Stanegate

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The Stanegate, or "stone road" (Old English), was an important Roman road built in what is now northern England. It linked two forts that guarded important river crossings; Corstopitum (Corbridge) in the east, situated on Dere Street, and Luguvalium (Carlisle) in the west. The Stanegate ran through the natural gap formed by the valleys of the Tyne and Irthing.

The Stanegate differed from most other Roman roads in that it often followed the easiest gradients, and so tended to weave around, whereas typical Roman roads follow a straight path, even if this sometimes involves having punishing gradients to climb.[1]

Contents

History

It is believed that the Stanegate was probably built under the governorship of Agricola. It is also thought that it was built as a strategic road when the northern frontier was on the line of the Forth and Clyde, and only later became part of the frontier when the Romans withdrew from Scotland. An indication of this is that it was provided with forts at one-day marching intervals (14 Roman miles or modern 13 miles (21 km)), sufficient for a strategic non-frontier road. The forts at Vindolanda (Chesterholm) and Nether Denton have been shown to date from about the same time as Corstopitum and Luguvalium, in the 70s AD and 80s AD. When the Romans decided to withdraw from Scotland, the line of the Stanegate became the new frontier and it became necessary to provide forts at half-day marching intervals. These additional forts were Newbrough, Magnis (Carvoran) and Brampton Old Church. It has been suggested that a series of smaller forts were built in between the ‘half-day-march’ forts. Haltwhistle Burn and Throp might be such forts, but there is insufficient evidence to confirm a series of such fortlets. The retreat from Scotland took place in about 105 AD, and so the strengthening of the Stanegate defences would date from about that time.[2]

Structure

Where it left the base of Corstopitum, the Stanegate was 22 feet (6.7 m) wide with covered stone gutters and a foundation of 6-inch (150 mm) cobbles with 10 inches (250 mm) of gravel on top.[3]

Route

The Stanegate began in the east at Corstopitum, where the important road, Dere Street headed towards Scotland. West of Corsopitum, the Stanegate crossed the Cor Burn, and then followed the north bank of the Tyne until it reached the North Tyne near the village of Wall. A Roman bridge must have taken the road across the North Tyne, from where it headed west past the present village of Fourstones to Newbrough, where the first fort is situated, 7+12 miles (12 km) from Corbridge, and 6 miles (9.7 km) from Vindolanda. It is a small fort occupying less than an acre and is in the graveyard of Newbrough church.[3]

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