Hadrian's Wall Camera -Harlow Hill to Portgate- Milecastles 16 to 22

Page V

Harlow Hill to Portgate

Milecastle 16 to 22

Harlow Hill to Portgate

From Milecastle 16 at the high point of Harlow Hill the Wall drops down to pass between the lakes of Whittle Dene. Beyond the lakes and the crossing point of the Stamfordham road. past the site of Milecastle 17 the Vallum comes back to run parallel with and close to the Wall.

The Wall still under the road continues on in a straight line to reach Milecastle 20 at Halton Shields.

The Wall takes a slight turn to the left beyond Halton Shields while the road deviates north around Down Hill. South of the hill there is an outstanding section of the Vallum.

A few yards beyond the site of Turret 21a is the location of Halton Chesters (HUNNUM) the fifth cavalry Fort site from the east. See more details on this page

The Portgate

This page concludes with The Portgate. Very little is known of how this looked but conjecture envisages a large gateway allowing Dere Street access to the country north of this Wall and on to the eastern end of the Antonine Wall at the northern isthmus.

Roman Mile = 1620 yards = 0.92Mile = 1.48km

Start point for this page

Segedunum to Pons Aelis
Pons Aelis to Condercum
Condercum to Heddon
Heddon to Harlow Hill
Harlow Hill to Portgate
Portgate to Chesters
Chesters to Brocolitia
Brocolitia to Vercovicivm
Vercovicivm to MC40
MC40 to Aesica
Aesica to Carvoran
Carvoran to Birdoswald
Birdoswald to Hare Hill
Hare Hill to Newton
Newton to Stanwix
Stanwix to Dykesfield
Dykesfield to Maia
Above:- The site of Milecastle 16

Harlow Hill

The Wall line drops down from Harlow Hill to the valley formed by the Whittle Burn where presently there are some large Reservoirs. All of this stretch of Wall being under the Military Road (B6318) it will remain under the road all the way to CILVRNVM (Chesters Fort) near Milecastle No. 27. See pages 6 and 7

Beyond the Whittle Burn as the wall cimbs the gentle ridge is the site of Milecastle No. 17

<<<<<<<<<< The site of Milecastle No. 17

Just beyond Milecastle No. 17 the wall takes a slight deviation right and heads directly for Carr Hill some 4 miles distant.

The Robin Hood Inn stands to the north of the wall line at East Wallhouses the line of the ditch running through its front car park. the ditch is seen clearly and deep past the building.

<<<<<<<<<< The site of Milecastle No. 18

At the driveway leading to Vallum Farm

The Vallum can be seen running in front of the "Vallum Farm" buildings and it is clearly seen in the fields to the south of the road on the way west.

On its direct line west the ditch is seen very clearly and at Wallhouses the garden walls of the house by the road can be seen to follow its shape. Past Wallhouses the Wall line runs up to the Matfen road junction opposite which the site of Milecastle No. 19 sits behind a hedge.

The Ditch when dug was 30ft wide and 13ft 6 inches deep

<<<<<<<<<< The site of Milecastle No. 19

At the Matfen junction

From Milecastle No.19 the Wall continues its direct line to the top of Carr Hill.

At the hamlet of Halton Shields the road stays shy of the Carr Hill staying north of the hamlet on the Wall line and then south toward Down Hill.

On the entry to Halton Shields stood Milecastle No. 20

<<<<<<<<<< The site of Milecastle No. 20

At the driveway of this house in Halton Shields

At Halton Shields the Vallum can be seen to the south of the hamlet with a farm wall and fence picking out its depression

The Wall went over the Brow of Carr Hill and turned to the south west for the summit of Down Hill

The Vallum around Down Hill is certainly the most spectacular so far encountered and may be the most impressive to be found on the existing Wall.

While the Vallum cuts south around Down Hill the Wall continues directly to the top the Ditch as well. Here General Wade's Road goes round to the north of the hill joining it again to use its stones to the north of the Milecastle No. 20 site.

<<<<<<<<<< The site of Milecastle No.21

West of Down hill before Halton Red House

A look back from the west, to the Vallum around Down Hill and MC 21.

The Wall now drives for the brow of the hill at NY997685. Hunnum (ONNUM) Fort was buily shortly after the builders of this stretch of Wall passed this point and the Fort site is between the brow and the position of turret 21a.


The name given to the fifth Fort on the Wall in the Notitia. The area covered by the fort is 5 acres.

Another Cavalry Fort it was known to have been garrisoned by a cavalry regiment called the Ala of Sabinian Pannonians a detachment from what is now western Hungary

In the Notitia it is called Hunnum, also known as ONNO and ONNUM


Built to defend Watling Street ( Dere Street) and as an addition to the Wall. The Wall being in place with the Ditch having already been dug, was turned into a street connecting the east and west gates, the fort has deeper foundations at that point. At a later date an extention was built on to the south west side giving the fort an unusual L plan.

When in 1827 the field to the north of the road (called the "Brunt-ha-penny" field) was first ploughed a fine bath house was discovered belonging to the late fourth century. A bath house of this type was very rare in the outlying forts. *1 Bruce did not think it was a bath house. "this was not so." *2

The name Halton Chesters was given to the Fort by Horsley from the hamlet of Halton which lies about half a mile to the south of it. *2


Much has been made of the anomolies of this site. Its outlook to the north is hardly more than adequate, its outlook to the east was blocked by Carr Hill, its outlook to the west was indifferent from a military point of view. But the problem that has bothered successions of experts s the evidence that it was builtin total disregard of the fact that Dere Street crosses the planned line little more than half a mile to the west of its walls. Generations of opinion have felt uneasily that it should have been built to defend the crossing. The position seems simple enough to the layman. Surely for the begetters of the First Plan at least, the crossing had little importance. After the completion of their Wall the country to the north would be a no-man's-land. Dere Street had served its purpose and in their view would have to be abandoned with its forts. They made no attempt even to alter the position of milecastle 22 _ two hundred and sixty yards to the eastward _ from its measured but arbitary position to cover the road. *3

Dere Street and the Portgate for info see further down this page

The Hunum Fort site is on part of the Halton Castle estate.

The gateway seen in the pictures being an entrance to the estate by a private road.

Like Vindobala there is not much to see but in this case there is no signpost or plaque to advise where you are.

In the field to the north of the road the layout can just be made out.

The Wall with a turn to the right drops downhill and then up past Milecastle No. 22 to the Portgate

The road turns gently right and runs up to the round-about where the B6318 crosses the A68.

The Wall continues straight on up past Milecastle No. 22 and just beyond it to the Portgate.

pictures above show the site of Milecastle No.22

About 260 yards east of the Portgate.

Dere Street

The line of Watling Street ( Dere Street) is now the A68 trunk road. a narrow road made dangerous by the hills and crests it dives up and down both north and south of this junction. The straightness of the line encourages speed. The speed limit on this single carriageway road being 60MPH


...... we soon reach the point where the ancient Watling Street running from north to south, crosses the Wall at right angles .(In Horsley's day there seems to have been a species of fortification here . He says, "At Watling Street gate there has been a square Castellum, half within and half without.") This road, which was probably formed by Agricola, in his first advance into Scotland, is in many places, as here, still used as a highway;............* 4 Bruce pg 67

Bruce passes on along the Wall and does not use the name Portgate

Nancy Ridley in her Historical books Northumberland prefers to use the name Watling Street to that of Dere Street as does J C Bruce.

From the accompanying map it will be seen that Dere Street ran from York to a point near the Eastern end of the Antonine Wall.

The Portgate

It is possible that this gateway was in fact of a later date than the Wall and that it belongs to the period of the advance to the Forth-Cyde line when Dere Street came back to its ancient importance. No proof exists either way..... *5 Devine Pg 97

The Errington Arms shown here from east of the A68 is a Public House on the A68 trunk road sited just a few yards south of where the Portgate was thought to stand.

General George Wade
Emperor Hadrian

H. MaclLaughlan's plan of the Portgate in "Watling Street"

References page 5

*1 Frank Graham - The Roman Wall 1979 Pg 57

*2 J C Bruce - The Handbook to the Roman Wall 8th edition 1927 Pg 64

*3& 5 David Divine - The North East Frontier of Rome 1969 Pg97

*4 J C Bruce - The Handbook to the Roman Wall 8th edition 1927 Pg 67

Back to Harlow Hill

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This first plan provided for a wall 10ft wide, 15ft 6 inches high and surmounted by a 6ft crenellation. to the north of this was a 20 ft berm, a standard fighting ditch 30ft by 13ft 6 inches, and a glacis composed of the spoil of the ditch, approximately 60ft in width.

At each Roman mile was a milecastle with a north gate opening through the Wall, surmounted by a defensive turret and a south gate. In the original plan there were two barracks and the milecastle maintained a turret on either hand for the patrol garrison.

South of the wall was the Vallum, a complex consisting of a 20 ft ditch with a wide bottom section and mounds composed of spoil to north and south. The wall was built to the design width only on the eastern slope. The Milecastles built before the change of plan had 10ft wings on either side. The curtain wall as finally built was substantially narrower and the join is indicated in the diagram.

This information and the diagram taken from Richard Devine The Northwest Frontier of the Roman Empire Chap2 pg 27