Carvoran Roman fort and Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the unclassified road to Old Shield and the field boundary west of the fort in wall miles 45 and 46


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Carvoran Roman fort and Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the unclassified road to Old Shield and the field boundary west of the fort in wall miles 45 and 46
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NY 66590 65785

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 identifiable. 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. Whilst all the forts added to the Wall are broadly similar in size, no two are exactly alike and there is no standard internal layout. However, when originally built, all forts enclosed a fairly standard range of buildings including a headquarters building, commandant's house, hospital, barracks, stables, granaries and workshops. The size and number of barracks blocks has, in the past, been used to determine the size and type of military unit stationed there. This is a difficult exercise which remains the subject of much debate. The area outside the fort was put to a variety of uses. There was usually a bath house and normally a number of temples, burial grounds and other official establishments such as lodging houses for official visitors. Over time sprawling external settlements known as vici grew up around many forts. These housed a range of people and activities attracted by the military presence. Some of the inhabitants may have been families of troops stationed on the Wall, although it was not until the third century that soldiers on active duty were officially permitted to marry. Others may have been retired soldiers and their families. Traders and merchants are also thought to have set up workshops and shops in the vici. The most common type of building found here, as well as in other areas around forts, was the long narrow strip building. These appear to have been used for both domestic and commercial purposes.

The Stanegate military road linked Corbridge and Carlisle, both of which were also situated on important north-south routeways. It also extended west of Carlisle towards the Cumbrian coast. The construction of a series of forts along the road line allowed many troops to be stationed in this crucial frontier area and ensured that the area could be extensively patrolled. A series of smaller watchtowers were also built to help frontier control. The Stanegate frontier thus created, developed further and was consolidated during the late first and early second century AD and helped crystallise Roman tactics and military expectations in the area. The function of the road and its forts changed when Hadrian's Wall was constructed to the north and their support roles were, initially at least, enhanced. The later history of the road and its forts and their relationship with the Wall are less well understood although, overall, their strategic functions declined as the new frontier line was confirmed. Carvoran Roman fort and Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the road to Old Shield and the field boundary west of the fort survive well as a series of buried and upstanding remains. The fort and vicus have significant archaeological remains surviving as they have not been investigated archaeologically. Significant information on the development of the frontier system over time will be preserved. In addition the silted ditches will contain environmental evidence which will allow the character of the surrounding area in the Roman period to be better understood.


The monument includes the Roman fort at Carvoran and Hadrian's Wall and vallum and their associated features between the road to Old Shield in the east and the field boundary west of Carvoran fort in the west. All the upstanding remains of Hadrian's Wall and the milecastle in this scheduling are Listed Grade I. Hadrian's Wall survives as a buried feature throughout this short section. It is traced on the ground as a robber trench, seen as a depression in the turf cover, 2m wide. West of milecastle 46 the Wall remains survive as a low turf-covered stony mound, 0.3m high. The wall ditch survives very well as a turf-covered earthwork visible on the ground. It averages over 3m in depth throughout its length in this section. The ditch upcast mound, known as the glacis, to the north of the ditch also survives well in this section. It is visible on the ground as a substantial low mound, up to 10m wide in places. Milecastle 46 is situated just below the crest of a west facing slope overlooking the gap in the Tipalt valley. It was first discovered in 1807 by Lingard and rediscovered in 1910 by Gibson and Simpson. It survives as a faintly visible turf-covered platform, 0.3m high. The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which ran along the corridor between the Wall and vallum linking turrets, milecastles and forts, is known with a fair degree of certainty. Its remains survive below the turf cover. Although there is no surface trace, the space between the Wall and vallum is so confined that its course can be fairly accurately determined. The presence of crossings on the vallum north mound and the absence of breaks at critical points on the mound suggest that the Military Way was not on the north mound or the berm in this section. The vallum survives as an earthwork visible on the ground throughout this section. To the north of Carvoran fort the vallum veers to the north to approximately 10m from the Wall before reverting to its previous alignment near Tipalt Burn, the deviation coinciding with the length of the larger earlier fort. The south mound has been largely reduced or destroyed by ridge and furrow cultivation. The ditch is mostly silted up in this section though it can be seen 0.4m deep in places. The north mound survives to the north of the modern wall to a height of 0.7m. There are five crossings visible in the north mound, though no traces of ditch causeways survive. The Stanegate Roman road, which predates the Hadrianic frontier, ran east to west between Corbridge and Kirkbride respectively. It survives largely as a buried feature in this section, visible intermittently as a low ploughed down causeway. For most of its course however there is no surface trace. Its course is known from the first edition Ordnance Survey maps which depict it as a visible feature running parallel and to the immediate south of Carvoran fort. The Maiden Way is a Roman road which ran north to south probably from the Stanegate outside Carvoran to at least as far as Kirkby Thore to the south. Its remains survive as buried features below the turf cover in this section. However, its course is known as it was marked on the first edition Ordnance Survey map as an upstanding feature. According to this map the junction of the Maiden Way and the Stanegate was to the south east of the south east corner of the fort. Carvoran Roman fort, known to the Romans as Magna, is situated near the crest of the steep west facing slope overlooking the gap in the Tipalt valley. It guards both this important gap and river crossing and also the junction of the Stanegate and Maiden Way. The fort probably originates from the same period as the Stanegate, around AD 80, and was later included in the Hadrianic frontier, started in AD 122. It is not actually attached to Hadrian's Wall, but lies about 220m to the south of the Wall and 160m south of the vallum. The stone fort is visible as a turf covered platform with some exposed masonry at the north west angle tower. This fort measures 135m by 111m over the ramparts, enclosing an area just under 1.5ha. Antiquaries who visited the site from 1599 onwards all record the presence of substantial buildings and streets within the stone wall of the fort. A bath house with plastered walls was observed within the south wall near the south west angle. Aerial photography has revealed the south west corner of a larger predecessor to the visible stone fort between the south west corner of the stone fort and the B6318 road. A faint crop mark running north-south observed south east of Carvoran House may also be associated with this large fort. The Roman name, Magna, is not appropriate for the relatively small stone fort and suggests that it replaced an earlier larger fort. Further Roman ditches were located in 1985 east of Carvoran House which may belong to a third fort. The pre- Hadrianic history of Carvoran is clearly complex, with the possibility that, like Vindolanda, it consisted initially of a smallish fort which was replaced by one or more larger forts before the construction of the visible small stone fort. As there has been no organised excavation at this site most of what is known comes from chance finds across the site and aerial photography. A number of altars and inscriptions testify to the various detachments which were stationed at the fort at one time or other. These included Hamian archers from Syria and the first cohort of Batavians. Probably the most interesting find to date is the inscription on a stone tablet of a metrical hymn dedicated to the Virgin of the Zodiac, now in the Museum of Antiquities at Newcastle. A well within the fort yielded a set of stag's antlers and an iron javelin head, both in very good condition. The civil settlement outside the fort, usually referred to as a `vicus', was very extensive according to the accounts of the antiquaries who visited the remains. Horsley, writing in 1732, states clearly that the remains of the vicus were located to the south and west of the fort. No visible remains of the vicus to be seen above ground today, but its remains survive as buried features. The vicus is also testified to, by the numerous dedications to the god Vitiris. A bronze measuring container, or `modius', weighing 26 pounds was discovered in 1915 just north of the north east corner of the fort. It is inscribed and names the emperor Domitian under whom it was made. Domitian died in 96 AD, implying that the Roman occupation at Carvoran probably predated the Wall. The cemetery associated with the fort and vicus was located to the east of the fort around the Stanegate on its approach to the installation. This cemetery is the subject of a separate scheduling, which includes the Stanegate. All field boundaries, except those constructed directly on the line of Hadrian's Wall, road and track surfaces and buildings 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
Birley, E, Research on Hadrian's Wall, (1961), 192-196
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 187-191


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