Hadrian's Wall and associated features between the field boundary west of turret 37a and the road to Steel Rigg car park in wall miles 37, 38 and 39
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 16-Oct-2019 at 00:50:10.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
- Bardon Mill
- Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
- National Park:
- National Grid Reference:
- NY 76488 67850
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 its associated features between the field boundary west of turret 37a and the road to Steel Rigg car park survive well as a series of buried and upstanding remains. Significant information on the development of the frontier system over time will be preserved. The section includes a unique extra tower in Peel Gap. The prehistoric field boundaries give this section of the monument enhanced importance, as they have a known relationship to the Roman frontier works.
The monument includes the section of Hadrian's Wall and its associated
features between the field boundary west of turret 37a in the east and the
west side of the road to Steel Rigg car park in the west. Hadrian's Wall
follows the crest of the Whin Sill throughout this section, which includes the
steep rock outcrops of Hotbank Crags, Highshield Crags and Peel Crags. There
are extensive views to north and south all along this section.
The upstanding remains of Hadrian's Wall, the milecastles and turrets are
Listed Grade I, from Milking Gap to the road to Steel Rigg car park.
Hadrian's Wall survives well as an exposed and consolidated wall for the
larger part this section averaging 2m wide and 1.4m high. It reaches a maximum
height of 2.75m at Sycamore Gap where there are 11 courses extant. Here there
are also traces of original mortar and whitewash along the north face and in
the wall core. Above Sycamore Gap on its west side is a section of bypassed
broad wall foundations which measure 2.75m wide and two courses high on the
east side and a single course high on the west side and is now consolidated
and on display. Above Peel Crags the Wall is in poor condition though it
stands up to 2.7m on its north side and up to 1.7m on the south side.
Elsewhere in this section the Wall survives as a turf-covered mound averaging
2m wide and 1m high. Modern field walls overlie these turf-covered stretches
of Wall. The wall ditch was only constructed in the gaps between the crags, as
the steep craggy scarps render a ditch superfluous here. Where it was
constructed the ditch survives as a visible feature. At Milking Gap the ditch
averages 10m wide and 1m deep. Excavations by Crow in 1986 to the west of the
Roman tower at Peel Gap showed the ditch to be 9m wide and 2.3m deep with a
level berm 9.5m across. At Peel Gap the ditch is less well preserved as a
surface feature, though it averages 1m in depth. The ditch upcast mound,
usually known as the `glacis', is here visible only as a slight counterscarp.
The glacis is better preserved at Milking Gap where it averages 6m wide.
Milecastle 38 is situated on a west facing slope with views to the north and
south. It is visible as a series of turf-covered mounds and it measures 18m
north east to south west by 17.4m across. The turf-covered remains of the
north east wall are 2.6m wide and 1.2m high. On the south and east sides
robber trenches mark where the walls were located. These measure 3.6m wide and
up to 1.4m deep. There are traces of a rectangular building in the south west
corner. The milecastle was partly excavated during 1935 by Simpson. Pottery
found indicated occupation continued into the fourth century AD.
Milecastle 39, known as Castle Nick, is positioned in a steep sided gap
between Highshield Crags and Peel Crags with views to the north and south.
It survives well as an upstanding stone feature and is now consolidated. It
measures 19m long and about 15.5m across, though its overall width varies
slightly at each end. The walls stand up to 1.75m high. The milecastle was
partly excavated by Clayton and later by Simpson. However, excavations by Crow
between 1985 and 1987 produced a detailed understanding of the milecastle and
its internal structures and their development over time. Early barrack blocks
were later replaced by individual small buildings with curved porches,
probably designed as wind breaks. The pottery sequence showed that the
occupation of the milecastle was continuous and ended probably sometime in the
fourth century AD. An 18th century milking parlour was later constructed in
the north west part of the milecastle. The milecastle excavation produced many
small finds including pottery, coins, and metalwork which included short
swords and lances, together with gaming boards and pieces.
Turret 37b is located on the crest of Hotbank Crags with very extensive views
in all directions. It survives as a turf-covered platform. The platform
measures 6.3m north to south and 10m across and is up to 1.4m high. There is a
small enclosure on the east side of the platform which appears to abut both
the south side of the Wall and the east side of the turret wall. It could
therefore be contemporary with the Wall and may have served as a small stable.
It was located in 1911 by Simpson.
Turret 38a is located on the west side of Milking Gap on an east facing slope.
It commands extensive views to the south and directly overlooks Crag Lough to
the north. It survives as a buried feature below the turf. It was located in
1911 by Simpson.
Turret 38b is located on Highshield Crags and also has extensive views in all
directions. It survives as a turf-covered platform. The platform measures 6.8m
north to south and 13.4m across. There is an internal scarp up to 0.3m high.
This turret was also located by Simpson in 1911.
Turret 39a is located on the crest of Peel Crags and commands wide views in
all directions. It is visible as a slight rectangular hollow about 0.2m deep.
The turret was located in 1909 and excavated in 1911 by Simpson. Its walls
were of narrow gauge and were found to have been demolished and the Wall built
over its entrance indicating that it fell out of use during the Roman period.
A platform, probably for a ladder, was positioned in the south west corner.
The remains of a man and a woman were found buried in the north west corner.
Burial in such a place was against Roman law and as such these could be the
remains of an unlawful event.
A Roman tower is positioned in Peel Gap on Hadrian's Wall with limited views
to the north and south. Unusually it is located between the two turrets 39a
and 39b. It survives as consolidated stone foundations. It was discovered by
Crow during investigation and clearance of the Wall in this section in 1986.
This additional tower was later than the Hadrianic narrow wall. Finds from
inside and outside the tower showed that it had a similar structural history
and use to the neighbouring turrets. Hearths and a ladder platform were found
in the interior. Wall mile 39 is a particularly long one as the distance
between turrets 39a and 39b exceeds by over 200m the normal spacing of 494m
from turret to turret. The Peel Gap tower lies exactly midway between these
turrets implying that spacing was the most important factor determining its
location. As an observation post it is in a very poor position.
A medieval tower is located in Peel Gap abutting Hadrian's Wall. It was
probably part of the original pele tower which gave its name to the modern
farmhouse and adjacent crag. It survives as a slight platform with excavation
trenches and spoil heaps, up to 0.4m high. It was excavated by Simpson in 1911
who recovered medieval green glazed pottery from the interior.
The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which ran along the
corridor between the Wall and the vallum linking turrets, milecastles and
forts, survives well as a linear causeway throughout this section. Some stone
is visible on the south scarp where it has been built up to make a level
surface. This scarp appears to have had a stone revetment. The south scarp
averages 0.4m in height, although it reaches up to 1.2m high in places. West
of Peel Farm the Military Way is overlain by the road to Steel Rigg car park.
To the south of Sycamore Gap are the remains of a prehistoric field boundary
running roughly from north to south, probably dating to the Bronze Age. The
Roman Military Way overlies this boundary which indicates that it is certainly
pre-Roman in date. The peat bog, which has grown over remains of this boundary
further to the south, is of Bronze Age origin. A second boundary is located
running transversely to the Sycamore Gap boundary, to the west of it, south of
the Military Way. Their assumed junction is masked by the peat bog which
has built up to the south. These boundaries survive as sinuous linear features
of low stone banks, averaging 1.2m wide and 0.5m high.
A small irregular field system is situated to the south of milecastle 39. It
takes the form of two roughly rectangular paddocks linked by an axial
boundary. The boundaries survive as upstanding features. They are constructed
from roughly coursed boulders standing up to 1m wide and 0.45m high. They are
of a form usually considered to be medieval. The axial boundary runs up to the
south east corner of the milecastle showing that it is later than the
milecastle in date.
There are ten shielings located within this section of the Wall. Shielings are
small shepherds' huts which were used on a seasonal basis usually during
upland grazing in the summer months. They are characteristic of the medieval
period in this area. There are five free standing shielings located between
Castle Nick and Sycamore Gap. Their dry stone walls average 1m in width and
0.4m high. A group of three shielings with multiple phases are located 50m
east of milecastle 39 abutting the south face of Hadrian's Wall. These were
discovered during excavations between 1985 and 1987 by Crow. Their walls
average 0.6m wide and 0.4m high. They are now consolidated and are visible as
stone features. Two further shielings are situated 120m east of turret 38a.
They survive as low stone structures and are situated to the immediate south
of Hadrian's Wall. The largest and easternmost of the two measures 9m by 3m
with traces of an entrance in its south wall. The walls of both shielings
stand up to 0.3m high.
On either side of the last pair of shielings is an irregular enclosure
abutting the south face of Hadrian's Wall. They survive as upstanding stone
features. The larger and westernmost of the two enclosures measures 28m east
to west by 5m wide. Its walls are constructed from roughly coursed boulders
which stand up to 0.4m high. The much smaller enclosure to the east also has
walls made from roughly coursed boulders up to 1.5m wide and 0.4m high. Both
of these features are probably shielings or animal byres, although their
irregular form is unusual.
All field boundaries, except those constructed directly on the line of
Hadrian's Wall, sign posts, stiles and road/trackways 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. It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Crow, J, 'Britannia' in Roman Britain in 1987, , Vol. 19, (1988), 434
Simpson, , Richmond, , Birley, , Keeney, , 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Milecastles on Hadrian's Wall explored in 1935-6, , Vol. 4 ser,13, (1936), 263-9
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