Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland: a little history…
Housesteads Castle on the south side of the wall. Photo by Mediatus
Built by Roman emperor Hadrian to keep the the Scottish hordes out of north England in AD 122(specifically the Picts), this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This massive work was constructed partly of earth and turf but mostly out of local of stone and measured – at the time – approximately 3m (9 feet) wide, 5m high (25 feet) and 117kms (73 miles) long. It was not located precisely on the English/Scottish border, rather slightly to the south where natural formations aided the defence works.
Little and large forts manned by Roman soldiers were also constructed along the wall’s entire length, often every mile as in the photo above, making this border the most heavily fortified stretch of the entire Roman Empire.
Rebuilt ruins of a sophisticated Roman fort – Housesteads Castle – showing their toilet system.
After Hadrian died the new emperor, Antoninus, decided that Rome needed a wall further into the barbarian lands so had a shorter turf wall – the Antonine Wall – constructed about 100 miles (160kms) north; it was 40 miles long and studded with forts, but didn’t help in controlling the wild tribes and was abandoned by the next emperor, Marcus Aurelius, who refortified Hadrian’s Wall.
Over the years since the Romans left Britain(about 400 AD) many of the stones have been taken to build local housing but there is still enough of the Roman Wall – especially the central section – left to impress and guide walkers through the bleak and rolling landscapes of far north England. The Scots are less warlike and more welcoming these days so this is a must see if you’re driving through England to Scotland.