Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the road to Caw Gap and the Caw Burn in wall miles 41 and 42


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010975

Date first listed: 12-Dec-1928

Date of most recent amendment: 14-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the road to Caw Gap and the Caw Burn in wall miles 41 and 42
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Greenhead

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Haltwhistle

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Melkridge


National Grid Reference: NY 71916 66692

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.

Hadrian's Wall and vallum and their associated features between the road to Caw Gap and the Caw Burn 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 monument includes the section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum and their associated features between the road to Caw Gap in the east and the Caw Burn in the west. All the upstanding remains of Hadrian's Wall, the milecastle and turrets in this scheduling are Listed Grade I. Hadrian's Wall runs along the crest of Cawfields Crags in this section and commands wide views to the north, south and west. The Wall survives well as an upstanding feature throughout the whole of this section, except for where it has been destroyed by Cawfields Quarry in the west. A number of changes in the thickness of the Wall are evidenced as offsets along this section. These may be the product of separate work gangs building up to each other. The Wall is consolidated for 1240m and averages 1.8m to 2.3m in width and 1.2m to 1.6m in height. It reaches a maximum height of 2.8m near Thorny Doors where it is 12 courses high. Both the north and south face are almost complete with only occasional gaps in the outer face. The Wall in this section is in the care of the Secretary of State. The wall ditch was only constructed in the areas between the crags which otherwise make a ditch superfluous. Where extant the ditch survives on the ground as an earthwork measuring between 1.1m and 2.8m in depth. The ditch upcast mound, usually referred to as the `glacis', also survives to the north of the ditch averaging 10.5m in width. Milecastle 42, or Cawfields, is situated on the crest of Cawfields Crags at the west end and commands wide views in all directions. It survives well as an upstanding stone feature which has been consolidated and is in the care of the Secretary of State. The milecastle straddles a steep south facing slope, 8m to 10m south of the steep north facing crags, and overlooks Hole Gap to the west. The internal dimensions of this milecastle are 17.8m east to west by 14.4m north to south. The walls are 2.8m thick and average 1.4m high. Both gateways of the milecastle are built in massive masonry. Excavations by Clayton in 1848 produced amongst other finds two inscribed stones, one an inscription dedicated to Hadrian and the other a reused tombstone. Further excavations by Simpson took place in 1936. Turret 41a is located on the west side of Caw Gap with views to the north and south. It survives as an upstanding stone feature which has been consolidated and is in the care of the Secretary of State. Excavation by Simpson in 1912 located the doorway in the east side of the south wall. It had been dismantled and the Wall built across it during the reign of the Roman emperor Severus. Charlesworth's excavations in 1967 confirmed the deliberate dismantling of the turret and the rebuilding of the Wall across its recess. Turret 41b is situated on Cawfield Crags west of Thorny Doors. It survives as a buried feature. It was located and excavated in 1912 by Simpson. The turret is included as part of the Wall in the care of the Secretary of State. Turret 42a was located at the west end of Cawfields Crags near to the Caw Burn. However, the large quarry has destroyed the section of Wall, including turret 42a, between Hole Gap and the Caw Burn. The former course of the Wall and position of the turret in this area is however known from the first edition Ordnance Survey map. 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 known throughout this section except around Cawfields Quarry where its precise course has not yet been confirmed. It survives as a linear causeway which is most prominent at the east end of this section. Here it measures between 3.5m and 5.2m wide with a revetment containing large stones on the south side and with evidence of a stone kerb. Further west the causeway, where extant, averages about 0.1m in height and 7m in width. Where there is no trace of the causeway the line of the road has been identified by changes in vegetation growth with grass growing less well above the former road surface. Around Cawfields Quarry the remains of the Military Way may have been destroyed by the quarry, however it is possible that here the Military Way was built on the line of the vallum, as it was further to the east at the crossing site of the Caw Burn and thus survives. About 200m east of milecastle 42 and 10m to the south of the Military Way is a fallen Roman milestone. It measures 1.38m high by 0.4m by 0.3m. It is oblong in shape and crudely rounded at the corners. This uninscribed milestone now lies in long grass. Two other milestones from this vicinity have been removed and are now in Chesters museum. The vallum survives very well in this section as an upstanding turf-covered earthwork. It follows a straight course all through this section. The ditch averages 3m deep with a maximum depth of 3.8m in places. The north and south mounds average 2m in height with a maximum of 2.8m in places. They still follow a very straight course and can be seen to include large boulders in their make up. This is one of the best preserved continuous stretches of vallum. The remains of a Roman watermill are situated on the east bank of the Caw Burn to the south of the Military Way. It is now covered by the Cawfields Quarry spoil heap and as a result there are no visible remains. Excavation by Simpson in 1907-8 showed that an artificial wood-lined channel had been cut across a bend in the stream and a weir constructed to direct water into it. A rectangular stone building measuring 7m by 4.8m was situated above the channel with its north west wall forming one side of the widened channel. Millstones and pottery were recovered during the excavation which allowed this undershot water mill to be dated to the third century AD. The millstones are now in Chesters museum. The whole complex was surrounded on three sides by a rampart and ditch. It was probably associated with the fort 750m to the west at Great Chesters. All field boundaries, stiles, track and road surfaces, and English Heritage fixtures and fittings 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.

Legacy System number: 26064

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Simpson, F G, Handbook to the Roman Wall, (1863), 176
Simpson, F G, Watermills and Military Works on Hadrian's Wall: Excavations..., (1977), 108
Simpson, F G, Watermills and Military Works on Hadrian's Wall: Excavations..., (1977)
Charlesworth, D, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Recent work on Hadrian's Wall, Cawfields, , Vol. 4 ser,46, (1968)
Simpson, , Richmond, , Birley, , Keeney, , 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Milecastles on Hadrian's Wall explored in 1935-6, , Vol. 4 ser,13, (1936), 269

End of official listing