Carrawburgh Roman fort and Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the field boundary east of the fort and the field boundary west of Coventina's Well in wall mile 31
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1015914
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)
District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Park: NORTHUMBERLAND
National Grid Reference: NY 85746 71169
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 wall fort at Carrawburgh and its associated section of Hadrian's Wall and associated features survives well as a series of turf covered and upstanding stone remains. It is one of the best surviving examples of a Roman fort. This section of the frontier remains is particularly rich in archaeological material as evidenced by the mass of finds from Coventina's Well and the recently discovered Mithraeum and Temple of the Nymphs. Significant information on the development of the frontier system over time will be preserved. In addition the waterlogged deposits to the west of the fort have potential for preservation of archaeological and environmental evidence.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the Roman fort at Carrawburgh and the section of
Hadrian's Wall between the field boundary east of Carrawburgh car park in the
east and the field boundary west of Coventina's Well in the west.
The upstanding remains of Hadrian's Wall from the field boundary east of the
fort to the road junction west of Coventina's Well are Listed Grade I.
This section of Wall is situated in the shallow dip occupied by Meggie's Dene
Burn. The Wall survives below the course of the B6318 road throughout this
section. The wall ditch survives well as a visible earthwork on the north side
of the road. It averages about 1m deep, though it attains a maximum depth of
3m in places. The upcast from the ditch, otherwise known as the glacis,
survives well in this section as a broad low mound to the north of the ditch.
The precise location of turret 31a has not yet been confirmed as there are no
upstanding remains visible above ground. However, on the basis of the usual
spacing it is expected to be located about 270m west of Carrawburgh fort,
beneath the surface of the B6318 road.
The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which ran along the
corridor between the Wall and vallum linking the turrets, milecastles and
forts, is known for part of this section. It is visible as a low turf covered
causeway immediately south of the car park heading directly for the east gate
of the fort, though it fades before it reaches the fort. On the west side of
the fort it re-emerges heading from the west gateway to the north mound of the
vallum which was used to carry the road in this section. The road is visible
as a low linear mound, 0.2m high, along the summit of the north mound of the
The vallum survives as an intermittent earthwork throughout this section. The
vallum predates the fort at Carrawburgh as it was levelled to make way for the
fort leaving no surface trace of the vallum in this area. To the west of the
fort the vallum survives as a series of earthworks which have been reduced by
later cultivation. The ditch averages 0.8m in depth, while the north mound of
the vallum is visible as a low mound.
The fort at Carrawburgh, known to the Romans as Brocolitia, occupies a slight
terrace on an otherwise gentle east facing slope, 650m west of the modern farm
of Carrawbrough. The fields to the south and east of the fort are in the care
of the Secretary of State. The fort is well preserved below the turf cover and
its walls are believed to stand to around 1.5m in height. It measures 139.5m
north-south by 109m east-west and encloses an area of 1.4ha. The defences
consisted of a wall, 1.7m thick, backed by an earthen rampart with at least
two external ditches in its earlier phases. Excavation of the headquarters
building showed that the vallum had been levelled and its ditch filled in and
the fort placed on top, demonstrating that the fort was added to the frontier
system after the Wall and vallum had been constructed. The fort was built for
a cohort 500 strong, possibly part mounted.
The civil settlement, or vicus, is located outside the fort to the south and
west. It survives well as a series of earthworks and buried features. On the
west side of the fort six terraces with scarps up to 2.1m high have been cut
into the slope, parallel with the wall of the fort. Like the interior
buildings of the fort, the stone buildings in the vicus have suffered from
A bath house was discovered outside the fort and was excavated by Tailford on
behalf of John Clayton during the 1870s. It had a layout similar to the
Chesters bath house, though it was smaller in size. The excavation report
indicates that it was radically reconstructed, probably during the fourth
century AD. The location of the baths was not recorded in detail and so now
its position is not known with certainty. However, a platform to the south of
the fort has been scooped out of a terrace close to the water level of the
burn. The measurements of the bath house as excavated by Tailford would fit
exactly into these earthworks. A paved road, 3.5m wide, was located in 1977
leading up to this platform from the burn.
A shrine to a water-goddess known as Coventina was located and excavated by
Tailford in the late 1870s. It was situated to the west of the fort at the
source of a spring. The spring was encased in a rectangular stone basin about
2.6m by 2.4m. This basin was located at the centre of a walled enclosure, or
temple, measuring 12.2m north-south by 11.6m east-west. A well, 2.1m deep and
lined with masonry, is situated in the shrine. When excavated its contents
included at least 13,487 coins, ten altars, a relief of three water-nymphs,
the head of a male statue, two dedication slabs to the goddess Coventina, two
clay incense burners and a wide range of votive offerings. Coventina's Well
can be seen enclosed by a fence to the west of the field wall on the west side
of the fort.
A temple to the god Mithras, more commonly known as a Mithraeum, was
discovered during the dry summer of 1949. It was excavated in the following
year by Richmond and Gillam. It has since been consolidated and is now
displayed in its fourth century AD form, using cement replicas of the altars
and statuettes and representations of interwoven timber wattle. It survives
well as an upstanding stone structure, and is in the care of the Secretary of
State. The original altars and statuettes form part of a full size
reconstruction of the temple located in the Museum of Antiquities at Newcastle
Upon Tyne. When the Mithraeum was excavated Roman timbers were discovered in-
situ due to the waterlogged conditions. Five phases of construction were able
to be identified in the well preserved remains.
Immediately outside the door of the Mithraeum was a small shrine now known as
the `Temple of the Nymphs'. This feature was excavated during 1960 by Smith.
Its remains included an altar, a spring/well, a paved area and an apsidal
structure with a bench and short wing walls. This small temple was open to the
sky. There are no upstanding remains visible on the surface except for the top
of the north slab of the well-head.
A cemetery is known to be situated on the east side of the fort. Lingard noted
in 1807 that bones had been found between the fort and milecastle 31. Ten
years later Hodgson learnt that urned cremations had been found during the
quarrying to the east of the fort. Five tombstones have been recovered from
Carrawburgh though their original positions are unknown. Excavations during
1964, in advance of the construction of the car park, revealed fragmentary
remains of two buildings, one of which was identified as a small temple or
All road surfaces including that of the car park and field boundaries within
the area of the monument are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground
beneath them is included. The cement replica altars and statuettes and the
representations of interwoven timber wattle forming part of the reconstruction
of the Mithraeum are included in the scheduling.
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: 26054
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 126
Breeze, D, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Excavations At The Roman Fort Of Carrawburgh, 1967-69, , Vol. 4 ser, 1, (1972), 81-144
Charlesworth, D, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Excavations on the Carrawburgh car park site, 1964, , Vol. 4 ser,45, (1967), 1-16
Clayton, J, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Description of Roman Remains Discovered Near To Procolitia, , Vol. 2 ser, 8, (1880), 1-49
Richmond, I A, Gillam, J P, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Temple of Mithras at Carrawburgh, , Vol. 4 ser,29, (1951), 1-92
Smith, D J, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Shrine of the Nymphs and the Genius Loci at Carrawburgh, , Vol. 4 ser,40, (1962), 59-81
Allason-Jones and McKay, B, Coventina's Well: a shrine on Hadrian's Wall, forthcoming
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