Stanwix is one of the original primary forts of Hadrian’s Wall and constructed of timber prior to AD 160. Turret 65B previously stood on the site. It was a square turret which measured 6m wide.
The foundations associated with the preceding eastern section of Hadrian’s Wall had a broad base, and that terminates at this fort. It is now believed that when Hadrian’s Wall was first constructed that this site may have been the terminus at its western end.
The first wall here was constructed of turf and later replaced by a stone one believed to date to the 2nd Century. The first fort was constructed of timber and overlooked the River Eden from a ridge above. There is little information regarding the timber fort, but we do know that when the site was enlarged towards the north and rebuilt in stone it became the largest fort along Hadrian’s Wall, and as such was given the role of being the accommodation for the Commanding Officer of the Wall.
The site was originally believed to be Coggabata, but later research showed that site to be Drumburgh, further west. It is now understood that the site at Stanwix was Uxelodum (Uxelludamo: Uxelodunum: Vxelodunum: Vxelodum are the other variations of its name). It is believed it received the alternative name of Petriana from the ala Petriana cavalry unit which garrisoned the site.
The ala Petriana unit is believed to have acquired its name as follows,
….took its name from its original Commanding Officer T. Pomponius Petriana, whose service as a Praef. Germanici Caesarius in his home town dates within the years 4-19….The first of the two torques won by the ala Petriana may also have been granted by Domitian. An inscription from Carlisle which records a single torque (RIB 957) has no intrinsic dating evidence; but by a date late in the reign of Trajan a second torque had been awarded (CIL XI.5669 = ILS 2728 add. ). We have, therefore, evidence that under Trajan at the latest the unit was at Carlisle; by that time it had become milliaria. In the second scheme for Hadrian’s Wall the ala Petriana was probably moved to a new fort at Stanwix*, across the Eden from Carlisle. It is not attested on any inscription, though there is a lead seal (RIB 24II.84); the size of the fort is appropriate to an ala milliaria and there was no other such unit in Britain. Nothing suggests that the ala ever left Stanwix. Richmond 13 thought that an ala milliaria was at Newstead* in the second Antonine period, but the evidence is insufficient to prove the point. The ala Petriana was still at Stanwix when the Notitia was compiled (ND Oc. XL45).
Note: 13 – I. A. Richmond, ‘Excavations at the Roman fort of Newstead, 1947’, PSAS lxxxiv (1949-50), 1
Cavalry helmet of the type which would have been worn by the cavalry at Stanwix.
An inscription discovered close by names Legion VI and they may have been responsible for the construction of the fort. There are believed to have been three phases of construction,
The area of the fort was increased from 3.77ha to 3.96ha, and there is little known about its internal layout. From excavations the following have been identified, a possible hospital, bath house, barracks and Granary.
Outside of the fort was located a Vicus to the south east and mostly unidentified to date, a parade ground to the east and west of the fort which included a cobbled surface, the cemetery located on the eastern side and whose full extent is still unknown. There were two parallel ditches located on the western side and a stone bridge led over the river.
The Military Way is as of yet, still unlocated, but some believe that Taraby Lane may have been its original route. The road which ran from the northern gateway of the site has continued in use and importance – it was once the main mail coach route through to Scotland from the area.
It is still unclear as to how and when the fort was abandoned and in which manner – demolished or burnt is not known.
Plenty of archaeology has been uncovered from buildings and building works within the fort site.
Here is a timeline for this once proud fort, which still holds on to a lot of its secrets,
c.160 Site enlarged.
167 Dating from: Dedication slab.
2nd C Garrisoned.
2nd C Dating from: A bronze-smiths workshop; Soldier and horse mountings and fittings; cobbled surface of parade ground.
208 Emperor Septimus Severus was accompanied to Britannia by his wife Julia Domnia, and it is believed they visited the site.
305-367 Dating from: Stables and barracks.
18th C The tombstone of a cavalryman was discovered.
1872 Cremation urns were uncovered from the area which has been identified as the Roman Cemetery.
1930 A bronze-smiths workshop was identified.
1931 Excavated. Inscription uncovered.
1932-1934 Excavated – The Vallum identified.
1934 Soldier and horse mountings and fittings were discovered dating to the 2nd Century.
1936 Cremation urns were uncovered from the area which has been identified as the Roman Cemetery.
1939 Excavated – Granary identified.
1940 Excavated. The south and east walls and the south-west angle tower were identified.
1971 Field Investigation.
1972 Field Investigation.
1976 Excavated. A 10m wide metalled road was discovered.
1986 Excavated. Traces of buildings from the Vicus were identified.
1990 Watching Brief.
1990 Field Investigation.
2000 Watching Brief.
2017 Bath house identified.
References & Bibliography
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Breeze. D., & Dobson. B. 1972. Hadrian’s Wall: Some Problems. Britannia, 3, 182-208. doi:10.2307/526026.
Bruce. J. C. 1851. The Roman Wall: A Historical, Topographical, and Descriptive Account of the Barrier of the Lower Isthmus, Extending from the Tyne to the Solway, deduced from Numerous Personal Surveys. J. R. Smith.
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Caruana. I. 1986. Observations in the vicus of Stanwix Roman Fort on the site of the Miles Maclnnes Hall, 1986. Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society (2000) Series: 2, Volume 100. pp. 55-78.
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Horsley. J. 1732. Britannia Romana; or, the Roman antiquities of Britain: in three books. The I. contains the history of all the Roman transactions in Britain. … II. … a compleat collection of the Roman inscriptions and sculptures which have hitherto been discovered in Britain. … III. … the Roman geography of Britain, etc. MS. notes and additions. J. Osborn and T. Longman.
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It may be of interest here to note that a second military lead seal of the Ala Petriana was found at the Roman Bath House excavation in Carlisle during the 2021 excavation, by the metal detectorist, Ian Hughes, who was working with the archaeologists on site.
That is awesome Ian! You have just added to the history of the site. A really exciting find!
I am sure you can appreciate that there is only me creating this page, adding sites, writing blogs, pinning on the map etc, so updating info comes down the list. But with you, and others like you, providing up-to-date info in the comments is a huge help. Thank you!
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