Sources for Housesteads Roman Fort

The following list comprises the key material, visual and written sources for the study of Housesteads. The most recent major excavations have been published in A Rushworth (ed), Housesteads Roman Fort, the Grandest Station: Excavation and Survey at Housesteads, 1954–95, 2 vols, English Heritage Archaeological Report (Swindon, 2009).

Stone relief from Housesteads showing the birth of the god Mithras from an egg – the symbol of eternal time

Stone relief from Housesteads showing the birth of the god Mithras from an egg – the symbol of eternal time
© Historic England/Great North Museum

Material Sources

Housesteads Museum

The museum at Housesteads, constructed in 1936 on the footprint of a house in the civilian settlement, displays a collection of finds and sculptures. The building and display have recently undergone a major renovation, and the museum reopened in May 2012.

The new display includes finds from excavations since the 1960s, including a ‘Housesteads Ware’ pot, and especially from the 1974–81 seasons that focused on the barracks and ramparts in the north-east quarter of the fort. Highlights include:

  • the small relief of the genii cucullati (hooded deities)
  • the relief of Hercules and the Nemean lion
  • the figure of Victory and a richly dressed funerary figure (among the items on loan from the Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle upon Tyne).

SEE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE COLLECTION          

    

Chesters Roman Fort and Museum

The Clayton Collection at Chesters Roman Fort and Museum includes material assembled from the Clayton Estate in the 19th century, as well as artefacts, notably inscriptions and architectural elements, from John Clayton’s own campaigns of excavation in and around Housesteads. Especially noteworthy are: 

  • altars and carvings from the shrine of Mars Thinscus in the lower vicus
    relief figures of gods including Mars, Victory and Neptune inscriptions naming the cuneus Frisiorum and the numerus Hnaudifridi (RIB 1576, 1593, 1594)
  • an altar to Jupiter and the god Cocidius, dedicated by soldiers of the Second Augustan Legion, who were said to be on ‘garrison duty’ (RIB 1583)
  • fragments of imperial inscriptions of Septimius Severus (r.193–211) and the Tetrarchs (r.293–c 313; RIB 1612, 1613) [a new interpretation of these is suggested in Rushworth, op cit, vol 1, 275–9].

            

Corbridge Museum

The reserve collection and the English Heritage store at Corbridge hold a large assemblage of coins, pottery, stonework and other small finds from Housesteads. Most of this material has now been published in Rushworth, op cit.

        

Great North Museum: Hancock

The Great North Museum: Hancock houses and displays the largest collection of inscriptions, relief sculpture and altars from Housesteads. Originally formed in 1822, it includes material given by the former landowners of the fort in the 18th century and the finds from RC Bosanquet’s excavations in 1898. Items of particular significance include:

  • the tombstone of a doctor, Anicius Ingenius (RIB 1618)
  • a seated mother goddess, one of five known from Housesteads
  • a group of sculptures associated with the Mithraeum, especially the bull-slaying scene; the statue of one of the attendants (Cautopates); and the birth of Mithras from an egg (see above) 
  • inscription by the first cohort of Tungrians to the ‘gods and goddesses’ in accordance with the oracle of Apollo in Claros (RIB 1579).

        

Published Sculptures

  • Coulston, JC and Phillips, EJ (eds), Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani: Corpus of Sculpture of the Roman World – Great Britain, vol 1, fascicule 6: Hadrian’s Wall West of the North Tyne and Carlisle (Oxford, 1988) [lists all the carvings from Housesteads with a bibliography and illustrations].

         

Published Inscriptions

All the inscriptions on stone are collected in the Roman Inscriptions of Britain (RIB) series: 

Each inscription has a number with the prefix RIB. 

Watercolour of Housesteads by HB Richardson, with shepp grazing in the foreground

Watercolour of the west gate of Housesteads by HB Richardson (1848)
© Laing Art Gallery, Tyne & Wear Galleries Archives & Museums

Visual Sources

More visual representations are known of Housesteads than of any other fort on Hadrian’s Wall. The earliest illustration of Housesteads is William Stukeley’s sketch of 1725 (unpublished until 1776, when it appeared in his Itinerarium Curiosum); this was followed in the early 19th century by sketches from John Hodgson’s notebooks.

There is a wealth of drawings and watercolours from the mid-19th century, and photographs from the late 1870s. The latter include a large collection by JP Gibson and his son, the most valuable resource for the study of Housesteads before the late 20th century. In the 20th century the range of material was further extended by aerial photography of Housesteads and its landscape, together with excavation and conservation records.

          

Watercolours, Drawings and Sketches

The most notable examples include:

  • W Stukeley, ‘A Cumulus of Roman Antiquitys at Housteads’ [sic], 1725, published in Itinerarium Curiosum (London, 1776) [accessed 11 March 2013; see History of Housesteads Roman Fort]
  • J Hodgson, notebooks, early 19th century, Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne Collection, Northumberland Museum & Archives, Woodhorn [recording his observations and sketches of the fort and adjacent Wall]
  • HB Richardson, three watercolours, 1848, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (Laing Art Gallery) [showing the gates and fort during Clayton’s ‘diggings’ – for west gate, see above; accessed 11 March 2013]
  • five pen and wash drawings, mid-19th century, interleaved in a copy of J Collingwood Bruce’s The Roman Wall: a historical, topographical, and descriptive account of the barrier of the lower isthmus, extending from the Tyne to the Solway, etc (3rd edn, 1867), Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (Arbeia Roman Fort & Museum, South Shields).

         

Early Photography

  • Danson, late 1870s, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool
  • GW Wilson, late 1870s, Aberdeen University [copies in Newcastle Local History Collection, City Library, Newcastle upon Tyne]
  • JP Gibson and J Gibson, photographic collection, Northumberland Museum & Archives, Woodhorn [including an album of RC Bosanquet’s excavations in 1898, and many views of the fort from before that date up to the 1930s]
  • Copies of Gibson photographs, including the WE Frith album, Hadrian’s Wall Pictorial Archive, Great North Museum: Resource Centre, Discovery Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne [also contains a wide range of images copied from various sources]
  • FG Simpson photographic archive (DX 12260: Archaeological Records of FG Simpson), Cumbria Archive Centre, Carlisle [includes the original negatives from his excavations from 1909–12 of the latrines, fort curtain and lime kiln; see also Simpson, G (ed), Watermills and Military Works on Hadrian’s Wall (Kendal, 1976)]
  • Photographs from 1930s vicus excavations, Department of Archaeology, University of Durham [duplicates and other Gibson photographs of these excavations are also available in the Hadrian’s Wall Pictorial Archive, Great North Museum: Resource Centre, Discovery Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne].

The most comprehensive handlist of Gibson photographs is available in J Crow and A Rushworth, ‘Housesteads Roman Fort and its environs: survey and analysis of the archaeological deposits’, unpublished report for English Heritage (1994), 85–94.

            

Aerial Photography

Aerial photography has been a vital tool for understanding the complex historical landscape around the fort. Four principal archives hold aerial photographs of Housesteads:

  • Northumberland County Council Historic Environment Records, County Hall, Morpeth
  • Great North Museum: Resource Centre, Discovery Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Cambridge Committee for Aerial Photography
  • Historic England Archives (see below).

         

Conservation Photography

Housesteads came into state guardianship in 1951 and there has been a programme of consolidation of the exposed walls since then. The process of conservation has been largely recorded through photography, and a large archive is available, especially the records of Charles Anderson, works foreman from the late 1950s to the beginning of the 1970s. Records are found in Hadrian’s Wall Pictorial Archive, but the most comprehensive archive is held by the Historic England Archive in Swindon (see below).

              

Drawings and Photographs in the Historic England Archive

Items in the Historic England Archive at Swindon relating to Housesteads include:

  • view of the west gateway at Housesteads from the north-west, photograph, c 1886 (OP03256)
  • view of the latrines and cistern at Housesteads from the west, photographic postcard, early 20th century (PC11608)
  • colour plate from Collectanea Antiqua showing ‘The Well – Looking towards the station’, print, 1878 (XA00076)
  • album of 98 photographs of the site before, during and after excavation and repair, 1898–1959 (AL1221).

More details of these and many other items can be found in the online catalogue. Some material is not yet listed online, including a large collection of aerial photography; for a full search, please contact the search team.

Copies of images and documents can be ordered through the website or by contacting the archive. For details of current charges for these services see the archives price list.

Published Secondary Sources

A full bibliography of Housesteads would be identical to a general bibliography of Hadrian's Wall, as the fort is one of the most extensively studied on the Wall. The most comprehensive general account of the site is J Crow, Housesteads: A Fort and Garrison on Hadrian’s Wall, 2nd revised edn (Stroud, 2004).

            

General Studies

Birley, E, Housesteads, Northumberland: Fort, Milecastle and Settlement, Housesteads Management Committee (London, 1936)

Birley, E, Housesteads Roman Fort, Northumberland (HMSO guidebook, London, 1952)

Birley, E, Research on Hadrian’s Wall (Kendal, 1961) [overview of earlier research]

Cornish, V, A National Park for Housesteads by Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland (London, 1931)

Crow, J, Housesteads Roman Fort (English Heritage guidebook, London, 1989)

Crow, J, Housesteads Roman Fort (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2012) [buy the guidebook]

           

Excavations and Survey

The list below includes all major surveys and excavations, the most important of which were those by RC Bosanquet (1904), who provided the first overall plan of the fort and its buildings.

Beaumont, P, ‘Water supply at Housesteads Roman Fort, Hadrian's Wall: the case for rainfall harvesting’, Britannia, 39 (2008), 59–84 [subscription required; accessed 10 Dec 2012]

Biggins, JA and Taylor, DJA, ‘A geophysical survey at Housesteads Roman Fort, April 2003’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 33 (2004), 51–60

Birley, E, Charlton, J and Hedley, WP, ‘Excavations at Housesteads in 1931’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 9 (1932), 222–37

Birley, E, Charlton J and Hedley, WP, ‘Excavations at Housesteads in 1932’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 10 (1933), 82–96

Birley, E and Charlton, J, ‘Third report on excavations at Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 11 (1934), 185–205

Birley, E and Keeney, GS, ‘Fourth report on excavations at Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 12 (1935), 204–58

Birley, E, ‘Fifth report on excavations at Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 14 (1937), 172–84

Birley, E, ‘A modern building at Housesteads’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 8 (1937–8), 191–3

Birley, RE, ‘Housesteads civil settlement, 1960’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 39 (1961), 301–19

Birley, RE, ‘Housesteads vicus, 1961’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 40 (1962), 117–33

Blair Hunter, F, ‘Housesteads milecastle’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 11 (1934), 103–20

Bosanquet, RC, ‘Excavations on the line of the Roman Wall in Northumberland, 1: the Roman camp at Housesteads , Archaeologia Aeliana, 3rd series, 25 (1904), 193ff [accessed 10 December 2012]

Bosanquet, RC, ‘Annual meeting 1925, Newcastle upon Tyne 21st–29th July’, Archaeological Journal, 82 (1925), 222–3

Charlesworth, D, ‘Housesteads west ditch and its relationship to Hadrian’s Wall’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 49 (1971), 95–9

Charlesworth, D, ‘The commandant’s house, Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 3 (1975), 17–42

Charlesworth, D, ‘The hospital, Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 4 (1976), 17–30

Clayton, J, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1st series, 1 (1855–7), 3–5 [altar found in fort]; 51–3 [Knag Burn gate located]; 186–8 [Knag Burn gate excavation]

Crow, JG, ‘An excavation of the north curtain wall at Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 16 (1988), 61–124

Crow, JG, ‘Housesteads, milecastle 37 and the central section of Hadrian’s Wall’, in Hadrian’s Wall 1989–1999: A Summary of Recent Excavations and Research Prepared for the Twelfth Pilgrimage of Hadrian’s Wall, 14–21 August 1999, ed PT Bidwell (Carlisle, 1999)

Crow, J, ‘Tracing the Busy Gap rogues’, International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 11 (2007), 322–36

Eden, WA, ‘The Housesteads terrace’, Liverpool Annals of Archaeology, 24 (1937), 156–64

Gentleman’s Magazine, 1st series, 104/1 (1834), 316 [note on Hodgson’s ‘elaborate report’ of his excavations at Housesteads to the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries]

Goodburn, R (ed), ‘Roman Britain in 1975, I: sites explored’, Britannia, 7 (1976), 309 [note by IW Stuart on intervention on Knag Burn curtain]

Hedley, WP, ‘Ancient cultivations at Housesteads, Northumberland’, Antiquity, 5 (1931), 351–64

Hodgson, J, History of Northumberland, part 2, vol 3 (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1840); reprinted as A History of Northumberland, vol 4: Roman Wall, Haydon Bridge, Haltwhistle (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1974)

Leach, J and Wilkes, JJ, ‘Excavations in the Roman fort at Housesteads, 1961’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 40 (1962), 83–96

Mann, JC, ‘The Housesteads latrine’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 17 (1989), 1–4

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1st series, 1 (1855–7), 45–9 [Society’s visit to Housesteads – tour of Clayton’s excavation in south-west angle]

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 2nd series, 8 (1898), 213–16 [Society’s excursion to Bosanquet’s excavations]

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 3rd series, 4 (1909–10), 95–6 [visit to FG Simpson’s kiln, north-east and north-west angle excavations]; 152–3 [report on excavation]

Rushworth, A (ed), Housesteads Roman Fort, the Grandest Station: Excavation and Survey at Housesteads, 1954–95, by Charles Daniels, John Gillam, James Crow and Others, 2 vols, English Heritage Archaeological Report (Swindon, 2009) [includes a comprehensive record and interpretation of the most recent major excavations and the finds, as well as other detailed studies of the extensive landscape survey and excavations on the terraces and at the Knag Burn gateway]

Simpson, G (ed), Watermills and Military Works on Hadrian's Wall (Kendal, 1976)

Tait, J, ‘An excavation at Housesteads, 1962’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 41 (1963), 37–44

Wilkes, JJ, ‘Excavations at Housesteads in 1959’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 38 (1960), 61–71

Wilkes, JJ, ‘Excavations in Housesteads fort, 1960’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 39 (1961), 279–300

Whitworth, AM, ‘The Housesteads bastle’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 18 (1990), 127–9

              

Religion and Material Culture

Baldwin, R, ‘Pottery studies and the use of ceramic data: the case of Housesteads Ware’, Scottish Archaeological Review, 4 (1985), 27–34

Birley, AR, ‘Some Germanic deities and their worshippers in the British frontier zone’, in Monumentum et Instrumentum Inscriptum: Beschriftete Objekte aus Kaiserzeit und Spätantike als Historische Zeugnise (Festschrift für Peter Weiss zum 65. Geburtstag), ed H Börm, N Ehrhardt and J Wiesehöfer (Stuttgart, 2008), 31–46

Birley, E, ‘Cohors I Tungrorum and the oracle of Clarian Apollo’, Chiron, 4 (1974), 511–13

Blagg, TFC, ‘A relief carving of two female figures from Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 13 (1985), 1–5

Bosanquet, RC, ‘On an altar dedicated to the Alaisiagae’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 3rd series, 19 (1922), 185–96

Bosanquet, RC, ‘A newly discovered centurial stone at Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 3rd series, 19 (1922), 198–9

Charlesworth, D, ‘A gold signet ring from Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 47 (1969), 39–42

Charlesworth, D, ‘A group of vessels from the commandant’s house, Housesteads’, Journal of Glass Studies, 13 (1971), 34–7

Clayton, J, ‘On the discovery of Roman inscribed altars, &c., at Housesteads, November, 1883’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 2nd series, 10 (1885), 148–72

Daniels, CM, ‘Mithras saecularis, the Housesteads Mithraeum and a fragment from Carrawburgh’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 40 (1962), 105–33

Jobey, I, ‘Housesteads Ware – a Frisian tradition on Hadrian's Wall’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 7 (1979), 127–43

Jones, CP, ‘Ten dedications “to the gods and goddesses” and the Antonine plague’, Journal of Roman Archaeology, 18 (2005), 293–301

Merkelbach, R, ‘Hyperion at Housesteads [altar inscription re-interpreted]’, Britannia, 14 (1983), 269–70

Smith, DJ, ‘The restoration of the “Birth of Mithras” from Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 40 (1962), 277–80

Smith, DJ, ‘The archer’s tombstone from Housesteads’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 46 (1968), 284–91

                

Garrisons

The garrisons at Housesteads and the structural evidence of the barracks are discussed in Crow (2004) and Rushworth (2009).

For a recent analysis of the late and post-Roman evidence see R Collins, Hadrian’s Wall and the End of Empire: The Roman Frontier in the 4th and 5th Centuries (Oxford, 2012).

For detailed studies see also:

Daniels, CM, ‘Excavation at Wallsend and the fourth-century barracks on Hadrian’s Wall’, in Roman Frontier Studies 1979, British Archaeological Reports International Series 71(i), ed WS Hanson and LJ Keppie (Oxford, 1980), 173–93

Galestin, MC, ‘Frisian soldiers in the Roman army’, in Limes XX: XXth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, León, España, Septiembre 2006, Anejos de Gladius 13, ed Á Morillo, N Hanel and E Martín (Madrid, 2009), 833–47

Rushworth, A, ‘Franks, Frisians and Tungrians: Garrisons at Housesteads in 3rd century AD’, in Limes XX: XXth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, León, España, Septiembre 2006, Anejos de Gladius 13, ed Á Morillo, N Hanel and E Martín (Madrid, 2009), 1147–57

Van Driel-Murray, C, ‘Ethnic recruitment and military mobility’, in Limes XX: XXth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, León, España, Septiembre 2006, Anejos de Gladius 13, ed Á Morillo, N Hanel and E Martín (Madrid, 2009), 813–22

Unpublished Secondary Sources

With the publication of Rushworth (2009), there are no significant unpublished excavation archives from Housesteads. In practice, where there is a dearth of evidence from past excavations it is unlikely that significant new material will become available, apart from studies using the extensive photographic evidence from the site.

Some of the English Heritage reports listed below can be downloaded from the Historic England Research Reports database.

The Archaeological Practice, ‘Housesteads drainage excavations: report on archaeological watching brief and excavations’ (1999) 

Biggins, JA, ‘The vicus at Housesteads Roman Fort: geophysical survey report’ (2003)

Clapham, AJ, ‘Housesteads Fort, Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland: interim report’, AML Reports (new series) 186/1988 (1988) 

Crow, J and Rushworth, A, ‘Housesteads Roman Fort and its environs: survey and analysis of the archaeological deposits’, English Heritage (1994)

Crowfoot, E, ‘Textile: Housesteads, Northumberland’, AML Reports (old series) 4653 (undated)

Curteis, ME, ‘The coinage of Housesteads: a numismatic study of the economy and chronology of a fort on Hadrian’s Wall’, unpublished MA thesis (University of Durham, 1988)

Donaldson, AM, ‘Botanical report on material from Housesteads Fort, Chapel Hill, water pipe’, AML Reports (old series) 2388 (undated)

Evans, JG, ‘Housesteads, Northumberland: mollusca’, AML Reports (old series) 1829 (undated)

Lewis, JR, ‘A comparison of the management strategies of four Hadrian’s Wall sites: Birdoswald, Corbridge, Housesteads and Vindolanda’, unpublished MA thesis (University of York, 1994)

Peter Mcgowan Associates, with contributions by J Crow, A Rushworth and J Renshaw, ‘Housesteads Roman Fort, conservation plan’, 2 vols, English Heritage (Edinburgh, 2002)

Watson, J, ‘Identification of mineral preserved wood associated with iron objects from Housesteads, Hadrian’s Wall’, AML Reports (old series) 4546 (undated)

Whittaker, KM, ‘The identification of waterlogged wood from Housesteads Fort, Hadrian’s Wall’, AML Reports (new series) 54/1986 (1986) 

        

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