Hadrian’s Wall arcs 2 km to the north of Brampton before striding out east above the Tyne Valley towards Newcastle .
For those visitors with English Heritage membership, The Roman Wall provides a rich vein of archaeological and social history that is free and easily accessible from Brampton.
English Heritage champions the historic places that surround us. In maintaining over 400 historic locations around England they rely on the income from just under 750,000 members and the revenue from 11 million visitors in 2013.
Hadrian’s Wall walkers can visit many of these English Heritage owned sites on the wall from the iconic forts at Housesteads and Birdoswald to the lesser know but equally important milecastles and turrets that dot the wall.
Off the wall though, lies Corbridge Roman Town, an English Heritage gem that is well worth a detour for wall walkers and a unique experience for visitors who don’t mind a 40 minute drive.
Visitors to Corbridge can walk along the main street of this Roman garrison town, flanked by the remains of granaries, a fountain house, markets, workshops and temples. Astride the intersection of Roman Dere Street and Stanegate, Corbridge was initially the site of a series of important forts. But after Hadrian’s Wall was fully commissioned it developed into a prosperous town, a tempting leave-centre for off-duty Wall garrisons. Writing tablets found at Vindolanda show that troops from Vindolanda were stationed here at times, or came to Corbridge on leave.
Abandoned after the collapse of Roman rule in Britain, the town centre has been systematically excavated, producing the fascinating array of finds now displayed in the site museum. An audio guide brings the story of Corbridge to life and the modern museum has a fascinating array of finds. It was the most northerly town in the Roman Empire and one of only two on Hadrian’s Wall, the other being at Carlisle.
The combination of a well produce audio guide complete with sound effects and strategically sited display boards help bring Roman Corbridge to life. Standing at the end of The Stanegate, looking down the ‘High Street’ past the Granaries and the public fountain, with the sounds of shouting, horses hooves and marching feet in your ears can be quite hair-raising.
The atmospheric display of the extensive town is equally matched by a well appointed museum in the main building, its collection of artefacts from the site well displayed, especially when it comes to the famous Corbridge Hoard. When the hoard was first discovered, it was like finding a time capsule from the past. A stunningly preserved piece of history, found in an iron-bound, leather-covered wooden chest buried in the ground, which revealed a great deal about our Roman ancestors.
Excavated in 1964, The hoard was buried in a chest made of alder-wood. It contained spear heads bound in twine, artillery bolts, a sword scabbard and uniquely in Roman Britain, fragments of papyrus. It’s most important gift to archaeologists was the six upper and six lower units of ‘lorica Segmentata‘ which gave the clue as to how Roman armour could be reconstructed. The original spare parts and complete replica as well as the contents of the hoard shown to great effect in the museum.