A winged statue of the Roman goddess Victory has returned to Housesteads Roman Fort to mark the start of a new chapter in its history, as English Heritage opens a new and improved museum to the public this Saturday (31 March).
English Heritage has unveiled the impressive winged statue of Victory, marking her return to the fort for the first time since the 19th Century. Victory represents the ancient Roman conquer of the North and is one of the finest examples of classical sculpture from the Wall from the 2nd Century AD. The statue which was first recorded by the antiquarian and illustrator William Stukeley in 1725, lying in the landscape around the fort.
Kevin Booth, Senior Curator for English Heritage in the North, describes Victory’s story: “Back when the Romans inhabited the fort, the statue to Victory is likely to have once stood on either the gateway to the fort or in the “headquarters”, conveying the military might of the Romans to all who saw her. Most recently, Victory has been in stores at the Great North Museum: Hancock. And after surface cleaning and conservation work carried out by the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums conservators, the statue has made the journey back home to Housesteads."
“Today, English Heritage is extremely proud to have her on loan from the Great North Museum. Returning to her original home at Housesteads, she will stand at the entrance to the new museum greeting visitors to the fort, just as she did thousands of years ago."
Known to the Romans as “Vercovicium” (Housesteads’ Roman name - meaning ‘the place of the effective fighters’), Housesteads was added to the Wall around 124 AD. Visitors to the new museum can look forward to seeing a fascinating audiovisual presentation and hands on exhibits, alongside stunning object displays. Small, personal objects such as devotional altars and shoes, sit beside the intricate objects from the Commanding Officer’s house such as high status decorative clay drinking cups imported from France and finely carved fluted jet beads.
A dramatic, digitally enhanced film, voiced by famous British actor, Bernard Hill is another new addition. The film includes aerial filming and a virtual tour of the fort and its buildings. These exciting visual effects bring the fort firmly into the 21st Century for the modern-day visitor. New interpretation panels outside take visitors on a journey around the fort. Access to the museum for disabled visitors has been improved, and the museum shop refurbished.
“As the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain, Housesteads is one of the most important places on the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. The new museum will serve as an ideal introduction to the fort, with visitors able to wander through the remains of the barracks and with the help of new interpretation, imagine what life would have been like in the fortress 2,000 years ago.” said Liz Page, Properties Director for English Heritage in the North.