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It is almost time for my annual trip to Hadrian’s Wall with friends (in kit). While I did my research I found an interesting painting by Ronald Embleton of Housesteads fort.

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Here he represents the fort itself as a gateway, with civillian traffic going to and fro. I think he might have done something similar in his reproductions of other Wall forts. What do you think of this concept? My first thought is, well, there is the Knag Burn Gate through the Wall just east of the fort that would handle traffic easily enough.

This is a photo of the English Heritage info-board at Knag Burn to show the gate, I like it because it shows Late Roman soldiers (always a rarity!).

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Of course there were few other crossing places. Apart from the Knag Burn I only know of the (now vanished, sadly) Portgate, which allowed the Roman road from Corbridge to pass into the northern territories.

Does Ronald Emmblton’s idea hold any water? Was it based on an academic theory of the day (the 1970s)?
Quote:It is almost time for my annual trip to Hadrian’s Wall with friends (in kit). While I did my research I found an interesting painting by Ronald Embleton of Housesteads fort.

[snip]

Here he represents the fort itself as a gateway, with civillian traffic going to and fro. I think he might have done something similar in his reproductions of other Wall forts. What do you think of this concept?

My first thought is, well, there is the Knag Burn Gate through the Wall just east of the fort that would handle traffic easily enough.

[snip]

Of course there were few other crossing places. Apart from the Knag Burn I only know of the (now vanished, sadly) Portgate, which allowed the Roman road from Corbridge to pass into the northern territories.

Does Ronald Emmblton’s idea hold any water? Was it based on an academic theory of the day (the 1970s)?
Portgate is actually just another name for Dere Street (port=carry gate=street) and it is just a coincidence that there was a gate at Portgate! There must have been a gate at Stanwix where the road to Netherby passed through the Wall and there was probably one at Newcastle to allow through the road that crossed the eponymous bridge and then ran on to Tweedmouth (the evidence for that road is quite good but I haven't got round to publishing it yet). However, there may also have been some other gateways like the Knag Burn which we don't know about; a recently discovered rectangular structure at King Arthur's Well near Mucklebank Crags is a possibility, but there may have been others.

As for the movement of civilians through forts, milecastles were arguably intended to avoid that (although you could counter that the Vallum crossings forced it, unless everyone was sent off along the Military Way to the nearest MC). Forts (unlike fortresses) were, as a rule, never placed on main roads and were always bypassed. Housesteads had a particular topographical problem in that both MC36 and MC37 were not very convenient for vehicular access through the Wall so the Knag Burn (added in the 3rd century AD) may have relieved pressure from troublesome civvies wanting passage, perhaps because it was an established transhumance route (imagine the army's reaction to some local yokel wanting to drive his flock of scrawny sheep through a fort!).

Mike Bishop
Ah, so Houseteads in particular was flanked by two unsuitable milecastles (and I know the ones) so Embleton's painting might be a depiction of a situation that forced the 3rdC alteration to the Knag Burn gate. There must have been some pressure to the authorities. I'm no expert on the Wall (!) but I don't remember there being very many alterations in wall structure and gateways after the mid-second century or so.
I do not think that the Roman military would have allowed civilian traffic to have gone through any forts on Hadrian's Wall.
They would have been sent to the milecastles east or west of each fort, for there were crossing points at the Vallum near each milecastle.

When I look at your link to Portgate I find it a bit incorrect for the true Portgate is just east of the Fort of Onnum 1 Roman mile east of the A68.
In fact if you look at the field gate just east of Onnum it has a ramp leading down into the field a very long one, this ramp is indeed the Roman Dere Street as found by the late Raymond Selkirk.
This is the reason why the fort of Onnum was placed at this point for the Dere Street does not go through Corbridge at all but runs straight from Ebchester and the road predates the Wall hence the positioning of this fort.
Also just a bit further to the east was a Roman Signal Station near the road, hence the deviation of the Vallum mounds and ditch to get around it, an interesting feature when viewed on Google Earth.
I must look at all this, thanks.
There were two major roads leaving Ebchester the Dere Street going past the east of Onnum, and another that runs direct to Hexham where there was a major fort that would have housed the Alla Petriana.
This particular road continues on straight to west Warmley where it crosses the river Tyne to Newbrough and goes through the Wall to the west of the fort of Procolitia, it passes very close to the west side of Coventinas Well which may account for the reason that Coventinas shrine is the only Romano Celtic shrine of it's type with a western door (could the shrine predate even the Wall itself as a wayside temple)?
It may well be that the fort of Procolitia was placed where it is to cover yet another major Wall crossing point.
Surely another thing against the image portrayed there is the sheer steepness of the ascent from the north gate down to the valley floor to the North?
I can't imagine anyone making that route, when there are more accessable passages along the way.

And I would agree that a herd of sheep, or any civilian transit through the military
would be frowned upon.
Perhaps the sheep in the picture aren't in transit and are part of the military herd going out to grass or slaughter?

And yes, Byron, once out of the North gate at Housteads they could only go east or west along the ridge until they found a safe descent to the bottom...
Well, yes thats could well be the case Moi.
I actually hadn't spotted them on the bottom of the image.
Overall the picture is really great, but I see something else interesting!
Did the Romans have Chuck-wagons?
I admit I had to look up "Transhumance" It is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. I guess I never learned the word as it isn't a topic often discussed in the course of daily modern life here in the US. Know it now though! :grin: :grin:
With no disrespect to Embleton for he did do many very good pictures, however his picture shown here of Housesteads cannot be correct.
The gate shown is that of the North but there is no high terrain such as in that pic' infront of the north gate, it looks more like the east gate but then the buildings would become totaly incorrect.

The very high hill to the right of the gate has to be the one above the bath house and the knag burn gate to the east of the fort.
I was thinking that too Brian!
I haven't been back there since I visited with you, but it is hard to forget the place!
Quote: As for the movement of civilians through forts, milecastles were arguably intended to avoid that (although you could counter that the Vallum crossings forced it, unless everyone was sent off along the Military Way to the nearest MC). Forts (unlike fortresses) were, as a rule, never placed on main roads and were always bypassed. Housesteads had a particular topographical problem in that both MC36 and MC37 were not very convenient for vehicular access through the Wall so the Knag Burn (added in the 3rd century AD) may have relieved pressure from troublesome civvies wanting passage, perhaps because it was an established transhumance route (imagine the army's reaction to some local yokel wanting to drive his flock of scrawny sheep through a fort!).

Quote:I do not think that the Roman military would have allowed civilian traffic to have gone through any forts on Hadrian's Wall.
They would have been sent to the milecastles east or west of each fort, for there were crossing points at the Vallum near each milecastle.

Quote: And I would agree that a herd of sheep, or any civilian transit through the military would be frowned upon.

This is interesting. Why does everyone think that civilians wouldn’t go through a fort?

I would have expected that civilians bringing supplies would have been such a common sight that one just passing through would have been completely unremarkable. I might even have suspected that their transit would have been desirable to keep an eye on the local population or for taxation reasons.
Quote:
Gaius Julius Caesar post=297472 Wrote:And I would agree that a herd of sheep, or any civilian transit through the military would be frowned upon.

This is interesting. Why does everyone think that civilians wouldn’t go through a fort?

I would have expected that civilians bringing supplies would have been such a common sight that one just passing through would have been completely unremarkable. I might even have suspected that their transit would have been desirable to keep an eye on the local population or for taxation reasons.

As a common route of transit for trade and travel, I am dubious, as the fort itself is military. The milecastles are more obvious for a trade route, and leaves the potential for sabatage and spying as a less harmfull potetial.

Supply would obviously have to enter the fort.
Quote:As a common route of transit for trade and travel, I am dubious, as the fort itself is military. The milecastles are more obvious for a trade route, and leaves the potential for sabatage and spying as a less harmfull potetial.
But then, take a look at some major bridges across the Rhine, which were controlled by forts. These were certainly built to defend the bridge and act as a bridgehead, but did that also imply that civilian traffic had to use ferries to prevent them from travelling through the forts?
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