reach depths


South east of Twice Brewed on minor road off B6318 |postcode = |refreshments = Yes |parking = Yes |shop = Yes |webAddress = Vindolanda Trust }} Vindolanda was a Roman auxiliary fort (castrum) located at Chesterholm, just south of Hadrian's Wall in northern England, near the modern border with Scotland; it guarded the Stanegate, the Roman road from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth. It is noted for the Vindolanda tablets, among the most important finds of military and private correspondence (written on wooden tablets) found anywhere in the Roman Empire.


The garrison were auxiliary infantry or cavalry units, not components of Roman legions. From the early third century AD onwards, this was the Fourth Cohort of Gauls. It had been presumed that this title was by this time purely nominal, with auxiliary troops being recruited locally, but an inscription found in a recent season of excavations suggests that native Gauls were still to be found in the regiment and that they liked to distinguish themselves from British soldiers. The inscription reads:


Of which a free translation would be "The troops from Gaul dedicate this statue to the goddess Gallia with the full support of the British-born troops".

Fort and town

The fort was originally constructed in turf and timber before Hadrian's Wall was built around 122 AD, and was repaired and rebuilt several times. Later, apparently after a period of abandonment when the garrison transferred to a fort on the Wall itself (probably Vercovicium (Housesteads) Fort), a new stone fort was built approximately on the same site. This fort, and the civilian community abutting it, called a vicus, remained in existence until the end of the Roman period in Britain in 410. Scattered finds suggest that some type of settlement, possibly including an early church, survived well into the fifth century.

The vicus contains several rows of buildings, each containing several one-room chambers. Most of them are not connected to the existing drainage system. The one that is may have been a butchery where, for health reasons, an efficient drain would have been important.

To the south of the fort are the remains of a large Roman bath.

Along the interior side of the south wall of the stone fort, several semi-circular stone structures of indeterminate nature and design are located.


In the 1930s, the house at Chesterholm where the museum is now located was purchased by archaeologist Eric Birley, who was interested in excavating the site. The excavations have been continued by his sons, Robin and Anthony, and his grandson, Andrew Birley, into the present day. They are undertaken each summer, and some of the archaeological deposits reach depths of six meters. The anoxic conditions at these depths have preserved thousands of artifacts that normally disintegrate in the ground, thus providing an opportunity to gain a fuller understanding of Roman life – military and otherwise – on the northern frontier.

Along with ongoing excavations (in season) and excavated remains, a full size replica of a section of Hadrian's Wall in both stone and timber can be seen on the site.

Site museum

The Vindolanda site museum conserves and displays finds from the site. Exhibits include Roman boots, shoes, armour, jewellery and coins, and infra-red photographs of the writing tablets. A spectacular find in 2006 was the richly detailed bronze and silver brooch (fibula) modeled with the figure of Mars, on which Quintus Sollonius, a Gaul to judge by his name, had carefully punched his name before he lost it in the early second century; nothing comparably fine has been recovered along the Wall. The museum is set in gardens, which include full-sized reconstructions of a Roman temple, a Roman shop, Roman house and Northumbrian croft, all with audio presentations.

Vindolanda Trust

In 1970, the Vindolanda Trust, a registered charity, was founded to administer the site and its museum, and in 1997, the Trust took over the running of the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran, another Hadrian's Wall fort, which it had acquired in 1972. Current trustees include the Rt Hon Dr David Clark, Baron Clark of Windermere.


See also

Further reading

  • Birley, R., Vindolanda : a Roman frontier post on Hadrian's Wall, London: Thames and Hudson, (1977)

External links

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