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 its associated works between the St Oswald's Cottages, east
of Brunton Gate and the River North Tyne survive well and include two very
well-preserved sections of Wall, one with a well-preserved turret standing to
a height of 2.8m. Significant information on the remains and the development
of the frontier system over time, will be preserved.
The monument includes the stretch of Hadrian's Wall, vallum and associated
features between St Oswald's Cottages, east of Brunton Gate in the east and
the River North Tyne in the west. This section occupies the west-facing side
of the North Tyne valley.
Hadrian's Wall bends slightly northwards at Dixon's Plantation and then
follows a straight alignment all the way down to the crossing of the North
Tyne. The B6318 road runs to the north of the Wall line for most of this
section. The Wall is visible as an upstanding monument only in parts of this
section. There is a 35m stretch of consolidated wall showing the junction
between broad wall and narrow wall, at Planetrees, which is in the care of the
Secretary of State. A second stretch of consolidated wall, 69m long and
including turret 26b, is visible west of Brunton House. This is also in the
care of the Secretary of State. Finally a further section of the Wall about
100m long, from the disused railway to the bridge abutment is in the care of
the Secretary of State. Elsewhere throughout this section the Wall survives as
a buried feature beneath grassland and dense woodland. The outer ditch is
visible intermittently as a well-preserved earthwork. It is best preserved in
the areas of woodland where it reaches depths of 3.5m.
Milecastle 26, or `Planetrees' survives as a buried feature, partly beneath
the B6318 and the areas to the north and south of it opposite Planetrees Farm.
Milecastle 26 was partly excavated during 1930 by Hepple.
Milecastle 27, or `Low Brunton' is situated on level ground on the east bank
of the North Tyne. It is visible as a low, almost square, platform with a
maximum height of 0.4m. The milecastle was partly excavated in 1952, and was
shown to have a clay bonded wall core.
The site of turret 26a was located opposite High Brunton House during 1930 by
Hepple. It is situated on a steep east-facing slope. It survives as a buried
feature below the dense woodland on the south side of the B6318. It was
partly excavated during 1959 when it was shown to have had two levels of
occupation, with no finds later than the second century AD.
Turret 26b is a well-preserved upstanding example of a turret, up to 2.8m
high. It is situated on a stretch of consolidated wall; both the Wall and
turret are in the care of the Secretary of State. On the east side of the
turret the broad wall wing of the turret is joined by a section of narrow
wall, indicating that the turrets were built first and the Wall was then built
up to them. This turret was first excavated by Clayton during 1873 and later
by Hepple in 1930.
The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which ran along the
corridor between the Wall and the vallum linking turrets, milecastles and
forts, is considered to be on the line of the north mound of the vallum in
this section. Throughout this section the north mound of the vallum has been
largely levelled by ploughing and so it is doubtful whether the Military Way
survives intact here. The exception to this is where the angle of descent down
to the North Tyne is particularly steep opposite Black Pasture Cottage, and
here a turf-covered trackway leaves the line of the north mound to run down
the side of a dry valley to rejoin it some 180m further on. This diversion
effectively eases the gradient. Where the valley opens out this track is
visible as a raised causeway 7m wide and 0.2m high.
The vallum has been disturbed by ploughing in this section and for most of its
length the mounds have been ploughed flat and the ditch only survives as a
buried feature, now silted up. Intermittent sections of upstanding earthworks
occur, the best preserved being to the west of Brunton Gate where the north
mound survives up to 1.6m high and the ditch up to 1.7m deep.
A cemetery, probably associated with the Roman fort at Chesters, exists
alongside the probable course of the Military Way as it approaches the river
crossing of the North Tyne on its east side. Excavation works for the building
of the now disused North Tyne railway in 1857 uncovered human bone, a burial
urn and fragments of samian ware Roman pottery. Layers of burnt material were
found underneath the line of the vallum mounds. This positive relationship
between Roman cemeteries and approach roads to forts is becoming increasingly
apparent, being evidenced elsewhere along the Wall at Great Chesters, Carvoran
All road surfaces, the 18th century Grade II Listed milestone, a stile, field
and property boundaries, buildings and English Heritage fixtures and fittings
within the area of the monument are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath all these features is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.