Alan Rushworth and Alexandra Croom
Oxbow Books, £55.00
Review Rob Collins
The Roman fort of Segedunum is better known by its modern English place-name, Wallsend, which conveniently holds the subtle clue to the fort’s position – at the eastern terminus of Hadrian’s monumental structure. The late Charles Daniels was provided with the opportunity to excavate the fort following the demolition of terrace housing in the 1970s, which was ultimately to be replaced by new housing. Luckily, the excavations provided enough interest and significant results that the site was developed for visitors. This two-volume report presents the final results of Daniels’ excavations thanks to the painstaking efforts of Alan Rushworth and Alex Croom, among other specialist contributors.
There is much to enjoy in the Wallsend report, but a key result of the excavations is that near-complete plans or layouts of almost the whole fort can be provided for the first 200 years of the fort’s occupation. Mapping such changes in overall plan, as well as the detail of the structures and material culture of these buildings over such a long period is a feat yet to be achieved for any other Roman fort in Britain. Wallsend is also the site that confirmed the form of a cavalry barrack, with a waste trough in the forward chamber where the horses were stabled, adjacent to their riders in the rear chamber. Other buildings merit mention, such as the central headquarters building (principia), fronted with a grand forehall built over the main street of the fort. The finds report analyses the full range of ceramic, metal, glass, and bone objects – amounting to the usual spread of goods from a Roman fort. But one delightful find is worth highlighting: a small lead portable shrine that takes the form of a cupboard – the hinged doors open outward to reveal the semi-naked figure of a god, possibly Mercury or Neptune. Readers will enjoy the excellent binding, paper quality, and clear and legible images that we have come to expect from Oxbow, though they should beware trying to read the 580-page structural report without something to rest the hefty tome on!
This review was published in CA 331.