Hadrian's Wall Country
Hadrian's Wall- A Brief History

Hadrian's Wall- A Brief History

Work on Hadrian’s Wall began in AD 122 under the rule of Emperor Hadrian and is estimated to have been finished within about six years. It is the bigger and better preserved of two fortifications built in Britain around that time, the second being the later built Antonine Wall.

As well as being a heavily fortified border, many of the gates along the wall would have served as customs posts, which allowed trade to pass through from the North. The wall was built 73 miles long and was made from a variety of materials, depending on what was available nearby, extending from Wallsend in the east to a short distance west of the village Bowness-on-Solway in what is now Cumbria.

Somewhere between 14 and 17 full-sized forts were constructed along the length of the wall, including Housesteads (‘Vercovicium’ in Roman) and Birdoswald (‘Banna’), which would each have held between 500 and 1,000 auxiliary troops. Smaller fortlets - ‘Milecastles’ - were built every Roman mile (slightly shorter than a modern mile); these were built to a rigid standard pattern, with the Wall on the north side, projecting out to the south, and many still survive today as ancient ruins.

Emperor Hadrian built the wall to keep his empire intact; “to separate the Romans from the barbarians”. Many historians claim that Hadrian had a strict policy of defense before expansion, or that Hadrian was keen to control immigration, smuggling and customs across this land. Most agree, however, that a secondary function of Hadrian’s Wall was to exhibit and reflect the power of the Roman Empire; it is believed that once construction was finished, the wall was plastered and whitewashed to make it all the more visible and awe-inspiring for miles and miles around.

At the time, the wall was garrisoned by about 9 or 10 thousand soldiers. Despite many serious attacks when the garrison was significantly weakened, many believe that these soldiers did integrate into the local societies and many may have married into local families. The wall is thought to have been occupied until approximately 410 AD, at the End of the Roman Occupation of Britain.

Although some local Brits are thought to have occupied the wall during the centuries following, much of the stone was used to build other buildings and roads and the wall was eventually completely abandoned and fell to ruin.

In the 19th Century, many sections of the wall were bought by a private owner who was alarmed at the destruction caused by quarrying around the areas Hadrian’s Wall passes through. A man named John Clayton used the money he acquired in farming the lands to restore many pieces of the wall, including Housesteads, but after his death the estate was lost to gambling and was eventually acquired by the National Trust, who still own much of the land to this day.

Hadrian's Wall offers us a fascinating look into the Roman Empire. Its location in England's far north also endows Hadrian's Wall with a wide variety of other attractions to do when visiting. There are many Roman Museums to visit, but this part of the country is also naturally very beautiful. The Northumberland Castle Coast is renowned for its unbeatable views and stunning long sandy beaches, watched over by imposing castles and beautiful, naturally-occurring sand dunes.

The Solway Coast on the west of Cumbria is another renowned beauty spot; it's famous for its spectacular sunsets, which were often painted by legendary British artist Turner. There are also a wide variety of things to do inland in this region, most notably links to the very beautiful Lake District region.