Eight Roman inscriptions in the Roman quarry in Combcrag Wood, 350m south of Hadrian's Wall


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Eight Roman inscriptions in the Roman quarry in Combcrag Wood, 350m south of Hadrian's Wall
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Carlisle (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 59086 65025

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.

Roman inscriptions were introduced into England by the Roman army who brought with them a long established practice of setting up inscribed stones as religious dedications and tombstones, as records of building work, and as milestones, and also a tradition of inscribing weapons, tools or domestic utensils, ingots of metal and so forth, with the names of the owner. Many kinds of utensils, and also bricks and tiles, were often stamped with the name of the manufacturer. Roman inscriptions are usually cut in capital letters, either monumental or rustic, but some are in cursive or graffiti form and others take the form of pictures or `doodles'. They are extremely common in the first and second centuries AD and are not uncommon later, but become rare after AD 350. After AD 400 inscriptions cease, with the exception of tombstones. The value of Roman inscriptions as historical material is immense. They are contemporary and authoritative documents, whose text is a first hand record, free from subsequent corruption by copyists. They are the most important single source for the history and organisation of the Roman Empire, and their cumulative and comparative value is astonishingly great. The Roman quarry in Combcrag Wood is one of only a handful of the 50 or so Roman quarries in England to display Roman inscriptions. The information recorded is of particular importance because it contains personal remarks, gives the names of men, and in one example part of the name of the military unit involved in quarrying stone for the construction and/or repair of Hadrian's Wall and its forts. The inscriptions are also a good example of rough and unskilled work cut by poorly trained masons, and thus illuminate the contrast between this type of inscription and that produced on many public buildings, tombstones and milestones by the finest masons who used better quality tools and materials. The inscription near the base of the crag is an excellent example of a post-Roman forgery of a Roman inscription. It has parallels locally with other examples at Banksburn and Lanercost, and a study of the lettering techniques used in these forgeries is a valuable aid to recognising the authenticity or otherwise of inscriptions deemed to be of Roman origin.


The monument includes eight inscriptions carved into the east facing side of a sandstone cliff in the Roman quarry in Combcrag Wood. The quarry lies c.350m south of Hadrian's Wall and was used as a source of building material by the troops employed in constructing the wall during the years AD 122-138 and subsequently by troops stationed in the wall forts. The inscriptions are located on the upper part of the cliff and seven of the eight are Roman, with the eighth being interpreted as a post-Roman forgery. Reading from left to right, that is from south to north, the first inscription is MATHRAIVS, which is translated as the individual's name, `Maternus'. It is 0.61m long and is situated near to a grassy ledge. Situated 4.8m to the north of the initial letter of the inscription just described, and 1.22m above the grassy ledge, is the inscription MATIIRAIVS. It measures 0.53m long and is also translated as the individual's name, `Maternus'. At 0.38m below this inscription is the inscription SECVRVS AP IVSTVS. This is 0.48m long and is translated as an individual's name, the military century to which he belonged, and another individual's name; `Securus; the century of AP...; Justus'. At 9.01m north of the initial letter of the first inscription described is the inscription IULIUS. It measures 0.3m long and is translated as the individual's name, `Julius'. At 9.94m north of the initial letter of the first inscription described is the inscription STADVS F. It measures 0.46m long and is translated as `Stadus did this'. About halfway down the lower rock face, and almost directly below the inscription just described, is the inscription POLONIUS DAMINIVS NOLVI DOS S. This was found in 1936 and is translated as `Apollonius; I, Daminius, did not want (to do it)'. At 10.26m north of the first inscription described are traces of the virtually eroded inscription DE. The final inscription is located near the bottom of the crag beneath the Roman inscriptions. It has been interpreted as a forgery but nevertheless gives an interesting insight into the rival 19th century antiquarian debates concerning the construction of Hadrian's Wall. The inscription was found in 1859 and the text runs: FAVST ET RVF COSS, which in translation reads `M.Acilius Faustinus and A.Triarius Rufinus consuls'. Faustinus and Rufinus were Roman consuls in AD 210. At the time of the discovery of the inscriptions there was controversy between Northumberland based antiquarians who believed that Hadrian built the wall, and Cumberland based antiquarians who ascribed its construction to the Emperor Severus (AD 197-211). The discovery of this inscription was a godsend to the Cumberland `school' as it appeared to offer proof of stone quarrying during the period of Severus's reign and thus vindicate their claim of a late second/early third century date for the construction of the wall. However, a careful examination of the letters forming the inscription by Collingwood in 1930, together with a study of the different lichen growing inside the grooves which form the letters compared to the lichen growing outside the grooves, indicated that the inscription was one of at least three known forgeries of Roman inscriptions in the area.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 599
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, Wright, R P, Roman Inscriptions of Britain, (1965), 600
Collingwood, R G, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Five Notes: Another Forged Rock-Inscription, , Vol. XXX, (1930), 120-22


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.

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