Housesteads Roman Fort | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Housesteads Roman Fort

Once Brewed, England, United Kingdom

Lucy Davidson

24 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Housesteads Roman Fort

Housesteads Roman Fort, originally known as ‘Vercovicium’, is one of the best preserved and most important of the forts along Hadrian’s Wall. Built in around 124 AD, Housesteads Roman Fort housed around 1,000 troops and remained in use until the 4th century.

History of Housesteads Roman Fort

Lying midway along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, England, Housesteads Roman Fort is the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain, and one of the best-known from the entire Roman Empire.

The fort was built in stone in around 124 AD, around two years after the construction of the wall. It was built and rebuilt many times, with the northern defences appearing to have been particularly prone to collapse.

A significant civilian settlement existed to the south, with some of the stone foundations still visible, including those belonging to the so-called ‘Murder House’, in which two skeletons were found beneath an apparently newly-laid floor.

There are a number of features which mark the fort as unusual: unlike other early forts, the fort does not straddle the wall and therefore does not project into Barbarian territory. It was also unusual in that it didn’t have a running water supply, and was dependent upon rainwater for collection (evidenced by the number of large stone-lined tanks around the periphery of the defences.) It also features one of the best-preserved stone latrines in Roman Britain.

A now ruined 17th-century farm named Housesteads once incorporated the ruins of the fort into its design. The former occupants were well-known horse thieves and cattle rustlers, and used some of the remains of the fort as a space to store the stolen animals. Part of the ruins of the farm still remain built up against the southern gate of the fort.

Housesteads Roman Fort Today

Visitors to Housesteads Roman Fort can see the various stages of architecture of the Roman fortification, including the well-preserved remains of its four gates and curtain wall, a hospital, latrines and, of course, a section of Hadrian’s Wall.

Excavations have revealed and continue to reveal major buildings, defences, and a civilian settlement outside of its walls.

Managed by English Heritage, Housesteads Roman Fort also has an on-site museum with a model, demonstrating how this imposing site would have looked in its prime. Other finds can be seen in the museum at Chesters, and in the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

For those with a particularly keen interest, a nearby restored Victorian farmhouse named Housesteads is owned by the National Trust and is available to stay.

Getting to Housesteads Roman Fort

From the centre of Newcastle, the fort is reachable in around 40 minutes by car, via the B6318 roads. There are also a number of connecting bus and train services which take around 2 hours from the centre of the city.

 

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