Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Benwell Vallum Crossing & Temple (2 sites at c.NZ216647)

Situated somewhat conspicuously slap-bang in the middle of a housing estate in the western suburbs of Newcastle-upon-Tyne sits a fascinating relic of the region’s rich Roman past – in fact there are two of them within yards of each other. Hardly surprising, though, as the spot sits immediately south of the course of Hadrian’s Wall.

© Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The first is Benwell Vallum Crossing, being all that is left of the ancient roadway which passed over the ditch and bank system at the southern side of Condercum Roman Fort – though nothing of the fort itself remains. Amazingly, for all that we have left of the Roman frontier, this is the only remaining example of its kind which has so far been found. It is nothing much to look at, really, but the footings of the former archway can still be clearly made out – and the landscaping thereabouts maintains its ancient form, enabling the casual visitor to easily imagine its former appearance. It was probably built early in the wall/fort’s history (early 2nd century), and continued to operate until at least the late 3rd century.

© Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

A short walk to the east sits what remains of a Roman temple, which would have been situated just outside the fort in the civilian settlement, or vicus. Once more, the ruins have been reduced to nigh ground level, but it is easy to discern the building’s outline – and again presents a curious throw-back amidst modern-day surroundings. A couple of replica altar stones help those of us with little in the way of imagination. The structure, dedicated to local god Antenociticus, was built around 178-180AD. Skeletons were found on the site in the 1930s, and Anglo-Saxon goods have also been unearthed nearby.

This document gives you a nice idea of the lie of the land and the position of the remains.

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