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Last Record of Vindolanda before Hedley; John Wallis, 1769
Topic Started: Oct 21 2010, 06:51 PM (815 Views)
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After John Horsley's writings on Vindolanda from 1732, nearly a century passed before the arrival of Anthony Hedley in 1814. The only record that I can find of the site in that interval comes from John Wallis, Vicar of Simonburn. Wallis wrote a two-volume treatise titled "The Natural History and Antiquities of Northumberland," published in 1769. It included a walk along the line of the Wall in his writings, with wanderings to nearby castles, manors, and sites of interest.

He is fascinating for the personal touches, and keeps a nice account of the names of landowners, tenants, and farms in the area. It's a great bit of local history in its own right. And of course priceless for the story of Vindolanda, which can be read below.

The whole of his work can be found here: http://www.archive.org/stream/naturalhistoryan02walluoft#page/n1/mode/2up

A little higher up from the military road, we have a view of the Roman station of Little Chesters, easily distinguished by the clumps of trees and brushwood in it, like natural arbours, from which it has obtained the name of The Bowers. It is of the usual form, nearly square, containing about an acre and an half ; the wall round it of earth and stone, very fair ; a pleasant flowing rill, called Bardon-Burn, washing its eastern skirts, in its course to Bardon-mill, overlooked by Barkham-hills : a deep ditch or hollow, called in this country a clugh, to the south ; one of the natural arbours large, compoaed of white thorn, birch, oak, and nut-bushes, giving a pleasant shade.

The Via Vacinalis from Caer-vorran to Walwick-Chesters comes close up to the north side of it, on which a Roman military stone is still standing, by a gate called Caudley-gate, near the brink of Bardon-streamlet ; also another a mile west from it, in a straight line ; the road very fair ; the mile-stones in fine preservation, of white rag, six feet, four inches, in diameter, and near as much in height above ground, of a round figure, like large rollers.

Some Roman shoes and sandals were digged up by Mr. Warburton, the late Somerset-heraid, which he gave to the Royal Society. A winged image, wanting the head and feet, about three inches long, was found and presented to Dr. Hunter. A Roman Hypocaustum or sudatory has been also discovered, of which the last mentioned inquisitive and industrious antiquary gives this account.
" Some years ago, on the west fide of this place, about
" fifty yards from the walls thereof, there was discovered under a
" heap of rubbish a square room strongly vaulted above, and paved
" with large square stones set in lime, and under this a lower room,
" whose roof was supported by rows of square pillars of about
" half a yard high : the upper room had two niches, like (and
" perhaps in the nature of) chimneys on each side of every corner
" or square, which in all made the number sixteen ; the pavement
" of this room, as also its roof, were tinged black with smoak.
" The stones used in vaulting the upper room have been marked
" as our joiners do the deals for chambers ; those I saw were
" numbered thus x. xi. xiii".

Roman baths were first introduced in Britain by Agricola, to give the natives an agreeable picture of a polite and well civilized community.

Fornix--et uncta popina
Incutiunt urbis desiderium.
Hor. Epist. Lib. i. 14.

A sculpture in stone of Mercury, the Custos Manium, and god of the highways, was found here ; an engraving of which, with some others, may be seen in the Britannia Romana. The mercantile part of Britain held a solemn festival to Mercury, 15 October.

Camden gives us an altar, found at this place, of A. Licinius Clemens praefectus cohortis primaes Hamiorum, dedicated to the Syrian goddess, Astarte; the reading scrupled by Mr. Horsley, but confirmed by the Greek altar to Astarte at Corbridge, in the judgment of Dr. Stukely.

In digging up the foundations of a Castellum or milliary turret, in the wall, in an opening of the precipice by Crag-Lake, called, Lough-End-Crag, or Milking-Gap, for stones, for building a farmhouse, belonging to William Lowes, of Newcastle, Esq; to the north-east of this station, a centurial stone was found by the masons, very large, inscribed,


This stone is now at Mr. Lowes's Seat at Ridley-Hall.

A large stone, in the altar-form, was lately digged up at this station, with the sculpture of a red deer in the center, leaning againft a tree, and two fawns at the bottom, in relief. It is now standing in a field on the north side of the house of Hugh Ridley, at Archy-flat, adjoining to the station, who placed it there to answer the use of a rubbing stone for cattle. It was two feet thick, when it was turned out of the ground, but he split it nearly in the middle downwards, to make it easier to remove. It is of the fine white rag, adorned with moldings.

Many stags horns have been digged up ; some of an unusual size; one, presented to me, measures round at the base nine inches ; striated lengthways, and studded with small irregular tubercles. The festival of the Roman hunters, sacred to Diana, was 13th August, when stags were sacrificed. A temple, perhaps built in honour of her, was discovered by some masons in digging for stones, some years ago, adorned with Doric pilasters and capitals, which perished under the strokes of their tools, being unacquainted with the value of such a curiofity. It was at the west end of the station.

Urns, of various sizes, with ashes in them, were found in digging by the above-mentioned Hugh Ridley, on the north side of his house ; both of fine and coarse pottery, incautiously broken by his spade ; one of them as small as a pint-mug.

In the south-west end of the Well-House, belonging to William Smith, built about twelve years ago, at the west end of the station, by the suburbs, is an altar inscribed,


It is thirty-four inches long, and twelve inches and an half broad, the under part hammered off by the incurious mafons ; the inscription within a neat molding or raised border, much injured by the weather, though cut upon that durable stone, the fine white rag, found plentifully on the neighbouring moors. The festival of Mars, was in March. In the cabinet of the Revd. Mr. Walton, vicar of Corbridge, is a brafs coin struck in honour of it, Marti pacifero ; the deity in armour, helmeted ; a Parma or shield on his left arm ; a sprig of olive held forth in his right.

[n.b. - deleted long aside on Roman festivals here]

The present owner of this station is Mr. William Lowes ; his house behind it, within the manour of Henshaw, belonging to Sir Edward Blacket, of West Matfen, Bart.
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I have a feeling that Hutton never actually visited Vindolanda. That talk of "prison cells" is actually talking about the hypocaust of the bath house. The only way someone could think that 2-foot-tall room was a prison is if they'd never actually seen it! Also, he doesn't actually say anything at all about how the fort looked, which is unusual. (Look at his description of Great-Chesters right after it.) I guess he could've been there. But if so, he didn't seem to find anything original to say about it at all.
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Oh wow. That's a great find! It really gets the mind going, just what they were seeing then. How much was already gone, & was still left. Thanks!
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