Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the field boundary west of Coombe Crag and Banks Green Cottage and the road to Lanercost at Banks in wall miles 51 and 52
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010996
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)
District: Carlisle (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: NY 57868 64862
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 boundary west of Coombe Crag and Banks Green Cottage and the road to Lanercost at Banks survive as a series of buried and upstanding remains. This section of Wall corridor is of particular significance as it contains three well preserved and upstanding turrets and a signal tower. The archaeological remains, especially the remains of both the Turf and Stone Wall, vallum, and Military Way, contain important information regarding the function and development of the frontier system over time.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum and their
associated features between the field boundary west of Coombe Crag in the east
and Banks Green Cottage and the road to Lanercost at Banks in the west.
Hadrian's Wall survives mostly as a buried feature throughout this section
except for short lengths of exposed Wall either side of the turrets and Pike
Hill Tower. Where exposed the Wall measures 2.35m wide and up to 1.25m high.
Elsewhere the Wall survives as a buried feature below the surface of the
modern road or as a turf covered discontinuous robber trench east of turret
51a. Between turrets 51a and 51b the course of the Wall is overlain by the
roadside wall. The wall ditch survives as a well preserved earthwork visible
on the ground throughout most of this section. However, it is overlain by the
modern road around Banks Post Office and by Leahill farmyard west of turret
51b. Elsewhere the ditch averages between 1.3m and 2.5m in depth. The ditch
was trenched in two places opposite Pike Hill Tower by Richmond and Simpson in
the 1930s. It was established that the ditch made a double turn around this
tower, which is positioned 45 degrees away from the Wall line, indicating that
the tower is earlier than the ditch. The ditch upcast mound, usually referred
to as the glacis, which lies to the north of the wall ditch has been reduced
by ploughing throughout this section. A small stretch of the Wall line to the
west of Pike Hill is in the care of the Secretary of State.
Milecastle 52 is overlain by Bankshead House, there being no remains visible
above the ground surface. It was partly excavated by Simpson and Richmond in
1933-4. This milecastle is exceptionally large, measuring 23.6m north to south
by 27.8m east to west internally. The south gate was remodelled in the fourth
century AD by the insertion of large stone jambs and the north gate was
modified four times. A hypocaust pillar found at the south gate of the
milecastle suggests this milecastle could have been more elaborate than usual.
It is thought that the larger size of this milecastle is accounted for by the
presence of the Pike Hill Tower in this section which meant it was necessary
to have a garrison 1.5 times the normal strength because there are three
towers in this section rather than the normal two. Two altars were discovered
here in 1808, dedicated to the local deity Cocidius, both of which are now at
Turret 51a is situated 20m east of the stream known as Piper Sike. It survives
as an upstanding stone feature visible on the ground. Its walls stand to a
maximum height of 0.8m. Excavations were carried out in 1970 by Charlesworth
who discovered the doorway in the east wall and a substantial platform against
the north wall. Cooking hearths and rubbish were spread over the rest of the
turret. Occupation did not continue later than the second century AD.
Turret 51b is situated 120m east of Leahill farm immediately to the north of
the modern road. It survives as an upstanding stone feature. Its walls stand
to a maximum height of 1.1m. Excavations in 1958 by Woodfield found that the
turret measured 4.2m north to south by 4.5m across internally. The turret had
been robbed though it still stood nine courses high. A platform was found in
the centre of the north side and the doorway was in the east wall.
Pike Hill Tower is situated on the highest point along the ridge occupied by
the Wall with extensive views in all directions. The turret survives as an
exposed stone feature. It is positioned at 45 degrees to the Wall line which
zig-zags to accommodate it. Its exceptionally deep foundations suggest that it
was higher than the average turret. Consequently this tower is believed to be
a signal tower built before the Wall system and later incorporated into it.
The tower was partly destroyed in 1870 when the road was drastically lowered.
Excavation in 1931 by Simpson revealed the one remaining corner and a ground
floor door together with Roman pottery of various dates.
Turret 52a, known as Banks East Turret, is situated 170m west of Pike Hill
Tower. It survives as an upstanding stone feature. Its walls stand up to 14
courses giving a maximum height of 1.75m. Excavations in 1933 by Simpson and
Richmond found remains of the demolished Turf Wall abutting its east wall. It
was used continuously until at least the end of the third century AD.
The exact location of turret 52b has not yet been confirmed. There are no
upstanding remains visible above ground. On the basis of the usual spacing it
is expected to survive about 15m east of Glen View below the surface of the
The exact 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 intermittently throughout this section where it survives
as an earthwork feature. Opposite the disused quarry west of Bankshead Farm
the Military Way survives as a terrace, 3m-5m wide, on the north side of an
old hedge line. Occasional rises in hedgelines denote traces of its course.
The vallum survives intermittently as an upstanding earthwork visible on the
ground throughout this section. It is best preserved at the east end of this
section where the ditch averages 2.5m deep to the north, and the north and
south mounds are nowhere more than 0.6m high. Elsewhere the vallum survives
either as a ploughed down scarp up to 0.9m high and the ditch 0.8m deep, or
there are no surface traces at all. Excavations in the vicinity of Pike Hill
Tower in 1932 by Simpson found the ditch to be rock cut for at least 46m and
crossings were noted at 41.5m intervals in the south mound. Excavations in
advance of construction work at Banks in 1977 by Austen identified the north
edge of the vallum ditch.
The remains of turrets 51a, 51b and 52a and Pike Hill Tower are consolidated
and in the care of the Secretary of State.
The farm buildings at Bankshead are totally excluded from the scheduling.
However the ground beneath Bankshead House is included as the house overlies
the site of milecastle 52.
All field boundaries, other buildings and the horse exercise ring north of
Banks House, all English Heritage fixtures and fittings, road and track
surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath them is
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: 26075
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Charlesworth, D, 'TCWAAS' in Hadrian's Wall, Turret 51a, , Vol. 73, (1973), 67
Simpson, , Richmond, , 'Transactions of the Cumbl/d and Westml/d Arc and Antiq Soc' in Excavations on Hadrian's Wall, , Vol. 34, (1934), 147
Woodfield, C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Six Turrets On Hadrian's Wall, , Vol. 4 ser,43, (1965), 170-200
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