Rudchester Roman fort, associated civil settlement and a section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum from the A69 to the March Burn in wall mile 13

(NZ 11276755) Vindovala Roman Fort. (1)

Vindovala survives as little more than a reduced platform with the ditch discernible on the west side only. It is under pasture and the southern half is observed by rig and furrow ploughing. Published survey (25 inch) revised. (2)

Rudchester, the Roman Vindobala, is a fort on Hadrian's Wall 6-3/4 miles from Benwell. The fort guards the valley of the March Burn to the west, while to the east the ground drops away to the Rudchester Burn. It measured 515 by 385 ft. over its rampart, enclosing approx 4.5 acres. (3)(4)(5)

Excavations in 1924 examined the gates and principal buildings. Four gates were of the normal double portal type and two were single portals. (6)

Inside the fort, the principia with its underground strongroom, a granary and a hypocaust in the praetorium were uncovered. In 1972 an area was excavated partly on and partly south of the via quintana, in the south east of the fort. It yielded the northern end of a stone barrack block of Hadrianic date, which had been burnt down, to be replaced in the late second or early third century by another barrack of similar design. This had eventually fallen into ruin and had never been rebuilt. In the late fourth century a final period of occupation occurred, attested by Crambeck and Huntcliffe pottery and a stone sill-beam with socket-holes for wooden uprights cut into its upper surface. Pre-Hadrianic plough marks were noticed in the clay sub-soil beneath the fort. Immediately above the clay sub-soil was a layer of dark earth rich in humus identified as the plough-soil. Although the surface of the subsoil was virtually flat, the upper surface of the plough-soil formed a series of undulations, similar to medieval ridge and furrow. (See NZ 16 NW 59 for Vicus). (6)

Geophysical survey in 1988 by Durham University used two techniques - resistivity and shear-wave seismic refraction. The resistivity survey was used on the northern half of the fort and proved the existence of much of the outer wall and inner rampart as well as the north gate and north gatehouse. Also delineated a number of internal walls parallel to outer walls, and evidence for a cellar. Shear-wave seismic refraction survey located the ditch of the vallum to the west of Rudchester where it is obscured by medieval ridge and furrow. Proved that the vallum crosses the March Burn without deviation to a point 90m west of the fort, where it turns through 60 degrees, thus skirting the south of the fort. Shows the vallum was constructed contemporaneously with, or post-dates, the building of the fort. (7)(8)(9)

Scheduled Monument Consent granted to NCC 2nd December 1989 to lay a 32mm OD MDPE pipe approx 140m long at a depth of not less than 750mm underground. Replaces a smaller diameter pipe on the same route. (10)

An archaeological survey was carried out by Colm O'Brien in June 1989 to locate the position of the water main. Seven trenches were excavated (four of which located the main). Trench 5, outside the fort defences revealed that the existing main had damaged a stone structure immediately below the turf. Evidence from the other trenches showed that deposits were overlain by a deep ploughsoil with ridge and furrow, and that Roman deposits were disturbed at depths between 0.3m and 0.5m below the surface. (11)

Scheduled Monument Consent granted to NCC 8th March 1989 for maintenance work to existing stock fencing, which included excavating for new fence posts west of the fort. (12)

Surveyed at 1:1000 in October 1990 by RCHME (Newcastle). (13)

NZ 114675. Oval lead sealing found in 1982 to the south west of Rudchester fort. Measures 27mm x 19mm. Found by K Clarke with a metal detector. Donated to Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle. (14)

Bronze figurine (of Attis?) and other bronze objects from Rudchester. In Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle, 1983.16 and 1983.17. Lent by D Ray and given by K Clarke, respectively. (15)
Roman sculpture from Rudchester (Vindobala):-
i) statue of Hercules, fd C18. In Museum of Antiquities acc no 1839.9, 1840.6. C2/C3 AD;
ii) altar to Mithras from Mithraeum, fd 1844. In Museum of Antiquities acc no 1931.42. RIB 1395. C3 AD;
iii) altar to Mithras, fd 1844. In Museum of Antiquities acc no 1931.43. RIB 1398. C3 AD;
iv) altar to Sol Apollo Mithras, fd 1844. In Museum of Antiquities acc no 1845.1. RIB 1397. C3 AD;
v) altar to Sol (Mithraic), fd 1844. In Museum of Antiquities acc no 1931.41. RIB 1396. C3 AD;
vi) head of a Dadophoros, fd 1953. In Museum of Antiquities acc no 1956.129.15. C3 AD;
vii) head of a Dadophoros, fd 1953. Location unknown. C3 AD;
viii) limb of a Dadophoros, fd 1953. In Museum of Antiquities acc no 1956.129.28. C3 AD;
ix) Mithraic statue, fd 1844. Destroyed when discovered. C3 AD;
x) building stone, fd before 1732. Now lost. Probably Hadrianic;
xi) altar, fd before 1772. In Museum of Antiquities acc no 1837.9. C2/C3 AD?
xii) relief of a 'victimarius', fd before 1849. Now lost. C2/C3 AD;
xiii) relief of a 'Lituus' and an altar(?), seen before 1732. Now
lost. From near Rudchester, at or near Harlow Hill. C2/C3 AD;
xiv) relief of a building or tumulus, fd between High Seat and Harlow Hill, before 1732. Now lost. Probably C2/C3. (16)

The fort rampart survives best to the south of the Military Road; the fort platform is 1.4m high along the southern side. The west rampart survives only as a scarp, 0.6m high. The north rampart is represented by a broad shallow scarp, standing up to 1.6m high. The northern side
of the fort has suffered more from ploughing than the southern side. The ditch of the fort is only visible in a short stretch on the west side, 0.7m deep.
The interior of the fort has no surface features visible in the area north of the Military Road. South of the road the interior is covered by late 18th century ridge and furrow.
A series of terraces between Rudchester and the mithraeum are probably representative of the vicus; there is no dating evidence for the surviving earthworks. The terraces are up to 3.2m high, but are mostly only 0.3m to 1.5m high.
The Giant's Grave is a rock cut cistern 3.9m by 1.5m internally and a maximum 0.5m deep. It is a unique survival in the northern frontier zone. (17)

Seismic refraction survey completed using shear waves and compression waves, to the south-west and south of the fort; the complete course of the vallum was located. The asymmetrical course of the vallum around the fort suggests it may already have been under construction to the west when the decision to build the fort was taken. (18)

Watching brief on trench dug to renew water pipe in December 1991. The existing water pipe was removed and a larger pipe laid at a greater depth (0.76m). The pipe ran north-south between Rudchester Farm and the B6318. The course of the pipe had already been examined in part by O'Brien in 1989. The new trench was able to be dug to a variable depth to accommodate some features. The trench ran for 132.6m between manhole covers.
Several features were revealed some of which may be Roman. A wall found between 14.3m-17.31m from the north end of the trench appeared Roman in form and style but its alignment was not that expected. Gutter blocks at 34m may indicate a road nearby but may be reused. A
stone feature at 37.2m and the threshold block at 40m may indicate an east-west aligned building in the praetentura. The foundation at 45m may also be associated with this 'building'. A flagged floor between 60m-65m and at a depth of 0.7m, may represent the via sigularis. No trace of the fort wall was found at c.70m although some large stones may be derived from it. Between 72m and 88.5m may represent the remains of extramural buildings from the vicus at a depth between 0.4m and 0.55m. (19)

An excavation and watching brief were carried out at Rudchester Farm in advance of the installation of an underground electricity cable. Its course ran through the northern part of the farm to electricity lines between the farm buildings and the southern rampart of the fort; it measured 1m wide and between 0.625m and 0.875m deep. A series of pits and narrow linear features were uncovered in the northern part of the trench and are almost certainly Roman in date, lying just beyond the fort ditches. A layer of geotextile was laid over features lying below the maximum depth permitted for excavation; two pits were excavated. The southern part of the trench revealed relatively modern attempts to make up and level the ground as well as a patch of cobbling and a charcoal spread; these latter features are of uncertain date. The lack of later intrusions in this area is believed to question the presence of the vicus under this part of the farm. (20)
Rudchester Roman fort, associated civil settlement and a section of Hadrian's Wall and vallum from the A69 to the March Burn in wall mile 13. Scheduling revised on 14th July 1997, new national monument number 26039.
The monument includes the wall fort at Rudchester, the associated civil settlement (NZ 16 NW 59) and the stretch of Hadrian's Wall and vallum between the A69 in the east and the March Burn in the west. This section of wall corridor runs up the west side of the valley of the Rudchester Burn to the slight rise occupied by the fort before descending the slight depression to the March Burn. Throughout this section there are limited views to the north where the ground slopes gently away. In contrast, there are wide views to the south over the Tyne valley, while to the east and west the views are more restricted.
In this section the Wall survives as a buried feature, lying below the course of the B6318 road. Excavations of milecastle 13 in 1930 demonstrated that the Wall of broad type throughout this section. The wall ditch has entirely silted up throughout this section except for a slight scarp on the east bank of the March Burn.
Milecastle 13 (NZ 16 NW 6) survives as a low mound. Turrets 13a (NZ 16 NW 7) and 13b (NZ 16 NW 8) each survive as a buried feature beneath the B6318 road.
The vallum survives as an upstanding earthwork throughout this section. However, to the west of the fort there are no upstanding remains of the vallum, although it survives as a series of buried features, which were located in 1987 during a seismic survey. It was revealed that the vallum makes a dog-leg to avoid the western and southern sides of the fort. On the east side the north and south mounds of the vallum reach a maximum height of 1m, while the vallum ditch has a maximum depth of 1.4m.
The course of the Roman road known as the Military Way, which ran along the corridor between the Wall and the vallum linking the turrets, milecastles and forts, is not yet confirmed in this section of the corridor.
The Roman fort at Rudchester, known to the Romans as 'Vindovala', survives as a turf-covered platform, up to 1.6m high, to the north of Rudchester Farm. It covers an area of 1.8ha and would have accommodated a part mounted cohort, 500 strong. The site was very well preserved until the 18th century when it was reduced by stone robbing. This was followed by ploughing and cultivation of the area, which accounts for the ridge and furrow overlying the southern part of the fort. It has been partly excavated on several occasions since 1897. Buildings identified as the Commanding Officer's house, the Headquarters Building and a granary, were located. Finds from the site include a life-size statue of Hercules, five altars dedicated to Mithras and pottery. The east and west gateways were positioned to the north of where Hadrian's Wall adjoined the fort.
The outlying civil settlement, or 'vicus' (NZ 16 NW 59), is located to the south and south west of the fort. A Roman temple dedicated to the Persian god Mithras (NZ 16 NW 60) is located to the south west of the fort in the vicus area.
The wall fort, its associated civil settlement and Hadrian's Wall and vallum from the A69 to the March Burn, survive well as upstanding turf-covered features. Rudchester is one of the best surviving examples of a Roman fort and has produced significant archaeological finds. Significant information on the development of the frontier system over time will be preserved. The silted deposits will contain environmental evidence which will allow the character of the surrounding area in the Roman period to be better understood. (21)
A watching brief by LUAU, at NZ 11256755, observed no archaeological deposits. (22)
An evaluation by Tyne and Wear Museums at Stable Cottage did not reveal any Roman deposits. They are thought to lie at a depth greater than the 350mm excavated. The only feature revealed was a drain which predated the present building. (23)
An evaluation by The Archaeological Practice in 2000 revealed Roman deposits and features, including the vallum ditch. (24)