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
List Entry Number: 1010991
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 Park: NORTHUMBERLAND
National Grid Reference: NY 66590 65785
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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 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
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.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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
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
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
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.
Legacy System number: 26069
Legacy System: RSM
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