Society Weekend 2015

The 43rd Hadrianic Society Weekend  took place at St. Chad's College, Durham from 27th March to midday Sunday 29th March 2015.

The 2015 Hadrianic Society weekend and Roman Army School took place from 27-30 March.  For the third consecutive year the venue was Durham University's St Chad's College, in the heart of the Bailey directly opposite the east end of the cathedral.  Although very different in style from the colleges previously used, Chad's historic setting provides modern facilities and the same warm welcome.

Society Members and an advance guard of RAS delegates and lecturers including Matt Symonds of Current Archaeology, Andreas Thiel, Senior Curator at the National Heritage Institute for the Stuttgart Region and former Chief Executive of the German Limes Commission, and Jorit Wintjes of the Department of Ancient History of the University of Wurtzburg gathered first in the bar and then for dinner in St Chad's dining hall followed by the Annual General Meeting chaired by Richard Bridgland.

The Chairman opened the meeting by thanking Helen Gawthrop for her assistance with the organisation of the event after family illness made it difficult for Sue Lavery to complete the arrangements.  He continued with a brief summary of recent events relating to the Wall viz:

publications on-line; ongoing work at Vindolanda, Binchester, South Shields Vicus, Benwell, Maryport and the Vicus at Ravenglass.

On the downside, the Hadrian's Wall Trust had been axed.

Membership: The society had lost 7 members through resignation, non-payment and, sadly, 3 deaths However, total membership stands at 109, a net gain of one.

On-line society presence

Richard Law said there had been absolutely no input from the membership to the website, although one or two members said they had tried and failed to access the members only section. Members need to send in items of interest, photos and news, whether local, or from the press. It was decided to remove the password protection so that all areas can be available to anyone with an interest.

Discussion ranged over the desirability of pictorial elements and key images from talks to appear on the website, whether Facebook was a better (ie more immediate) medium and the place for Twitter and Wordpress.  David Breeze suggested a conscious effort to report the meeting and also for lecturers to produce something for the website (not as easy as formerly now that PowerPoint presentations are largely replacing written notes).   Mike Macdona agreed, saying it should be for the website, not Facebook, about which there were strong reservations by a significant number of members.  Helen confirmed that a number of people had found the society through the website and Current Archaeology.

 Publication Reports

Thanks to Susan Porter, the Newsletter had been produced but there was still a problem with the Bulletin because of Birgitta's illness. The Newsletter first appeared in 1988, prior to which one publication (called The Bulletin) had covered everything. There was wide ranging discussion of the current situation and whether to go back to the old format of a single, regular publication to include both substantial and more minor articles, reports, news of members etc, or whether there needs to be a distinction between what is of interest to members and to a wider public, and between academic and social topics.

In conclusion, the overwhelming need was for a reliably regular publication and David Breeze proposed that, leaving on one side what Birgitta was doing, for one year three printed items should be produced, and, secondly, that Adam should be asked to proceed with the volume in honour of Brian, putting all else aside until that was finished. Both proposals were carried.

 Election of Officers

Charles Jackman agreed to continue as secretary and Helen Gawthrop as treasurer/membership secretary/organiser.


Sue Lavery proposed a vote of thanks to Helen for taking over the organisation she had to relinquish because of family illness.

Future events

During discussion, reference was made to earlier times when the Roman Army School was separate and ordinary members were allowed to present a lecture, and whether to alternate between a general and a specific course with a theme. David Breeze pointed out that someone would have to organise it and people must volunteer, but the point was made by Mike Macdona that if there was no response to an offer, as had happened to him, it was no good.

The Saturday Outing

To provide a link with the theme of this year's Roman Army School, namely Towers and Fortlets, the expedition concentrated on mile castles and turrets.    

Departing Durham, after breakfast, by coach we picked up the Wall at Denton then followed the A69 to the west. Turning north and passing Lanercost Priory we picked up the Wall again and turned east. Pausing at Turrets 52a  

and Pike's Hill Signal Tower

Val at Pike's Hill 

we proceeded to Birdoswald fort. 

After a short coffee stop we re-traced our path on foot to Turret 50b and then returned to Birdoswald for lunch. After lunch we took the Hadrian's Wall Path westward stopping at the features en-route to Willowford Bridge.

Matt Symonds at T48a  

Faced with a strong east wind accompanied by heavy showers it was decided that rather than retrace our steps to Birdoswald we would walk on to Gilsland. Matt Symonds braved the east wind to return and re-direct the coach.

Re-boarding the coach we traveled on to Vindolanda. After inspecting the wall reconstructions

time was allowed to inspect the site,museum, cafe or shop according to personal preference before returning to St Chads.

Among points raised from the trip was the re-siting of the stone wall on what appeared to be a less favourable  line, with poorer vision to the north, than the turf wall. David Breeze pointed out that the Hadrianic army was the world's pre-eminent fighting force for whom victory was a foregone conclusion. Whatever the reasons for the construction of the Wall defence was not one of them and would not influence its positioning!

In the evening Val Maxfield spoke on life in the Egyptian  desert in the outposts guarding the trade routes and frontiers.

On Sunday morning joint sessions were held with the Roman Army School. Dr. Andreas Thiel, lectured on the towers of the German Limes and their various reconstructions. This talk was enlivened by his dry humour. There was debate on how typical the representations on Trajan's Column were of other frontiers. Particularly with regard to height, roofs and the presence or absence of balconies! After coffee Matt Symonds, on sabbatical leave from the editorship of Current Archaeology, gave an "Introduction to Fortlets" reviewing the possible roles and garrisons of the milecastles on Hadrian's Wall.

 A fuller account of the weekend and the Roman Army School will appear in the society's newsletter.


Hadrianic Society Weekend 2014


On Friday 4th April, in the benevolent shadow of Durham Cathedral. the pilgrims of the Hadrianic Society gathered for the reunion weekend and Roman Army School four and a half days of Forts. Frontiers, Romans and copious amounts of tea served with a distinctly late Roman flavour this year.

We are indebted to the new editor of the news letter Susan Porter for the following account of the weeked which appeared in the societies newsletter

The reunion weekend officially began with the AGM on Friday evening, the minutes of which will hopefully be published in a later newsletter. The outgoing chairman Gill Law was unable to attend due to her mother's illness. Richard Bridgland was elected chairman and Susan Porter takes over as editor of the newsletter.

On to Saturday's Wall Trip, and for those who recall last year's frightful weather, the minor drizzle encountered this year was barely noticeable as we made our way around the far eastern end of The Wall. Starting with the reconstruction and fort at Wallsend. The reconstruction was impressive and many braved the damp steps to ascend the parapet. Others however were disappointed by the presence of a tarpaulin, obscuring what remained of The Wall itself. the best view of the fort could be obtained from the viewing platform high above the visitors centre, where a panoramic seating gallery looked out over the skyline and gave a birds-eye view of the fort below.

From Wallsend we continued into Newcastle, visiting the tomb of the pioneer himself, Collingwood-Bruce in the Cathedral, before taking in various aspects of The Wall cunningly masquerading as street furniture within Newcastle itself. One house in particular was worth noticing as the outline of the Wall (to a perceived height and style) was rendered within the brickwork of the building.

The evening lecture was given by Sophie Vanhoutte. This covered the Continental side of the late coastal forts, with focus on the Dutch and Belgian coast. It seems that the opposing coastline has aspects that mirror the Saxon shore of Britain, however it seems less and less likely that this was a fort "system". More likely is that this coastal "system" developed in an organic manner rather then being rigidly thought out and designed as an almost frontier system. Something to think about.

On Sunday the 6th, recruits for the Roman Army School joined those remaining from the weekend. Sunday consisted of five lectures very much rooted in the fourth and fifth centuries with a foray into the mysterious land that is Post- Roman Britain. We began, somewhat fittingly, with a lecture from our new chairman Richard Bridgland, on those enigmatic southern installations known as the Saxon Shore Forts. This lecture formed a neat riposte to the lecture on the European side of the Saxon shore given by Sophie Vanhoutte at the close of the reunion weekend. It seems that these understudied constructions have much left to teach us if only we would bother to look. The harder one looks, the more differing date ranges become apparent and the less these installations seem like the "system" they are often taken to be.


Hadrianic Society Weekend 2012.

The Hadrianic Society Weekend 2012,  Friday 30th March to Sunday 1st April,  took place at Collingwood College, Durham instead of St. Aidans College because of accommodation changes during the holidays, 

The Society's Reunion Weekend is aimed mainly at Society members but is open to all-comers, including to the Annual General Meeting, although non-members would not be permitted to vote at the AGM.

The weekend started on Friday 30th March -with tea/coffee and biscuits  from 5.00pm onwards and the first event proper was dinner at 7.00pm in the dining hall. Following dinner the AGM was held  at which Gill Law was elected chairman and Helen Gawthrop elected treasurer. A vote of thanks was given to Ray Hunneysett, the retiring chairman and also to Pat Burgess, the retiring treasurer after which attendees adjourned to the College bar or retired for the night. 

On Saturday there was a full day excursion by coach to Carvoran and Birdoswald.  A stop was made for morning coffee and a packed lunch was provided by the College.

There was a special 40th Anniversary Dinner in the Penthouse Suite at 7pm. At dinner  we were joined by those attending the Roman Army School course, which overlaps the Reunion Weekend.

After dinner the combined group then attended the first lecture given by Tony Wilmott on "Roman Maryport".

On the Sunday morning the first lecture commenced at 9-15 when  Nick Hodgson spoke on "The internal planning of auxiliary forts".

After the break Val Maxfield spoke on "The Nile: A Roman Limes?". 

Lunch commenced at 12-30.

The Reunion ended after Sunday lunch - packed lunches were available as an alternative for those who  needed to leave early.


Hadrianic Society  Weekend 2011.

The Hadrianic Society Weekend 2011 took place at St. Aidan's College, Durham from Friday 15th April to Sunday 17th April 2011.

The annual general meeting was held on Friday evening. On Saturday there was our usual excursion to Hadrian's Wall.  This year we visited Housesteads, where we had not been for some time. Those unable to tackle the climb to Housesteads were taken to Steel Rig for a short stroll before being reunited with the rest of the group at Housesteads car park. After a picnic lunch at Cawfields we visited Vindolanda, where much new work has been carried out on the museum as well as continuing excavation.  Recently (September 2010) the skeleton of a young person was found buried in a pit in a barrack block floor. The find is dated to around the AD 250's, when the Fourth Cohort of Gauls formed the garrison. We then returned to St. Aidan's in time for dinner.

After dinner Matthew Symonds spoke on "Crossing the line: controlling access on Hadrian's Wall".

On Sunday morning David Woolliscroft spoke on "New work in Scotland".

After the coffee break. Adrian Goldsworthy spoke on "Secret river crossings by bandits and the Roman response".                                                                   

Following lunch the Society dispersed.

Further details on the recent Vindolanda excavations and can be found by clicking on the link to their site on the Links Page.

Further information on Housesteads Fort can be found by following the link on the Links Page.


Hadrianic Society Weekend 2010.

The  Hadrianic Society Weekend (40th Anniversary) took place at St. Aidans College, Durham on Friday 16th April  to Sunday 18th April 2010.

On Friday evening we held the Annual General Meeting followed by members contributions.

On Saturday we had our usual excursion to the Wall. This year (2010) we went to the Birdoswald area, incorporating the walk from Birdoswald fort to Milecastle 48 that was done by the 2009 Pilgrimage people (the coach was available to transport those who did not wish to do the walking).

Members may like to check out the link to Birdoswald Roman Fort which is on our links page. This link leads to the Birdoswald page of the excellent 'Visit Cumbria' website. As well as many superb aerial photos by Simon Ledingham of Birdoswald Fort etc, there are links to other parts of the Wall built into the text which lead to Gilsland Mile Castle 48, Willowford Bridge, Banks Turrets 51B and 52A and the Pike Hill Signal Tower.

On Saturday evening a special 40th Anniversary Dinner was held in the Lindisfarne Centre.

On Sunday commencing at 9-15am  Jon Coulston  spoke on - The Partho-Sassanid Art of War ( part 1).

There was a short interval for coffee at 11-00.

Jon then continued with The Partho-Sassanid Art of War (part 2).

After lunch Nick Hodgson spoke on-  The enemies of Rome in Northern Britain and following a short tea break,  Birgitta Hoffmann spoke on- The Garamantes.

The society then dispersed. 


Hadrianic Society Weekend 2009.

The Hadrianic Society Weekend 2009 took place from the 3rd April (Friday) to the 5th April 2009 and was again be based at St. Aidans College, Durham.  The weekend  followed the same format as 2008.

On Friday evening we had our AGM, followed by members contributions.

The AGM and all lectures were held in the library.

On Saturday we followed the line of Dere Street past Lanchester and Ebchester forts to Corbridge, had morning coffee, visited the Roman bridge and saw the beautifully conserved road ramp up to it and then continued to Cawfields for a picnic lunch. In the afternoon we visited Vindolanda to see the newly-exposed granaries.

Saturday evening David Breeze  spoke on "Did Hadrian design Hadrian's Wall?".

Sunday morning Jon Coulston spoke on "Trajan's Column - a window on the Roman Army".

David Breeze  followed  with "The making of a new World Heritage Site - the Antonine Wall".