Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Haltonchesters Roman fort, settlement and Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the field boundary east of Haltonchesters fort and the Fence Burn in wall mile 21

A Scheduled Monument in Whittington, Northumberland

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 55.0097 / 55°0'34"N

Longitude: -2.0065 / 2°0'23"W

OS Eastings: 399684.184165

OS Northings: 568350.29118

OS Grid: NY996683

Mapcode National: GBR GBFH.DY

Mapcode Global: WHB27.4BTT

Entry Name: Haltonchesters Roman fort, settlement and Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the field boundary east of Haltonchesters fort and the Fence Burn in wall mile 21

Scheduled Date: 12 December 1928

Last Amended: 5 March 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010624

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26046

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Whittington

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Corbridge with Halton and Newton Hall

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Details

The monument includes the Roman fort at Haltonchesters, an associated
settlement and an adjacent section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum and its
associated features between the field boundary to the east of Haltonchesters
Roman fort in the east and the Fence Burn in the west.
The fort, known to the Romans as `Onnum', occupies the crest on the east bank
of the Fence Burn astride the line of Hadrian's Wall. From the fort there are
extensive views to the north where the ground rises gently, and southwards to
the Tyne valley. To the west there are views along the course of the wall for
2km, whereas to the east the visibility is restricted by Down Hill 800m away.
The fort survives as a turf covered platform up to 1.1m high in places. A
number of surveys and excavations of the fort have been undertaken, the most
recent being the survey by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of
England during 1989. All the surviving remains of the fort are buried below
ground level. A unique feature of the fort is the western extension in the
south half of the fort, which has been dated to the Severan period (third
century AD). An excavation in 1959 revealed that the west wall of the
original Hadrianic fort was demolished to the south of Hadrian's Wall when the
fort was extended to the west. The fort enclosed an area of about 1.75ha in
its early phase; increasing to 2ha after its extension.
Excavations have shown that the fort was probably defended by two outer
ditches in its Hadrianic phase and that these were replaced by a single more
massive ditch in the later Severan phase. Aerial photographs and parchmarks
show the location of a number of internal buildings and roads, as well as
parts of the fort walls. The fort was probably initially garrisoned by a
cohort of 500 men, part mounted, however in the Severan period it held an ala
or cavalry wing of 500 men.
The civil settlement outside the fort, known as the vicus, was located in the
field to the south and south east of the fort. There are the remains of two
buildings visible above ground, located in the only part of the field devoid
of later ridge and furrow. The building to the east is 4.5m wide and at least
12m long. The less well preserved building to the west was also about 4.5m
wide, but of indeterminate length. To the SSE of these buildings is a
circular stone-lined well, 1.6m in diameter.
The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which ran along the
length of the corridor between the Wall and the vallum linking turrets,
milecastles and forts, survives as a buried feature. It was identified by the
presence of parchmarks 300m west of the fort aligned with the postulated
gateway to the Severan extension to the fort. To the east the road was also
identified by parchmarks within 20m of the fort, aligned with the west
gateway.
The course of the Wall on both the east and west sides of the fort lies
beneath the B6318 road. Excavation on the west side showed that the junction
of the Wall with the fort was on the south side of the west gateway.
Excavation in the fort interior located the wall ditch, thus demonstrating
that the Wall was built before the erection of Haltonchesters fort. The vallum
survives as a buried feature. Aerial photographs show the ditch of the vallum
as a cropmark to the west of the fort, ascending the hill from Fence Burn and
fading about 20m from the south west angle of the Severan extension. The
vallum ditch on the east side of the fort is visible as a depression in the
line of the field boundary 50m to the east of the fort. Its course south of
the fort has not yet been confirmed. Remains of surface quarrying are evident
on the hill to the east of the fort. Here sandstone lies close to the surface
and outcrops in places providing a ready source of building stone. These
quarries survive as hollows and fissures in the area of Carr Crags and on Down
Hill. These quarries probably have Roman origins but are likely to have been
reworked in the 18th century. All road surfaces and field boundaries are
excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Hadrian's Wall marks one of the frontiers of the Roman Empire. The
international importance of the surviving remains has been recognised through
designation as a World Heritage Site.
The military importance of the Tyne-Solway route across the Pennines was
recognised by the Romans during their early campaigns through northern England
and into Scotland in the second half of the first century AD. At this time a
military road, the Stanegate, was constructed along with a series of forts.
Subsequently the Romans largely withdrew from Scotland and there is evidence
that the Tyne-Solway route was being recognised as a frontier by the start of
the second century AD. This position was consolidated in the early second
century by the construction of a substantial frontier work, Hadrian's Wall,
under the orders of the Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius,
subsequently attempted to establish the boundary further north, between the
Clyde and the Firth of Forth, but by c.AD 160 growing unrest amongst the
native populations of northern Britain and pressures elsewhere in the Empire
caused a retraction back to the Hadrianic line. Hadrian's Wall was then the
frontier of the Roman Empire in Britain until c.AD 400 when the Roman armies
withdrew from Britain.
Stretching over 70 miles from coast to coast, Hadrian's Wall was a continuous
barrier built of stone in the east and, initially, of turf in the west. The
stone wall was originally designed to be ten Roman feet wide and sections of
this width are termed broad wall. A change of plan shortly after construction
began led to a reduction in the width of the Wall to eight Roman feet, such
sections being termed narrow wall. Today, stretches of both wall types
survive, including some sections of narrow wall built on broad wall
foundations. For most of its length a substantial ditch on the northern side
provided additional defence. Where the Wall crossed rivers, bridges were
constructed to carry it across. Construction of the Wall was organised and
executed by legionary soldiers. From the beginning the barrier was planned to
comprise more than just a curtain wall. At regularly spaced intervals of about
a mile along its length lay small walled fortlets known as milecastles. These
were attached to the southern side of the Wall and most had a gateway through
the Wall to the north. Hence they controlled crossing points through the Wall
as well as affording space for a small stable garrison. Between the
milecastles were two equally spaced towers known as turrets. Together the
milecastles and turrets provided bases from which the curtain wall could be
watched and patrolled. Both the turrets and milecastles are thought to have
been higher than the Wall itself to provide suitable observation points. It is
often assumed that a platform existed on the Wall so that troops could
actually patrol along the wall top; it is however far from certain that this
was the case.
At the western end of the Wall a system of towers, small fortlets and palisade
fences extended the frontier system another 30 miles or so down the Cumbrian
coast and helped control shipping moving across the estuary of the Solway
Firth.
As originally planned, and apart from whatever space there was in the
milecastles, provision for the accommodation of garrison troops manning the
Wall was left with the line of forts which already lay along the Stanegate. At
some point a fundamental change of plan took place and forts were constructed
along the line of the Wall itself. There are now known to have been 16 forts
either attached to the Wall or in close association with it. Some overlay
earlier features such as turrets or milecastles. At this stage another linear
element, the vallum, was also added to the defensive system to the south of
the Wall. This was a broad flat-bottomed ditch flanked by a pair of linear
banks. It shadows the course of the Wall for almost all its length, sometimes
lying very close to it but sometimes up to a kilometre away from it. The
vallum's main function was to act as a barrier to restrict access to the Wall
from the south. It also had a function in linking the forts along the Wall
with a method of lateral communication. When the forts were placed along the
wall line no provision was made for a road to link them. This situation was
clearly found impracticable and a metalled track was therefore provided in
places along the vallum between the north mound and the ditch.
Later, after the withdrawal back to the Hadrianic line from the Antonine Wall,
various refurbishments were made throughout the frontier line. At this stage a
new linear feature was added: the `Military Way'. This was a road linking all
elements of the Wall defence, running from fort to fort within the area
bounded by the Wall and the vallum.
Throughout its long history the Wall was not always well maintained. It was
often neglected and sometimes overrun, but it remained in use until the late
fourth century when a weak and divided Roman Empire finally withdrew its
armies from the Wall and Britain.
It now survives in various states of preservation. In places, especially in
the central section, the Stone Wall still remains several courses high and the
attached forts, turrets and milecastles are also clearly identifiable.
Earthwork features such as the ditch, vallum and Military Way also survive
well in places. Elsewhere the Stone Wall has been virtually robbed out and
only its foundations survive beneath the present ground surface. Similarly,
stretches of the earthwork remains, including sections of the Turf Wall, have
been levelled or infilled and now only survive as buried features. Although
some sections of the frontier system no longer survive visibly, sufficient
evidence does exist for its position to be fairly accurately identified
throughout most of its length.
Whilst all the forts added to the Wall are broadly similar in size, no two are
exactly alike and there is no standard internal layout. However, when
originally built, all forts enclosed a fairly standard range of buildings
including a headquarters building, commandant's house, hospital, barracks,
stables, granaries and workshops. The size and number of barracks blocks has,
in the past, been used to determine the size and type of military unit
stationed there. This is a difficult exercise which remains the subject of
much debate. The area outside the fort was put to a variety of uses. There was
usually a bath house and normally a number of temples, burial grounds and
other official establishments such as lodging houses for official visitors.
Over time sprawling external settlements known as vici grew up around many
forts. These housed a range of people and activities attracted by the military
presence. Some of the inhabitants may have been families of troops stationed
on the Wall, although it was not until the third century that soldiers on
active duty were officially permitted to marry. Others may have been retired
soldiers and their families. Traders and merchants are also thought to have
set up workshops and shops in the vici. The most common type of building found
here, as well as in other areas around forts, was the long narrow strip
building. These appear to have been used for both domestic and commercial
purposes.

The Roman fort at Haltonchesters, its associated civil settlement and the
adjacent section of Hadrian's Wall survive well as upstanding turf covered
remains. The fort is unique in having an `L'-shaped plan and as such it is of
particular interest. The site has produced significant finds including
tombstones, altars and a gold signet-ring. Significant information on the
development of the frontier system as well as wider social and economic
developments over time will be preserved. The silted ditches will contain
environmental evidence which will allow the character of the surrounding area
in the Roman period to be better understood.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 84-89
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 85
Blood, K, Bowden, M C B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Roman Fort at Haltonchesters. An Analytic Field Survey, (1990), 55-62
Blood, K, Bowden, M C B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Roman Fort at Haltonchesters. An Analytic Field Survey, (1990), 55-62

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments

AncientMonuments.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact AncientMonuments.uk for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself.

AncientMonuments.uk is a Good Stuff website.