Wallsend Roman Fort Sat. 17th June, 2000

Hadrian's Wall started here and extended across the country to the Solway Firth. Segedunum, the fort at Wallsend was not the grandest, but it is now the most accessible, being just 300 metres from the bus station and the Metro Station. Its design follows the usual pattern for these roman structures, the Romans were not the most inventive culture; they stole ideas from others and put them to their brutish and oppressive use.

Following years of excavations and despite the land developers' keen interest to build on the site, it is now preserved for all to see.

The purists may not agree with the popular portrayal as a fun attraction, including a museum that appeals to all ages. The interactive fun, film shows, and live soldiers on parade will eclipse the archaeology, they will say.

I think I am on the side of the fun. The 9million, some of it lottery money, is well spent. Let us not forget, not all days will be as sunny as this, and that space-age observation tower may attract criticism, but is a wonderful vantage point, which after all was one of the major functions of the fort.

Seen from the tower, the layout of the fort can be seen clearly. There are interactive video screens to show what the fort looked like in Roman times from the same spot.

Hadrian's Wall started at the river to the left, and joined the fort wall at the bottom left of the top photo, then started its westward course from the edge of the fort at the top right of the picture. A modern road bisects the site at this point.

The left photo shows the modern road, Buddle Street, and the section beyond, the first part to be excavated during the 1970s. Then, the dig was temporary; between tearing down slums and building better houses. The city Council was persuaded to preserve the site.

Here is one of the real live sodiers. The visitor's guide book says that we can see them drill, and inspect their weapons!

During the day the soldiers, are led by a magnificent centurion who explains everything in English before barking out the orders in Latin.

The centurion is the one in the furry helmet and metal leg shields.

Here the cohort get their orders before "sinister-dextering" around the parade ground. The weapons, armour, shields and helmets are all replicas made from the proper materials. Visitors are invited to feel the weight of a chain mail tunic in the museum. I'm sure I would soon wilt if I had to wear that for more than an hour or so.

Here they go. The minute the centurion's back is turned they slouch about muttering to themselves. That one in the front with his bearskin covering looks quite camp.

Do not be deceived, when they get to charge the effect is quite startling.

Below is a defensive manoeuvre called the armadillo. The soldiers can advance through a murderous rain of spears, arrows and missiles. Note the similarity with the first World War Tank. It is the same idea. Many were made just along the river at Armstrong's Elswick Works, The Vickers company carry on that proud tradition of armoured war machines manufacture today.

Later on, I caught the soldiers eating hamburgers and drinking cola in the museum cafe. Obviously still in character.

Seriously, though, I think that this is a nice touch, as we can see the sweat that all that armour creates, and we can talk to the soldiers about their job.

Above, the view from the observation tower looking towards Wallsend High Street. At the bottom Swan Hunter's famous clock stands guard at the now silent shipyard entrance. The building with the red brick frontage is now the Wallsend Heritage Centre, and up Station Road is the bus station and Metro Station, and beyond that the shopping  and commercial area.

Below is a view inland along the Tyne. In the foreground Swan Hunter's yard lies idle. Hebburn is on the opposite bank. During Roman times the soldiers here could see the fort at Arbeia, high up at South Shields on the opposite bank of the Tyne..

If you should arrive here via a search, or be missing the navigation on the left hand side, click this button.

[Main Archive 1] [More 1] [More 2] [More 3] [More 4] [More 5] [More 6] [More 7] [More 8] [More 9] [Index]

Site and contents (unless otherwise stated) © Tim. Pickford-Jones and Timmonet, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.