« ForrigeFortsett »
By R. OLIVER HESLOP, Esq., M.A., F.S.A., HONORARY CORRESPONDENT,
(Read November 21st, 1906.)
PILGRIMAGE,” in which some threescore wayfarers take part, may not be productive of fresh light upon the Roman Wall, and the conflicting views advanced respecting the lines of Wall and Vallum from Tyne to Solway; but the expedi
tion that took place under the joint organization of the Cumberland and Westmoreland Society and the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries has served at least to bring prominently forward to a large and interested company the number and complexity of the problems in these lines yet unsolved.
Beginning on Saturday afternoon, June 23rd, the section from Wallsend-on-Tyne was covered. On Monday, the 25th, the party, reinforced to the number of over sixty members, set out westward from Newcastle, and continued the “pilgrimage” day by day, until they arrived at Bowness on Solway on the Saturday following, completing the entire length of the Great Wall of 72. miles in seven days.
At Wallsend (Segedunum) Mr. W. S. Corder was conductor, and the proceedings began on the spot, marked by a bronze tablet in the shipyard of Messrs. Swan, Hunter, and Wigham Richardson & Co., Limited, where the tail-end of the wall had been continued from the south-east corner of the stationary camp to low-water mark in the river Tyne. From Newcastle (Pons Aelii) the works as far westward as Benwell (Condercum) are almost obliterated by modern building operations, but a few traces of the fosse yet remain. At Benwell, in the grounds of Condercum House, the foundation courses of a sacellum were eagerly scanned. In the nooks of its shouldered apse two altars were found standing in situ in 1884; and these, dedicated respectively to Antenociticus and to Anociticus-apparently extended and abbreviated forms of one and the same deity—had been examined by the “pilgrims” at the Black Gate Museum in Newcastle, where they are now deposited."
From this point onward, the works attracted continual attention, unfolding a succession of traces, now of fosse and wall, anon of vallum and aggers, with every mile of progress. Here the party was joined by Dr. Hodgkin, one of the Vice-Presidents of the British Archæological Association, whose explanations and directions added vastly to the interest of the journey. Carriages, to be resorted to as required, attended the course onwards, so that over twenty miles were covered in the day, ending at the abutment of the Roman bridge across the North Tyne at Chollerford. In this section of the route, the stationary camps passed, after Condercum, were Vindobala and Hunnum, where little more than outlines of the ramparts remain. At Portgate, the Roman Watling Street, still in use as a main road north and south, was crossed, and at the first field lane to the west the site of a camp on the line of the vallum was examined. Attention was first directed to this camp by Dr. Neilson in 1891, who noted that it was neither marked in Horsley's nor Dr. Bruce's maps of the wall; and even in MacLauchlan's Survey it was not defined as a camp. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that the south agger of the vallum forms the north wall of the camp. Dr. Neilson himself, who was one of the “ pilgrims,” guided a party to the spot, and pointed out the remarkable situation of this defensive work. 1
1 See “Lapidarium Septentrionale,” 20 and 21 ; Hübner, “Inscr. Brit. Lat.," 503 and 504. The subject of the “strange gods" adopted by the Romans in the North of England alone is of great interest. With few exceptions, they are strictly local, and the name of the deity here mentioned has not been found elsewhere.
2 “Per Lineam Valli : a New Argument Touching the Earthen Rampart Between Tyne and Solway," by George Neilson. Glasgow, 1891.
At St. Oswald's, just before the descent is made from the uplands into the valley of the North Tyne, attention was divided between the Roman conquest and the early history of English Northumbria ; for here was the reputed site of the battle of Heavenfield, described by Beda.” The spot was pointed out, in a field between the church and the present "military road," where, until a few years ago, there stood a Roman altar. Its focus had been cut through with a recess to form a footstep for a cross-shaft, and here it had stood for ages, probably as a commemorative landmark of the place where the rood had been set up by King Oswald himself, and where
“ With his own strong arms
Steadfast and upright." The shaft of the cross had gone long ago, but its base remained standing in the middle of the pasture field, until it was dug out and the site ploughed over. The altar itself, doing service as a Christian symbol, is not, perhaps, without significance. Such a triumph of the Cross over a pagan object of veneration existed in the ancient market cross of Corbridge, the shaft of which was similarly socketed in the focus of a Roman altar.
1 On the other hand, it has been suggested that this is not a Roman work, but the hedge-dyke of a small croft or field enclosure, made when the surrounding land was open common, and incorporated in the field when the common was divided, No other instance has been found of a camp abutting on the south agger of the vallum.
? “Hist. Eccl.,” iii, ch, i, ii. 3 The present main road between Newcastle and Carlisle, much of which is actually on the site of the wall, was constructed by General Wade shortly after the Rebellion of 1745, in consequence of his artillery having stuck axle-deep in the mud as he was attempting to cross the country from Newcastle, and intercept the advance of the Young Pretender. Unfortunately, he destroyed a large part of the then existing remains, so that archæologists have little cause to “hold up their hands and bless General Wade." This road is still known locally as "the military."
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