Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the field boundaries east of milecastle 50 and the boundary west of Coombe Crag in wall miles 50 and 51
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010995
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: Carlisle (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: NY 59994 65715
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 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 field boundaries east of milecastle 50 and the field boundary west of Coombe Crag survive as a series of buried and upstanding remains. Significant information on the development of the frontier system over time will be preserved. In addition this section is the most substantial stretch where the Turf Wall and later Stone Wall follow separate courses, and therefore survive as separate features.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the section of Turf and Stone Walls and vallum between
the field boundaries east of milecastle 50 in the east and the field boundary
west of Coombe Crag in the west.
The Turf Wall survives as a buried feature below grassland throughout this
section. At the west end of this section its course is defined by a low broad
mound, with a maximum height of 0.4m. Elsewhere there are no visible remains
above ground. The Turf Wall ditch survives as an earthwork visible on the
ground. It averages between 1.1m and 2m deep throughout this section. The
ditch upcast mound, usually referred to as the glacis, also survives as a low
mound to the north of the ditch. It measures up to 1.6m high in places.
Milecastle 50 on the Turf Wall is situated on a gentle west facing slope with
the steep gorge of the Irthing to the south. The south part of the milecastle
is marked out in the turf, but otherwise there are no remains visible on the
ground. Its remains however survive as buried features below the turf cover.
Excavations were carried out by Simpson in 1934 which identified a causeway
across the Turf Wall ditch to the north.
Turret 50a on the Turf Wall survives as a buried feature below the turf cover
with no remains visible above ground. It is situated about 180m north west of
High House. It was located in 1934 by Simpson.
Turret 50b on the Turf Wall also survives as a buried feature below the turf
cover with no remains visible above ground. It is situated about 120m east of
the Wall Burn. It was located and partly excavated by Simpson and Richmond in
The Stone Wall in this section survives as a buried feature below the ground
immediately south of the modern road at the east end of this section and below
the road surface itself throughout the rest of the section. The ditch survives
well as an earthwork visible on the ground immediately north of the modern
road. It is well preserved measuring between 1.7m and 2.5m deep. The ditch
upcast mound, or glacis, is visible to the north of the ditch. It survives as
a low sinuous mound averaging 1m in height.
Milecastle 50 on the Stone Wall is situated about 170m north of milecastle 50
on the earlier Turf Wall. It survives as a ploughed down turf covered platform
bounded on the east and the west sides by a spread scarp with a maximum height
of 0.2m. Two distinct rises in the roadside wall define the position of the
east and west walls. Excavations by Simpson took place in 1911. It measured
23.4m internally north to south by 18.5m across. Its walls were of narrow type
measuring 2.3m across. The original internal buildings appear to have been
timber structures. These were later replaced by stone buildings. Fragments of
three legionary inscriptions were also found; two referring to the sixth
legion and one to the second legion.
Milecastle 51 is situated 150m east of Wall Bowers and survives as a series of
turf covered remains mostly on the south side of the modern road. The east and
west walls survive as animal trampled robber trenches, 3m wide and with a
maximum depth of 0.15m. The north wall is buried below the modern road. An
outer ditch is discernible on the east side, curving around to the south side
before fading. It survives up to 4.5m wide and 0.3m deep. It is at this
milecastle that the Turf Wall and Stone Wall converge before continuing west
on the same alignment. Excavations of the milecastle by Simpson in 1927
revealed the gateway and two stone barracks, one either side of the
Turret 50a on the Stone Wall is situated about 50m west of the track to High
House. There are no remains visible above ground. The north half survives
below the road surface whereas the south half is recognisable as an amorphous
swelling at the edge of the adjoining field. It was partly excavated by
Simpson in 1911 who recovered two inscriptions to the sixth legion, who it
seems were responsible for rebuilding the first five miles of the Turf Wall in
Turret 50b on the Stone Wall is situated to the east of Appletree. It survives
as a buried feature partly below the modern road and partly below the
adjoining field to the south. The turret was located and partly excavated by
Simpson in 1911. It was shown to have remained in use after the second
century, and fragments of window glass imply that the turret's windows were
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 throughout this section. It survives as a vague but detectable
intermittent terrace or mound visible on the ground. It is best preserved to
the west of Wall Burn where it survives as a linear causeway, 0.4m high.
The Vallum survives well as an upstanding earthwork in all but the easternmost
part of this section where it survives as a shallow ditch and ploughed down
earthwork. Elsewhere the ditch averages 1.5m deep, the north mound 2m high and
the south mound 0.9m high. West of Turf Wall milecastle 50 the north mound
reappears again abutting the west wall of the milecastle. Excavations at the
milecastle in 1936 have shown that there is no north mound between milecastle
50 and Birdoswald fort, but rather a south mound twice the usual size. Outside
Turf Wall milecastle 50 the south mound and ditch bend around the milecastle
with a paved access road opposite the south gateway and a paved track along
the south berm.
The farm lane and farm buildings at Coombe Crag are totally excluded from the
All field boundaries, road and track surfaces and buildings 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: 26074
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 213
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