curtain wall crossed the Caldew and then the Eden by means of stone bridges and Camden observed that ‘within the chanell of the river mighty stones, the remaines thereof, are yet extant’. This lay just downstream of the bridge that carried the Roman road to the outpost fort at Netherby across the Eden and through the Wall (probably with a gateway like that at Portgate, north of Corbridge). Stones from one (or more) of the bridges can be seen in Bitts Park, just after crossing the bridge over the Caldew, off the path to our left.

Stones from a Roman bridge in Bitts Park

Stones from a Roman bridge in Bitts Park

After Bitts Park, the National Trail continues along the south bank of the Eden before crossing the river, but we are going to deviate and cross by means of the road bridge, about 200m from the site of the Roman bridge carrying the Wall, so that we can keep more closely to the line of the frontier and explore the neglected remains of Stanwix fort.

Milecastle 66 (Stanwix Bank) [HB 346; haiku]

Site of Milecastle 66

Site of Milecastle 66

Milecastle 66 (Stanwix Bank) – to the left as we cross the bridge – was noted by Thomas Pennant in 1772 on his way north to explore Scotland again. He saw it perched on the edge of the north bank of the river, recording ‘vestiges of some dikes describing a small square’ but no trace now remains.