Segedunum Roman fort story to be told in new exhibition

THE story of the rescue of a Roman fort hidden beneath terraces of homes is to be told in a new exhibition.

Segedunum in 1975
Segedunum in 1975

THE story of the rescue of a Roman fort hidden beneath terraces of homes is to be told in a new exhibition.

When Victorian streets were cleared near Swan Hunter’s shipyard in Wallsend in North Tyneside in the 1970s, archaeologists carried out a trial dig.

It was thought that any traces of Segedunum fort would have been lost due to centuries of previous development.

But what the sample dig found was enough for plans to develop the cleared site to be scrapped.

There followed nine years of annual excavations from 1975, led by the late Charles Daniels, a lecturer in archaeology at Newcastle University.

Now an appeal is being made for people who took part in the digs to come forward with their memories, photographs and any keepsakes.

The digs were staffed by university students, volunteers and young people on work experience schemes of the time.

The personal stories and pictures will help shape the autumn exhibition which will explore the history of the fort and the development of the surrounding area.

During the nine years of digging, a complete plan of the base was recovered and made Segedunum the most excavated fort along Hadrian’s Wall, with surviving foundations of many buildings and part of the Wall itself.

Geoff Woodward, manager of North and South Tyneside Museums, said: “The unearthing of the fort of Segedunum was a landmark event for Hadrian’s Wall.

“It led to the development of the Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths & Museum which attracts visitors from all round the world to see these fascinating world heritage site remains in North Tyneside. Many local people gave up their spare time to help uncover the story behind the fort and we would love to hear from anyone who was involved with the excavations.”

All information, stories and photographs from those involved with the excavations between 1975 and 1984 should be sent to info@segedunumromanfort.org.uk

Alex Croom, keeper of archaeology at Tyne Wear Archives and Museums, said that the digs produced surprises, such as the remains of a hospital.

“Not many forts had a hospital but Wallsend did, complete with a multi-tiered latrine.”

What has remained a mystery is the function of a large, long narrow hall in front of the fort’s headquarters building. Stamped tiles found in the dig also confirmed that the garrison of the fort was the Fourth Cohort of Lingones, a mixed infantry and cavalry unit recruited in the French-Belgian area.

Individual finds included a lead portable shrine which opens up to show the god Mercury and a statue of the goddess Fortuna, found in the commanding officer’s house.

It is believed that the fort’s position at the start of Hadrian’s Wall would have made it likely that a large statue of the Emperor Hadrian would have stood in the river adjacent to the fort.

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