As part of this weeks WordPress Photographic Challenge for the theme “Boundaries“, for many people in the UK, Hadrian’s Wall is one of the most famous boundaries. It marks the divide between the ‘civilised’ English, and the ‘barbaric’ Scots. Okay, that is somewhat exaggerated, but you get the gist of it.
Hadrian’s Wall was started during reign of Emperor Hadrian in 122AD, and it was effectively the northern limit of the Roman Empire.
It runs from the banks of the River Tyne in the east, to the Solway Firth in the west, it is often thought of as the boundary between Scotland and England (it, in fact, lies somewhat to the south of the present day border).
In 138AD, Emperor Antonius Pius abandoned Hadrian’s Wall (used it for support purposes only) and started to build a new wall to the north, now known as the Antonine Wall. This turf and ditch wall ran for 40 miles across the Central Lowlands of Scotland, from the Firth of Forth in the east to the Firth of Forth in the west. It was the divide between the Roman Empire to the south, and the Caledonian (Gaels, Picts and Britons) tribes to the north. However, by 164AD, the Romans abandoned the Antonine Wall, the Scots being too fierce, and moved back to Hadrian’s Wall.
In 208-211AD, Emperor Severus briefly attempted to reconquer Scotland, and temporarily occupied the Antonine Wall to the north, but withdrew his forces back to Hadrian’s Wall by the end of 211AD.
For much of the time that Hadrian’s Wall was occupied, it was not only used as a means of defence to keep the Caledonian Tribes out of the Roman Empire, it was also used as a border control, affectively taxing any trade that occurred between groups to the north and south of the wall.
By 410AD, the Romans had lost control of Britain, not long after this time they had effectively lost most of their empire, and Hadrian’s Wall began to fall into a state of disrepair.
Much of the wall has been re-used as building stone for local buildings and farmers field walls, but in the 1830’s, a man called John Clayton started the process of preserving the wall, so what we see today is mainly down to him.