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


Ordnance survey map of 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
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This copy shows the entry on 23-Jan-2019 at 14:33:30.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Carlisle (District Authority)

Parish: Waterhead

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 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 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 1928. 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 central space. 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 stone. 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 glazed. 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 scheduling. 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

End of official listing