Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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

Rudchester Roman fort, associated civil settlement and a section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum from the A69 to the March Burn in wall mile 13

A Scheduled Monument in Heddon-on-the-Wall, 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: 55.0014 / 55°0'5"N

Longitude: -1.8231 / 1°49'23"W

OS Eastings: 411412.535485

OS Northings: 567443.283002

OS Grid: NZ114674

Mapcode National: GBR HBQL.3X

Mapcode Global: WHC3F.ZK05

Entry Name: Rudchester Roman fort, associated civil settlement and a section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum from the A69 to the March Burn in wall mile 13

Scheduled Date: 12 December 1928

Last Amended: 14 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017533

English Heritage Legacy ID: 26039

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Heddon-on-the-Wall

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Heddon-on-the-Wall St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Details

The monument includes the wall fort at Rudchester, the associated civil
settlement and the stretch of Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the A69 in the
east and the March Burn in the west. This section of wall corridor runs up the
west side of the valley of the Rudchester Burn to the slight rise occupied by
the fort before descending the slight depression to the March Burn. Throughout
this section there are limited views to the north where the ground slopes
gently away. In contrast there are wide views to the south over the Tyne
Valley, while to the east and west the views are more restricted.
In this section the Wall survives as a buried feature, lying below the course
of the B6318 road. Excavations of milecastle 13 in 1930 demonstrated that the
Wall was of broad type throughout this section. The wall ditch has entirely
silted up throughout this section except for a slight scarp on the east bank
of the March Burn.
Milecastle 13, east of the Rudchester Burn, survives as a low mound 0.2m to
0.4m high. This milecastle measures 16.5m north to south by about 19m east to
west. A large hoard of gold and silver coins was found here in 1776, the
latest coins dating to AD 168. This milecastle was partly excavated in 1930 by
Simpson.
Turret 13a, east of Rudchester fort, survives as a buried feature
beneath the B6318 road. Part excavation by Simpson in 1930 revealed the turret
walls which were built to a thickness of about 1.25m.
Turret 13b, which lies about 75m to the west of Rudchester fort, also survives
as a buried feature beneath the B6318.
The vallum survives as an upstanding earthwork throughout this section.
However, to the west of the fort there are no upstanding remains of the
vallum, although it survives as a series of buried features, which were
located in 1987 during a seismic survey. It was revealed that the vallum makes
a dog-leg to avoid the western and southern sides of the fort. On the east
side the north and south mounds of the vallum reach a maximum height of 1m,
while the vallum ditch has a maximum depth of 1.4m.
The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which ran along the
corridor between the Wall and the vallum linking the turrets, milecastles and
forts, is not yet confirmed in this section of the corridor.
The Roman fort at Rudchester, known to the Romans as `Vindovala', survives as
a turf-covered platform, up to 1.6m high, to the north of Rudchester Farm. It
covers an area of 1.8ha and would have accommodated a part mounted cohort, 500
strong. The site was very well preserved until the 18th century when it was
reduced by stone robbing. This was followed by ploughing and cultivation of
the area, which accounts for the ridge and furrow overlying the southern part
of the fort. It has been partly excavated on several occasions since 1897.
Buildings identified as the Commanding Officer's house, the Headquarters
Building and a granary, were located. Finds from the site include a life-size
statue of Hercules, five altars dedicated to Mithras and pottery. The east and
west gateways were positioned to the north of where Hadrian's Wall adjoined
the fort.
The outlying civil settlement, or `vicus', is located to the south and south
west of the fort partly below the Rudchester Farm buildings. Post-medieval
quarrying to the south east of the fort has probably destroyed some of the
remains. The terraces which stretch to the west of Rudchester Farm are
identified as evidence of the attached Roman civil settlement. They include
some probable building platforms. Although mostly between 0.3m and 1.5m high,
these terraces reach a maximum height of 3.2m in places and contain
considerable quantities of stone. A rock-cut cistern known as the `Giants
Grave' measures 3.9m by 1.5m internally and is at least 0.5m deep. It is
located in the area of woodland to the west of Rudchester Farm and probably
supplied part of the vicus with water, as indicated by the presence of a
drainage hole in its north west corner.
A Roman temple dedicated to the Persian god Mithras is located to the south
west of the fort in the vicus area. It has been partly overlain by a lynchet
and bank. The temple is almost rectanglular in shape with a small apse at
the north west end and an entrance hall at the south east end. The maximum
internal dimensions of the building are approximately 7.3m by 16.4m. The
surviving lower courses of the walls are made of stone. The building was
excavated in 1953 by Gillam and MacIvor who were able to determine the plan of
the temple, except for its south west corner which had been lost in a land
slip.
All road surfaces, road signs, field boundaries, buildings and overhead power
line poles are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath all these
features 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 wall fort at Rudchester, its associated civil settlement and Hadrian's
Wall and vallum from the A69 to the March Burn, survive well as upstanding
turf-covered features. Rudchester is one of the best surviving examples of a
Roman fort and has produced significant archaeological finds including a life-
size statue of Hercules and five altars dedicated to Mithras. Significant
information on the development of the frontier system 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), 76
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 76-81
Blood, K, Bowden, M C B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Roman Fort at Rudchester, , Vol. 5,vol 19, (1991), 25-31
Blood, K, Bowden, M C B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Roman Fort at Rudchester, , Vol. 5,vol 19, (1991), 28-29
Blood, K, Bowden, M C B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Roman Fort at Rudchester, , Vol. 5,vol 19, (1991), 29

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.