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Milestone House Roman temporary camp and section of the Stanegate Roman road

A Scheduled Monument in Melkridge, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.9891 / 54°59'20"N

Longitude: -2.4346 / 2°26'4"W

OS Eastings: 372285.61623

OS Northings: 566143.576259

OS Grid: NY722661

Mapcode National: GBR CBFR.PB

Mapcode Global: WH90W.KVVN

Entry Name: Milestone House Roman temporary camp and section of the Stanegate Roman road

Scheduled Date: 12 December 1928

Last Amended: 14 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010932

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26018

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Melkridge

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Haltwhistle Holy Cross

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Details

The monument includes the Milestone House Roman temporary camp and a stretch
of the Stanegate Roman road. They survive as upstanding earthworks. The road
lies 340m south of Hadrian's Wall vallum at its nearest point.
The camp occupies a low point between a succession of north facing limestone
escarpments, and it is these which account for its irregular layout. The
defences enclose an area of 7ha and are best preserved on the west side and
the west end of the south side where the ramparts reach a maximum height of
1.2m above the bottom of the external ditch, which is 0.3m deep. There is no
rampart visible on the north side, which is delimited by the edge of a natural
crag, making a rampart superfluous. There are gateways in the central points
of the south and west ramparts, each with external defence banks. A gateway on
the north east side is indicated by the presence of an external defence bank,
though there is now no visible trace left of the adjacent rampart in this
section.
A later rectangular enclosure was constructed in the south east corner; its
origin and purpose are not yet fully understood. Its internal dimensions are
37m from north to south by 75m east to west.
A number of small, circular earthworks occur inside and outside the camp,
ranging in diameter from 4m to 10m and about 0.3m high. These structures are
probably the remains of simple limekilns, known locally as `sow' kilns, used
as recently as the beginning of the 20th century to produce lime for
fertilizer.
To the immediate north of the camp lie the remains of a stretch of the main
Roman east-west road, the Stanegate. Although disturbed by later hollow ways
and stone robbing, its course is clear on the ground. The road runs along the
high ground in the east, and then runs just to the south of the crest of the
gentle ridge occupied by the Mare and Foal standing stones (the subject of a
separate scheduling) and then along the ridge itself as it runs west towards
Haltwhistle Burn. The road measures on average about 8m across throughout its
course. Buried ditches flank the road on either side.
The field boundaries and the road surface of the modern B6318 are excluded
from the scheduling, but the ground beneath them is included. Milestone House
and its associated garden are totally excluded from the scheduling.

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.
Over 40 temporary camps of many different sizes, some of them still visible as
earthworks, have been recorded in the vicinity of the Wall. These generally
consisted of a rampart of earth quickly thrown up to surround a military
encampment. The rampart may have been surmounted by a timber palisade.
Occupation of these camps was generally short-lived and, while very few of
these examples have been firmly dated, it seems probable that at least some
were work camps used by troops involved in the Wall construction. Others may
have been created as practice camps during military training; temporary camps
were widely used during military campaigning to provide overnight security to
troops on the move.

The Stanegate military road linked Corbridge and Carlisle, both of which were
also situated on important north-south routeways. It also extended west of
Carlisle towards the Cumbrian coast. The construction of a series of forts
along the road line allowed many troops to be stationed in this crucial
frontier area and ensured that the area could be extensively patrolled. A
series of smaller watchtowers were also built to help frontier control. The
Stanegate frontier thus created, developed further and was consolidated during
the late first and early second century AD and helped crystallise Roman
tactics and military expectations in the area. The function of the road and
its forts changed when Hadrian's Wall was constructed to the north and their
support roles were, initially at least, enhanced. The later history of the
road and its forts and their relationship with the Wall are less well
understood although, overall, their strategic functions declined as the new
frontier line was confirmed.
Milestone House Roman temporary camp and stretch of the Stanegate survive well
as upstanding earthworks with silted ditches. The rarity of temporary camps,
and in particular examples with upstanding remains, identifies them as
nationally important.

Source: Historic England

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