South Shields

Today we made a visit to the Roman army fort at South Shields, where there is a museum and partial reconstructions of the Roman military fortifications which would have been part of a series of forts, milecastles and turrets along Hadrian’s Wall. On this trip I made a presentation to the group on Roman military gates and defenses. This was a perfect location to discuss Roman gates along Hadrian’s Wall, as there is an excellent west gate reconstruction, which was built in 1986.

West Gate reconstruction at South Shields. This is a gate with twin portals and central pier or spina. This image also shows the substantial superstructure, with upper and lower storeys accessed through the towers on each side of the gate.

Gateways were used to control trade and people on the frontier. The gateways were aligned with roads within the fort. The main gate was known as the porta praetoria which led to the the headquarters within the fort.

View from behind the West Gate, showing the defensive structure called ramparts. These were built with the extracted dirt and turf from defensive ditches. As you can see they provide a structure where javelins and other weapons can be thrown, and patrolling can take place. They also provide added support for the barrier wall, known as the curtain wall or murus.
Model of the fortification at South Shields. You can see the T-junction within the fort which is formed by the two side gates running East to West. This model is great for showing the multiple elements of defense systems found at forts. Some of these include the ditches, curtain wall, gateways and ramparts.
west gate picture
Group picture on the upper story of the West Gate at South Shields.

Sarah also presented on the commanding officer’s headquarters. There was a reconstructed headquarters as well, which was a great treat.

Sarah presenting in front of the officer’s headquarters.

These pictures show the grandeur the officer’s would have lived in, even while away from Rome. Many of the rooms within the headquarters are much like what the Roman elite would have been accustomed to back home, complete with an atrium and triclinium (or dining room). It wasn’t all seriousness though! We had a great time in the triclinium, where we reclined in the typical posture for dining.

Reconstructed atrium in the officer’s headquarters at South Shields.
triclinium photo 2
Having fun in the triclinium! Nick has definitely got the reclining down.

In the museum we also saw a famous inscription called the Funerary Inscription for Regina (RIB 1065). This depicts a freed slave woman from Roman Britain who married a Roman from around the area of the present day Syria. This is supported by the text, which is written in both Latin and in the native text of the Roman Soldier, as well as through various symbols within the image itself.

Funerary Inscription for Regina. Note the two types of text at the base of the tombstone inscription.

All in all, it was a very informative day. Which ended with a sleepy bus ride home! The adventure continues tomorrow with our first big hike!

A sleeping Prem on the bus ride home. Don’t worry Prem! I fell asleep too, but thankfully was not photographed!

Happy reading!


2 thoughts on “South Shields

  1. Thanks for this post! I loved seeing the reconstruction, and especially the photo of the rampart! Reading Caesar I am always coming across the rampart/ditch passages, and now I know what they look like! 🙂

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