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Corbridge Roman Site (Cumbria)
Member Name: michaelhudson
Corbridge Roman Site (Cumbria)
Date: 26/07/03, updated on 26/07/03 (265 review reads)
Advantages: See Text
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CORSTOPITUM (CORBRIDGE ROMAN SITE)
A small gift shop and cash desk separate the main entrance from a museum holding impressive stone remains, relief carvings, temple friezes, shrine panels, inscribed decorative slabs, the charred remains of an armourer's workshop damaged in the fire of 105AD and shiny red imported Gaulish pottery. The most famous artefact is undoubtedly the Lion of Corbridge - a 70cm high stone sculpture originally used to decorate an officer's tomb and later adapted for use as a fountain ornament. The snarling lion stands triumphantly atop a defeated stag, head twisted to the side, tail swishing hungrily behind and claws hooked deep into the body below, pushing the antlers down into the stone base. The stag lies helpless underfoot, tongue lolling to one side as its captor's mouth opens to devour it. It's as if they have been frozen at the point of catharsis, one doomed and the other momentarily suppressing its ultimate power.
The small section of the Roman town thus far excavated stands directly outside, hemmed in by small wire fences on three sides and a tall hedge on the other. Stanegate, the original main street,
cuts through the centre of the football-pitch-sized site, replaced as the main route between Corbridge and Carlisle by the main road hidden behind the hedge and the trains cutting through the fields in the valley below, the undulating green of Northumberland spotted with white sheep and yellow crops. At the far end of the road, framed between tall trees and low lying cloud, the pointed rooftops of Corbridge peer noiselessly over the muffled sound of traffic, the tall, slender spire of St Andrew's an arrow amongst the neatly ordered rows of ivy-clad cottages, craft shops and cosy antique pubs.
The buildings immediately to the left of the road, fronted by two round pillars which once supported the portico of a sheltered loading area, are the granaries for the old civilian settlement. Built in the late 2nd century, only the foundations and lower walls of the two buildings are visible today: a floor comprised of cracked flagstones resting on five parallel channels cut through the entire building to allow air to circulate and prevent the bread becoming mouldy, drainage channels running under the portico to collect rainwater, and rough, angled walls marking the external boundaries.
Walk down the flight of stairs from Stanegate and squeeze through the gap between the second granary and the flat pillar base of the Fountain House building for the only surviving Roman stone fence in Britain - a single rectangular block of stone slotted vertically into a gap 20 centimetres wide and 40 centimetres high.
The ingenious Fountain House was once the terminus for an aqueduct leading from the nearby river, water spouting from an ornamental fountain head into a front trough between two large statues. Only the base and side sections of the trough remain today, rough statue bases either side, a diagonal drainage channel in front and the floor of the wide aqueduct channel cutting through the grass behind.
Then step back up on to Stanegate, continu
ing along the road until you reach the first information board on the right. Across in the daisy flecked grass a few rings of stone are all that remain of a commandant's house and the headquarters building. Mounds either side mark an ancient market place and a storehouse building. The original timber fort is lost somewhere in the far corner, commemorated by a few rows of broken lines on the nearby site map.
At the end of Stanegate, in the corner where the Corbridge Hoard of fire damaged armaments was discovered, a wooden viewing terrace overlooks the site, timber fort and granaries to the right, military garrison on the left, and Stanegate stretching back across to the museum building. Follow the gravel path left from the platform in the direction of the East Military Compound, fronted by the uneven outlines of residential buildings that now barely rise above grass level.
Walk through the buildings until you reach Side Street, twenty-metres wide and linked to Stanegate before the construction of a wall to enclose the compounds in the wake of the northern uprising of 180AD. On either side of the road the sunken remains of once mighty walls bend their way up and down through blades of grass, raised and lowered arbitrarily by gradual subsidence into earlier ditches.
Cut left across the ruins of the Temple of Mithras (the god of soldiers and traders) and step through the low remains of long barrack buildings for the West Military Compound, made up of workshops, a headquarters building and a main gate. An upright stone slab is the sole remaining section of a huge water tank that was connected to the Fountain House building, while the headquarters building itself is situated in the final corner of the field, visibly divided into six rooms with worn steps leading down to a strongroom that held the soldiers' salaries. As you gaze back over the site it requires a little imagination to appreciate the historic importance of Corbridge. Wha
t you see before you, hidden by centuries of neglect and destruction, is the Soho of Northumberland, a Bigg Market for the legionnaires on weekend leave complete with some of the most sophisticated Roman innovations found anywhere in Britain. And if you're very, very lucky, you'll have it all to yourself.
IN A NUTSHELL
The excavations at Corsopitum represent a small fraction of the old Roman town and are probably not worth the journey from Newcastle on their own account. However, combined with Corbridge, Hexham or a longer tour of Hadrian's Wall, there's more than enough here to warrant a stopover of an hour or so.
Admission: Adults £3.10, Children £1.60, Concessions £2.30
Admission includes a free audio tour with detailed commentary.
April - September 10-6 Daily
October 10-5 Daily
November - March 10-4 (Wednesday - Sunday)
Closed January 1st and December 24th - 26th
Telephone: 01434 632 349
Managed by English Heritage.
The Hadrian's Wall Bus departs Newcastle Central Station at 9.25am, arriving at the site 45 minutes later. The return service departs at 5.18pm.
Bus numbers 685 and 602 run half hourly services between Newcastle and Hexham. The nearest stop to the site is the Angel Inn.
The walk from Corbridge Rail Station takes approximately half an hour. Turn right at Corbridge Parish Church and continue in the direction of the A69. Take the second left into Trinity Terrace and follow the road for another kilometre.
The site is signposted from the A69. Free parking is available outside the museum building.
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