Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the March Burn and Oatens Bank, Harlow Hill in wall miles 13,14 and 15


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 09314 67801

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 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 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 preserved.


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.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 81
'Journal of Roman Studies' in Roman Britain in 1946, , Vol. 37, (1946), 168


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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