Anonymous Hadrian’s Wall excavators celebrated in new exhibition

  • New research has identified 11 of the labourers who helped uncover Corbridge Roman Town
  • Call out to the public to help identify the many more men who have remained anonymous for 100 years
  • Historic photographs seen in colour for the first time

A new photography exhibition opens at Corbridge Roman Town on Hadrian’s Wall today (7 April 2022), as part of our 1900 celebrations, marking 1900 years since construction started on the wall. Extraordinary Exploration; The Edwardian discovery of Coria showcases dozens of photographs of the local labourers who worked at Corbridge over nine years. These completely inexperienced excavators helped uncover remains of extraordinary quality and international renown, but have remained anonymous for over 100 years. Now, new research carried out by English Heritage has named 11 men and the charity hopes that the exhibition and the newly colourised photographs will lead to more being identified.

English Heritage Curator, Dr. Frances McIntosh, said: “The back-breaking work at the heart of these excavations really was phenomenal, especially considering how deep many of the remains were buried. Even more extraordinary is that it was mainly undertaken by local labourers with no prior experience of archaeology. Brick makers, miners and gardeners – these men took on the job at Coria simply to pay the bills. But over nine seasons they were taught how to excavate and, in the process, discovered objects and buildings of international importance.
“They were immensely proud of their work, their site and its place within the story of the Tyne Valley, but many of their own names have since been lost to history. We want to discover more about the unnamed workers who toiled to uncover Roman Corbridge. If you spot a familiar face from your own family research, please get in touch.”

Hundreds of photographs were taken of the excavations, some of which feature the labourers at work. They are a wonderful record of this part of the excavation, showing us the clothes they wore and the equipment they used. Extraordinary Exploration will display these photographs outside, within the remains themselves, so visitors can compare what the Edwardians saw to what is visible today.

The Romans brought about staggering political, economic and cultural changes in England and the period remains one of the most appealing and accessible in our history. With over 53 Roman sites and the largest collection of Roman artefacts in England, English Heritage is in a unique position to bring to life the formative history of the 400 years of Roman occupation in Britain.

English Heritage is a partner of the Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival. To find out more about the Hadrian’s Wall Partnership and Hadrian’s Wall 1900 visit:

'step into englands story