Hadrian's Wall and vallum between Sunnybrae at Halton Shields and Haltonchesters Roman fort in wall miles 20 and 21
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010623
Date first listed: 12-Dec-1928
Date of most recent amendment: 14-Jul-1997
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: NZ 00877 68579
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.
Hadrian's Wall and vallum and their associated features between Sunnybrae at Halton Shields and the field boundary to the east of Haltonchesters Roman fort survive as a series of buried and upstanding remains. Significant information on the development of the frontier system over time will be preserved.
The monument includes the section of Hadrian's Wall, vallum and associated
features between Sunnybrae at Halton Shields in the east and the field
boundary to the immediate east of Haltonchesters Roman fort in the west. This
section of the corridor follows an east-west ridge with slopes down to the
north and south. Hadrian's Wall survives as a buried feature beneath the B6318
road throughout most of this section. At Halton Shields the alignment of the
Wall suggests that it runs below the houses and gardens, however, as there
are no upstanding remains there, this area is not included in the scheduling.
At Down Hill the Wall survives as a discontinuous bank of rubble, 3m wide and
0.4m high, within dense woodland. Quarrying has mutilated much of the east end
of this bank. As with the Wall the wall ditch is in part overlain by the
B6318, but in Down Hill Wood it is visible intermittently in the dense
woodland up to a maximum of 3m deep. However, it too has been destroyed by
quarrying in places. Elsewhere the ditch is traceable as an earthwork in the
fields to the north of the B6318.
Milecastle 20 is situated immediately north of Sunnybrae at Halton Shields.
It was located and partly examined in 1935 and was found to have `type III'
gateways, which is a construction style usually associated with the work of
the twentieth legion. During 1992 a 5.5m length of the south wall was exposed
which measured 2.6m across, showing that the remains are well preserved under
the existing house and garden.
Milecastle 21 has not yet been located, however on the basis of the usual
spacing it would be expected to lie in the vicinity of Halton Red House.
Turret 20a has also yet to be located, but also on the basis of the usual
spacing it would be expected to lie about 70m east of the properties at Carr
Turret 20b was located in 1935 by Hepple about 130m east of Down Hill
Wood. The turret survives as a buried feature below the B6318 road.
Turret 21a was also located by Hepple in 1935, 75m east of Haltonchesters
fort. As with turret 20b it survives as a buried feature below the B6318 road.
The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which ran along the
corridor between the Wall and vallum linking the turrets, milecastles and
forts, survives intermittently throughout this section of the corridor.
An excavation undertaken in 1893 revealed that it occupies the north berm of
the vallum until the vallum swings south to the east of Down Hill where it
resumes a course between the Wall and vallum. There are no upstanding remains
west of Down Hill in this section.
The vallum runs parallel with the Wall to Down Hill where it takes a dog-leg
to avoid the bedrock close to the surface. It is visible intermittently
throughout this section of the corridor. It is best preserved to the south of
Down Hill where the vallum ditch has a maximum depth of 2.7m and the north and
south mounds reach a height of 1.5m and 1m respectively. Clear traces of
crossings survive which are best preserved in the north mound.
Halton East Farmhouse together with its associated garden and farm buildings
is totally excluded from the scheduling. School House, School Cottage, Chapel
Cottage, Wall View Cottage, West Cottage and Carr Hill Cottage with their
associated gardens are also totally excluded from the scheduling. The
disturbed area of Downhill Quarries is totally excluded from the scheduling
where all traces of the vallum have been destroyed. Sunnybrae, its garage and
oil tank are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is
included in the scheduling. All road surfaces, field boundaries, telegraph
poles and the telephone kiosk are excluded from the scheduling but the ground
beneath them 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.
Legacy System number: 26045
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 84
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