We visited Hadrian’s Wall on the afternoon of Wednesday 13th October 1999 after a morning visit to Hexham Abbey. The only significance of Hadrian’s wall to our pilgrimage was that the stones proved a useful source of building material for Wilfrid’s impressive stone church as we witnessed for ourselves in the stone arch of original stone crypt in Hexham Abbey
Fr. Roger’s notes in ‘The Pilgrim Manual’:
Hadrian’s Wall has nothing whatsoever to do with St.Wilfrid (other than that he felt it was a useful supply of building stones, along with most other Northumbrians) but it seems silly to come all this way and not have a look at this world famous feature. The Emperor Hadrian ordered a consolidation of the boundaries and frontiers of the Roman Empire during the first twenty years of the Second century. Before that frontiers were either temporary or unthinkable because Rome only expanded. This consolidation resulted in a long wooden palisade in Germany and central Europe, a row of boundary stones in Palestine and the near East, a similar structure to Hadrian’s Wall in parts of North Africa and the feature we call Hadrian’s Wall which runs the 77 miles from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway. Being built by order of the Emperor it was built to an exact specification. Previously there had been a frontier road with marching camps along the way (Corbridge and Vindolanda are two of these), but now a continuous stone wall, with a fortified gateway every mile (or milecastle) was built. Between the milecastles are two turrets. Behind the wall is a huge continuous ditch (called the Vallum) and later on, marching camps joined by a road were added (like Housesteads). The exact nature of the building is demonstrated by the fact that milecastles were still built (with gates) every mile, even when the gate goes over a cliff? The debate goes on about what it was for. Keeping people out; keeping people in; a customs control? A simple statement about the limit of Empire? Who knows.
The wall is more complete in some places than others but we followed the 18th century Military Road (A69) down into Newcastle, following the wall and crossed over the Tyne Bridge to see the variety of bridges over the river in this wonderful city and then returned to Durham on the Al and passing the ‘Angel of the North’.