Reasons for Designation
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
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 indentifiable.
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.
The section of Wall and vallum between the March Burn and Oatens Bank, Harlow
Hill survives as a series of buried and upstanding features. Significant
information on the development of the frontier system over time will be
The monument includes Hadrian's Wall and vallum and associated features
between the March Burn in the east and the west side of Oatens Bank, Harlow
Hill the west. This section of the Wall runs gently downhill from the March
Burn to milecastle 15 before running up a steep gradient to the summit of
Harlow Hill. The Wall commands wide views to the north and south along this
section, but the undulating terrain to the east and west means that views are
restricted in these directions.
Hadrian's Wall aims for the high points throughout this section which includes
the summits of Eppies Hill and Harlow Hill, unlike the vallum which takes a
lower course skirting to the south of Harlow Hill. The Wall survives beneath
the B6318 road throughout the whole length of this section. East of Harlow
Hill antiquarians including Horsley, Brand and Skinner, recorded the width of
the wall as being 7 feet and 4 inches, indicating that the Wall was of narrow
type. The Wall ditch survives intermittently as an earthwork. It survives best
to the west of Eppies Hill to depths of between 2m and 3m. Elsewhere the ditch
is silted up and survives only as a buried feature.
Milecastle 14 is situated on the crest of a slight knoll to the west of the
March Burn. It survives as a low, turf-covered platform 0.4m high. It has been
heavily ploughed, which has resulted in the platform being spread. The site
was partly excavated in 1946.
Milecastle 15 is situated east of a stream on a gentle east-west slope with a
restricted view to the north east. It survives as a turf-covered platform
approximately 1m high over most of its area. There are robber trenches around
the crest of the platform on the east, south and west sides.
Milecastle 16 is situated on the crest of Harlow Hill with wide views in all
directions. It survives as a buried feature in the field to the south of the
road. The only upstanding feature is the scarp on the east side of the reduced
platform. The milecastle was excavated by Hepple and Richmond in the 1950s.
The exact site of turret 14a is unknown. However, Horsley recorded that he saw
the remains on top of the knoll known as Eppies Hill to the west of Iron Sign
House. This would be a logical position for a turret as it would have
commanded the best vantage between Rudchester and Harlow Hill.
Similarly the exact site of turret 14b also remains unknown. Its presumed site
is an area equidistant between the summit of Eppies Hill and milecastle 15.
There are no visible remains of turret 15a which is located 115m east of the
junction between the B6318 and the minor road to Whitchester. It was located
during 1931 by Hepple, although little was found. Its remains lie partly below
the surface of the B6318 road.
There are no visible remains of turret 15b which is located 200m to the west
of the minor road to the disused airfield at Ouston. As with turret 15a it was
located during 1931 by Hepple. Its remains lie partly beneath the surface of
the B6318 road.
The vallum runs in a straight line for most of this section. West of Eppies
Hill, where the Wall and vallum are within about 30m of each other, the vallum
diverges from the course of the Wall and takes a lower and straighter line to
the south of Harlow Hill. It survives intermittently as an upstanding
earthwork. The south mound is between 0.3m and 0.4m high where extant while
the north mound is between 0.4m and 0.5m. Where extant the vallum ditch varies
between 1m and 1.6m deep. Elsewhere it survives as a series of silted ditches
buried below the turf.
The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which runs 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 buildings and intervening areas at Iron Sign are totally excluded from the
scheduling. All buildings, telegraph poles, the telephone kiosk, field
boundaries, road surfaces and road signs are excluded from the scheduling, but
the ground beneath all these features is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.