FINDING THE LOST ROMAN ROAD

geophysics

QUICK VIEW

LOCATION: 
AREA AROUND ACOMB, HEXHAM
PROJECT TITLE: 
SEARCH FOR THE LONG LOST COURSE OF ‘STANEGATE’ ROAD WEST OF CORBRIDGE
ACTIVITIES: 
Geophysical survey, trial excavation, desk-based research
TARGETS: 
To locate the Roman road and associated settlements
ABOUT THE PROJECT: 

The line of the main Roman road between Corbridge and Carlisle (known as ‘The Stanegate’), a major route running east-west south of Hadrian’s Wall, is lost in the five miles west of Corbridge. In particular, the place where the road must have crossed the North Tyne is unknown. In addition this is an area where apart from hillforts there is little knowledge of the indigenous pattern of agricultural settlements and how these might have been affected by the Roman occupation and the presence of Hadrian’s Wall.

The following activities were carried out by WallQuest Volunteers:

  • Desktop research into historic maps, antiquarian accounts and other historical records for the course of the Roman road in the Acomb/North Tyne area and the evolution of the landscape in post-Roman times.
  • Fieldwalking and geophysical survey followed up by trial trenching to identify the road and other ancient sites.
  • Production of maps, booklets, website and publications

 EXCITING LEAD 1

An exciting lead is being followed by volunteers: they have been studying aerial photographs held in the National Monuments Record at Swindon which show two unmistakeable Roman military camps just south of Howford at the confluence of the rivers North and South Tyne. The camps are shown on the recently published English Heritage Archaeological Map of Hadrian’s Wall.  These camps strongly imply a river crossing at this point, and suggest that the Stanegate crossing of the North Tyne may be further south than previously suspected, just north of the confluence.  It also seems likely that there would have been a permanent fort or fortlet nearby to guard the river crossing.

 EXCITING LEAD 2

The WallQuest geophysical survey immediately south-east of Acomb has found what appears to be a ditched enclosure containing roundhouses. The shape is not rectangular but oval (‘curvilinear’). This is typical of native settlements in upland areas of Northumberland, west of the coastal plain, thought to be of Iron Age or Roman date. WallQuest volunteers are planning to test the site by excavation. If it is of the Roman period this will be an important discovery because it will be the first Roman-period rural settlement to be identified in this area immediately south of Hadrian’s Wall around the confluence of the Tyne and the North Tyne– it will be interesting to see what happened at the site after Hadrian’s Wall was built.