What's that sound? Hear the thundering of 500 horses racing towards you at the fort, for the first time in 1600 years. Until November 2017 follow your ears to find Cavalry 360°, an extraordinary sound installation, nestled in the landscape.
This gigantic musical instrument uses wind power to recreate the sound of the Roman cavalry troops that once lived and worked at Chesters Roman Fort.
Designed by NEON and commissioned as a part of the wall-wide exhibition, Hadrian's Cavalry, Cavalry 360° is bound to astound your ears.
How does it work?
32 wind turbines arranged in 16 pairs are mounted on a 12 meter diameter frame work. These 16 paired mechanisms reflect the number of barrack blocks at the fort and each drives 30 beaters, representing a cavalry Turma (the soldiers and their horses) that would have occupied each barrack.
The installation stands at 3.5 meters tall so as the wind rises and falls, the turbines are forced to create an ever changing rhythm which sounds like horses' hooves. In high wind hear the horses galloping and when the wind drops keep your ears open for the sound of trotting.
Step inside the colossal structure and immerse yourself in a circle of sound. It's not too hard to imagine Chesters as it was in the Roman period, filled with horses and men, as you look out at the fort and the landscape beyond.
The Roman Cavalry
Did you know that the Roman army had cavalry as well as infantry soldiers? Four forts along Hadrian's Wall housed cavalry units, called alae, during the Roman period. The cavalry unit based at Chesters was the ala II Asturum ('the Second Asturians'), originally recruited in northern Spain.
Imposing and fast, the cavalry made effective border patrols and scouts. They could respond rapidly to threats and incursions. Almost as important however, the cavalry projected splendour and authority, representing the Roman Empires might.
Meet the people behind Cavalry 360°
Kevin Booth, Senior Curator at English Heritage and Mark Nixon, the artist whose company NEON created the installation, tell us more about Cavalry 360°.
A word from the artist
"The challenge of describing something that was no longer physically there, the cavalry - and acknowledging the way the horse changed mankind's relationship to the landscape were key to our approach for the commission.
Like written fiction we were excited to offer a half description of the subject as a means of evoking the imagination of the viewer to fill in the gaps. The horse as a creature evokes a wide range of visual and audial motifs that gave us a rich palette from which to draw on."