Hadrian’s Wall Exploration 9 – Chesters

I am not going to write full histories of all these wonderful sites – there are many others who do that far better than me. This is an English Heritage Fort at NY911705, with website. Welcoming shop and an excellent cafe.

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In AD 124 a turret on the Wall was demolished to make way for this new fort, on the west bank of the Tyne, and a 500 man cavalry unit was stationed here. In AD 138 we know that an infantry unit, the 1st Cohort of Dalmatians, was stationed here. 40 years later, the Second Asturians (‘ala II Asturum’), a cavalry unit from northern Spain, settled here and completely rebuilt the barracks, and a civilian settlement grew up outside the walls. We know that they were still here in the early C5 as the Empire came to an end.

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In 1796 Nathaniel Clayton bought the estate, levelled the ruins and grassed them over to form a park. There is still a lot of grass. In 1832 the estate was taken over by his son John, a lawyer and Town Clerk of Newcastle. There is a very good blog about him by Frances, EH’s Curator of Roman Collections here. His museum is excellent – they have recently reorganised it, but left it as a beautiful Victorian museum. They offer an ipad which gives more information about every exhibit – good idea, but a bit fiddly.

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Unlike many forts you cannot see the outline of the whole thing. The remains themselves seem rather dotted around – fortunately a Roman fort has a pretty straightforward outline. North Gate, barracks, Principia (headquarters building), Commanding Officers’ house and baths, and the East Gate.

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Down beside the river is the main Bath block. They were buried under silt for many centuries so are beautifully preserved. You can see the whole layout, and imagine it all. I love the niches once used for the storage of clothes (or for statues of the gods) – there has been a family tradition dating back many decades of photoing ourselves and our friends in them (Elaine, Gareth, Kati and Oli in September 2013).

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On the other side of the Tyne, the east side,  are the remains of the bridge abutment. It would be rather lovely if they could put a footbridge in here as they have done near Birdoswald. This illustration is by Richard Lea is from the EH website, this is the second bridge which dated from and carried the Military way across the Tyne; it is suggested that an earlier bridge only carried the Wall (so how did people cross?). I took most of the photos in June 2010 when I walked down here with dad.


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Here is the Bath House across on the west bank.

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