Vindolanda, Chesters, Binchester 2018

Despite the poor turnout the trip was very enjoyable and we got to see quite a lot. The idea was to have a long distance trip similar to last year’s successful Orkney trip and Vindolanda, and the forts on Hadrian’s, seemed to be a suitable subject – however, on the day, even the person who suggested it didn’t make it. In the end it was just myself, Denise, Eric and Sue (Tracey and Lilly also made the trip but we failed to meet up as I forgot my phone).

Vindolanda west gate (via Principalis)

We arrived at about 12.00 and picked up our guide shortly after. She was short on stature and vocal volume but her knowledge of the site was implacable.

Our guide at Vindolanda

I’ve been to Vindolanda a couple of times before but hadn’t appreciated the number of forts that had been built on the site over the time of it’s occupation (all of which are on different alignments).

Late 2nd C bathhouse, eventually connected to the commander’s house of the early 3rd C Severan fort (now in the vicus area)

At least 5 forts have been identified with 10 different periods. Many features are still not fully understood such as sets of circular buildings underlying the current fort.

Round houses on SW corner

Round houses on the north wall

Interesting to note the bathhouse on the south side of the current fort is of a similar design as the one found in Wigan. It was also from the same period and suffered the same fete being demolished at about the same time.

Hadrianic bathhouse outside the south wall of current fort

Current excavations on the north side of the current fort are revealing the previous fort lying a good few metres down.

Excavations outside the north wall of the current fort

Since I was here last, the museum has had more than one overhaul. It’s amazing the amount of material on show but it’s the writing tablets that always provide the greatest fascination.

Roman boot and shoe collection

Samian ware

Roman painted glass

After a long day, including lunch in the museum’s excellent cafe, we retired to our B&B in Haydon Bridge. The evening meal in at the Anchor Inn at Haydon Bridge was also excellent. Next day after breakfast we set off bright and early for Chesters Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall. The first thing you come across here is John Clayton’s museum collection. Clayton was a 19th century antiquarian, who at one time, owned 5 forts on the Wall. He did a lot in rescuing the site from destruction by local farmers.

Clayton’s collection of altars and inscription stones

As it happens on the day of our visit, the Roman army were in town demonstrating their prowess with weaponry skills and performing gladiatorial combat.

The site itself has some fine upstanding remains including gateways, HQ building, commanders house complex, stables and barrack blocks.

Chesters’ west gate

Strong room in the headquarters building

Hypocaust in commander’s house complex

Commander’s house complex

Chesters’ barracks and stable blocks

but what the site is best know for must surely be it’s bathhouse.

Calderium with unusually large window which had evidence of glazing

Our guide at Chesters

After a tea break in the onsite cafe, we made our way to our next site – Binchester, which in fact was a good hour way down the Dere Street Roman road.

Dere Street running straight through the fort

Here are two bathhouses we needed to see. The first one professes to be the best preserved bathhouse in the country – certainly the only one with a complete floor still in situ. This bathhouse is in fact inside the fort complex. The second bathhouse is outside the fort on the south side and has only been excavated in recent years. Deep excavations have revealed a quite flimsy structure. The only reason it survived is because the land gradually rose overtime and when the building was abandoned it was back-filled with Roman rubbish. I must admit to me it doesn’t scream bathhouse – not one hypocaust for instance but that is its designation. There are plenty drains, plastered walls and water tanks which suggests some sort of process involving water.

Over two hours back home from here but all in all it was a great trip – pity we didn’t get more takers, maybe next time.