Hadrian's Wall was begun in AD 122. A fort was built in stone at the Housesteads Roman Fort site around AD 124 overlying the original Broad Wall foundation and Turret 36B. The fort was repaired and rebuilt several times, its northern defences being particularly prone to collapse. A substantial civil settlement (vicus) existed to the south, outside the fort, and some of the stone foundations can still be seen, including "Murder House", where two skeletons were found beneath an apparently newly laid floor when excavated. In the 2nd century AD, the garrison consisted of an unknown double-sized auxiliary infantry cohort and a detachment of legionaries from Legio II Augusta. In the 3rd century, it comprised cohors I Tungrorum, augmented by the numerus Hnaudifridi and the cuneus Frisiorum. The Tungrians were still there in the 4th century, according to the Notitia Dignitatum. By 409 AD the Romans had withdrawn. Granary at Vercovicium. The pillars supported a raised floor to keep food dry and free from vermin. They are not part of a hypocaust. Most other early forts straddle the Wall and therefore protrude into barbarian territory. It is also unusual for Britain in that it has no running water supply and is dependent upon rainwater collection (for which purpose there is a series of large stone-lined tanks around the periphery of the defences). It also has one of the best-preserved stone latrines in Roman Britain (should one get caught short).
Housesteads is a former farm whose lands include the ruins of the fort. In 1604 Hugh Nixon, "Stealer of cattle and receiver of stolen goods" (now there is an interesting job title), became the tenant of Housesteads farm. From 1663, Housesteads was the home of the Armstrongs, a notorious family of Border Reivers. Nicholas Armstrong bought the farm in 1692, only to have to sell it again in 1694 to Thomas Gibson of Hexham for the sum of £485. They remained as tenants. They were a well-known band of horse thieves and cattle rustlers who used the old fort as a place to hold the stolen horses and cattle. They traded as far afield as Aberdeen and the south of England. At one time every male member of the family was said to have been a 'broken man', formally outlawed by English or Scottish authorities. Nicholas was hanged in 1704, and his brothers fled to America. The Armstrongs lived in a typical 16th century defensive bastle house of two storeys: the ground floor for livestock and the upper level for living quarters. Its ruins remain built up against the south gate of the Roman fort, with external stone steps and narrow loop windows. A corn drying kiln was inserted into the gate's guard chamber in the 17th century.
Today, you can wander the barrack blocks and the hospital. Peer into the oldest toilets you'll ever see, and admire the stunning panoramic views from this ancient fortress. The interactive museum showcases objects once belonging to Roman soldiers, and the mini-cinema will take you on a journey through time. Mobility parking available from National Trust Information Centre. Uneven paths and terrain on Hadrian's Wall, Housesteads Fort and Pennine Way. A cleared path is provided for the short walk from the visitor centre to the Wall and Fort. There are toilet facilities available (aside from the Roman latrines.
Location : Haydon Bridge, Hexham, Northumberland, NE47 6NN
Transport: Hexham (National Rail) then bus. Bus: Hadrian's Wall service, April to November daily.
Opening Times: Daily 10:00 to 18:00
Tickets: Adults £6.60 Concessions £6.00 Children £4.00
Tel: 01434 344363