Rudchester Roman fort, associated civil settlement and a section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum from the A69 to the March Burn in wall mile 13


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017533

Date first listed: 12-Dec-1928

Date of most recent amendment: 14-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Rudchester Roman fort, associated civil settlement and a section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum from the A69 to the March Burn in wall mile 13
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Heddon-on-the-Wall

National Grid Reference: NZ 11538 67420


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 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 purposes.

The wall fort at Rudchester, its associated civil settlement and Hadrian's Wall and vallum from the A69 to the March Burn, survive well as upstanding turf-covered features. Rudchester is one of the best surviving examples of a Roman fort and has produced significant archaeological finds including a life- size statue of Hercules and five altars dedicated to Mithras. Significant information on the development of the frontier system over time will be preserved. The silted ditches will contain environmental evidence which will allow the character of the surrounding area in the Roman period to be better understood.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the wall fort at Rudchester, the associated civil settlement and the stretch of Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the A69 in the east and the March Burn in the west. This section of wall corridor runs up the west side of the valley of the Rudchester Burn to the slight rise occupied by the fort before descending the slight depression to the March Burn. Throughout this section there are limited views to the north where the ground slopes gently away. In contrast there are wide views to the south over the Tyne Valley, while to the east and west the views are more restricted. In this section the Wall survives as a buried feature, lying below the course of the B6318 road. Excavations of milecastle 13 in 1930 demonstrated that the Wall was of broad type throughout this section. The wall ditch has entirely silted up throughout this section except for a slight scarp on the east bank of the March Burn. Milecastle 13, east of the Rudchester Burn, survives as a low mound 0.2m to 0.4m high. This milecastle measures 16.5m north to south by about 19m east to west. A large hoard of gold and silver coins was found here in 1776, the latest coins dating to AD 168. This milecastle was partly excavated in 1930 by Simpson. Turret 13a, east of Rudchester fort, survives as a buried feature beneath the B6318 road. Part excavation by Simpson in 1930 revealed the turret walls which were built to a thickness of about 1.25m. Turret 13b, which lies about 75m to the west of Rudchester fort, also survives as a buried feature beneath the B6318. The vallum survives as an upstanding earthwork throughout this section. However, to the west of the fort there are no upstanding remains of the vallum, although it survives as a series of buried features, which were located in 1987 during a seismic survey. It was revealed that the vallum makes a dog-leg to avoid the western and southern sides of the fort. On the east side the north and south mounds of the vallum reach a maximum height of 1m, while the vallum ditch has a maximum depth of 1.4m. The 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 not yet confirmed in this section of the corridor. The Roman fort at Rudchester, known to the Romans as `Vindovala', survives as a turf-covered platform, up to 1.6m high, to the north of Rudchester Farm. It covers an area of 1.8ha and would have accommodated a part mounted cohort, 500 strong. The site was very well preserved until the 18th century when it was reduced by stone robbing. This was followed by ploughing and cultivation of the area, which accounts for the ridge and furrow overlying the southern part of the fort. It has been partly excavated on several occasions since 1897. Buildings identified as the Commanding Officer's house, the Headquarters Building and a granary, were located. Finds from the site include a life-size statue of Hercules, five altars dedicated to Mithras and pottery. The east and west gateways were positioned to the north of where Hadrian's Wall adjoined the fort. The outlying civil settlement, or `vicus', is located to the south and south west of the fort partly below the Rudchester Farm buildings. Post-medieval quarrying to the south east of the fort has probably destroyed some of the remains. The terraces which stretch to the west of Rudchester Farm are identified as evidence of the attached Roman civil settlement. They include some probable building platforms. Although mostly between 0.3m and 1.5m high, these terraces reach a maximum height of 3.2m in places and contain considerable quantities of stone. A rock-cut cistern known as the `Giants Grave' measures 3.9m by 1.5m internally and is at least 0.5m deep. It is located in the area of woodland to the west of Rudchester Farm and probably supplied part of the vicus with water, as indicated by the presence of a drainage hole in its north west corner. A Roman temple dedicated to the Persian god Mithras is located to the south west of the fort in the vicus area. It has been partly overlain by a lynchet and bank. The temple is almost rectanglular in shape with a small apse at the north west end and an entrance hall at the south east end. The maximum internal dimensions of the building are approximately 7.3m by 16.4m. The surviving lower courses of the walls are made of stone. The building was excavated in 1953 by Gillam and MacIvor who were able to determine the plan of the temple, except for its south west corner which had been lost in a land slip. All road surfaces, road signs, field boundaries, buildings and overhead power line poles are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath all these features 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: 26039

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 76
Bruce, J C, Handbook to the Roman wall, (1863), 76-81
Blood, K, Bowden, M C B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Roman Fort at Rudchester, , Vol. 5,vol 19, (1991), 25-31
Blood, K, Bowden, M C B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Roman Fort at Rudchester, , Vol. 5,vol 19, (1991), 28-29
Blood, K, Bowden, M C B, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in The Roman Fort at Rudchester, , Vol. 5,vol 19, (1991), 29

End of official listing