The Antonine Wall: Bearsden Roman Bathhouse - History and Facts | History Hit

The Antonine Wall: Bearsden Roman Bathhouse

Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Amy Irvine

04 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About The Antonine Wall: Bearsden Roman Bathhouse

Built around 142 AD in the reign of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, the Antonine Wall ran coast-to-coast across Scotland from Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde in the west, to modern Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth in the east – a distance of 40 Roman miles (approx 37 miles).

History of The Antonine Wall

At the time, the Antonine Wall was the most complex frontier ever constructed by the Roman army, and the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire. Designed to help bring some order to the troubled outpost, it became a symbol of the Empire’s power and authority.

The ‘wall’ was actually more a bank of turf, almost 3m high and 4m wide, fronted by a wide and deep ditch. It utilised landscape features and was dotted with an estimated 20 forts along it’s length, which housed frontier troops who controlled movement north and south. A road ran behind the rampart, ‘Military Way’, linking the forts.

The wall proved to be the last linear frontier built by the Romans. Despite the wall, Caledonian raids into the south had continued regularly, and by around 158 AD, the order came to withdraw from Scotland, leaving the wall and its forts abandoned.

New settlements were later constructed along the wall, and its Roman heritage was largely forgotten. As central Scotland began to industrialise, sections of the wall were buried or removed, yet Roman objects were discovered during the construction of the Forth-Clyde canal in the 1760s-90s, generating historic interest. The Romans had discarded heavy or worthless objects such as pottery, iron objects and numerous shoes, later recovered in the early 20th century.

The Antonine Wall today

In 2008, the wall was made part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site, alongside Hadrian’s Wall. Cared for by Historic Scotland, substantial lengths can still be seen at various sites, including the Roman Bathhouse in Bearsden, Glasgow.

The best examples of stone structures along the entire Antonine Wall can be seen within a modern housing development in Bearsden. Several artifacts found here include the carved head of a goddess, a gaming board, and a building stone inscribed by men of the Twentieth Legion. Bearsden was one of 16 known forts along the Antonine Wall.

Getting to The Antonine Wall remains in Glasgow:

The nearest remaining section of the wall to Glasgow is situated approximately 600m down Roman Road in Bearsden, which is signposted from Bearsden Cross on A810. Free car parking is available 300m west along Roman Road from the site.

Although almost all of the Roman fort at Bearsden is hidden under modern housing, the well-preserved remains of the Roman bath-house and latrine have been excavated and are on public display. These remains date back to around 143 AD, and were discovered by builders in 1973. Two further stretches of the Antonine Wall’s stone base can be seen in the New Kilpatrick Cemetery on Boclair Road.

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