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Historic England Research Records

Pons Aelius Roman Fort

Hob Uid: 24920
Location :
Newcastle upon Tyne
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : NZ2506063870
Summary : The site of Newcastle (PONS AELII) Roman fort. The fort is of 2nd to 4th century date, and has been uncovered by excavations; there are no visible remains. It has been interpreted as a small bridgehead fort protecting the bridge over the Tyne. Various buildings have been uncovered including a granary, the principia and praetorium. There appear to have been several phases of building and dereliction. Overlying and extending beyond the excavated areas of the Roman fort are the remains of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery which was in use from the 8th to the middle of the 12th century.
More information : (NZ 2506 6387) Pons Aelius Roman fort Site used for Norman castle see NZ 26 SE 64. (1)

The Roman fort at Newcastle upon Tyne was recorded in the Notitia Dignitatum as "Ponte Aeli" (2). Excavations to define its limits were undertaken by F G Simpson in 1928-9 who revealed the south and west walls of the commandant's house with hypocaust, outside the Medieval keep. The earliest features appeared to be the foundations of three walls, probably associated with a flagged floor beneath the hypocaust, on which lay a Hadrianic Samian bowl. The building provided evidence that the early period had ended in burning, followed by a later rebuilding on a different plan, and then alterations to the rebuild. The V-shaped south ditch of the fort was traced parallel to the commandant's house by limited excavation shafts in Castle Garth (NZ 2505 6384). Roman walling stones, probably from the fort wall, roofing tiles, post 2nd century mortarium and a scrap of leather were also found. The possible line of the west ditch was traced behind Clavering House (circa NZ 249 638) where a 4ft layer of mixed dark soil contained Roman pottery; above which was a layer of fallen stones, including Roman walling stones and pottery sherds (see also NZ 26 SW 25 -? Roman ditches etc). At the top of Dog Leap Stairs (NZ 2505 6392) a layer of dark soil containing three Roman pottery sherds and an Anglian bead (see NZ 26 SE 26) was assumed to be "near the north-east angle of the fort". F G Simpson concluded on this evidence that a small bridgehead fort of about 2 acres, with long axis E-W, housing about 250 men and similar in shape and size to Drumburgh fort (NY 25 NE 8) probably existed here (3a and b). An area of laid Roman flagstones dated by 2nd century pottery was seen during excavations near the south curtain wall of the castle (NZ 2508 6382) in 1960-1. A layer of black clay above the flagstones also contained 2nd-4th century pottery (3c). A small portion of a north-south Roman (intervallum?) road was discovered in 1973 during excavations at the Black Gate. A rough drain beside the kerb contained late 2nd-3rd century pottery and the layer above the road contained material dating up to the late 4th century (3d). (See Lin 100 - Hadrian's Wall map strips W1/17-18 for individual positions of discoveries). Several Roman altars - see NZ 26 SW 24, NZ 26 SE 29, NZ 26 SE 30, NZ 26 SE 56 and dedication slab - NZ 26 SE 31 found in the proximity could suggest a temple or shrine site at Pons Aelius fort, although not mentioned by Lewis in 'Roman Temples in Britain' 1966. (2-3)

No further siting evidence, the presumed area occupied by the fort is completely built-up. Name 'PONS AELIVS' accepted for 4th Edition RB map. (4)

Partial excavation within the Roman fort in 1978 revealed the following sequence : Roman Phase 1 - A buttressed grannary, 6.52m wide overall with 3 longitudinal sleeper walls. A few fragments of pottery associated with this building were of late 2nd or early 3rd century date. To the N. of the granary was an ash pit, stone lined flue and a level area, probably an open yard. The remains of a road passed the East end of the granary. Roman Phase 2 - E-W road along the S. wall of the granary built over earlier wall. Roman Phase 3 - a period of dereliction probably, on the evidence of the pottery during the second half of the 3rd century. Roman Phase 4 - Reoccupation of the site in the 4th century when E-W road was made up over the lower courses of the granary and a drain leading to a tank cut through the granary. Roman or Post Roman - The foundations of a structure built of massive stone blocks of irregular size, were found on top of the E-W road. There were no associated finds. (5)

Pons Aelii or Pons Aelius - The Roman fort at Newcastle upon Tyne. (6)

I prefer Pons Aelii to Pons Aelius, but it doesn't matter. (7)

The excavation noted by Authority 5 continued, revealing pre-fort features; the late second or early third century headquarters building with strongroom, and an inscription to Julia Domna; later alterations, including the re-building of the commanding officer's house, the replacement of buildings on the east side of the north end of the via praetoria and the removal of the west granary; and the post-Roman re-use of the site as a Christian cemetery. (8)
Following the completion of these excavations the position of some of the fort's internal buildings have been marked out on the pavement to the west of the Keep. (9)

Site now forms part of a scheduling which includes the tower keep detailed in record NZ 26 SE 64. (10)

Further discussions of the results of excavations since 1976, including excavations at Clavering Place and Bottlebank, Gateshead in 2000-2009 which found evidence for Roman occupation contemporary with the Fort. Publications on these investigations are forthcoming. (11)

Located on the English Heritage map of Hadrian's Wall 2010. (12)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 1:1250 1959
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Hadrian's Wall
Source details :
Page(s) : 272
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Letter (A L F Rivet, 28.10.85)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : The eleventh Pilgrimage of Hadrian's Wall, 26 August-1 September 1989
Source details : Harbottle B 'Newcastle - Pons Aelius'
Page(s) : 75-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Mark Bowden/13-OCT-1993/RCHME: Hadrian's Wall Project
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : Scheduling revised 06-DEC-2002
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Hadrian's Wall 1999-2009
Source details :
Page(s) : 83-85
Figs. : 15
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : An Archaeological Map of Hadrian's Wall, 1:25,000 scale
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Watermills and military works on Hadrian's Wall: excavations in Northumberland, 1907-13
Source details :
Page(s) : 170, 175, 188-92
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3a
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Simpson F.G., Field Notebook 1928-9
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 3b
Source : A history of Northumberland, volume thirteen : the parishes of Heddon-on-the-Wall, Newburn, Long Benton and Wallsend [...] the townships of Benwell, Elswick, Heaton, Byker, Fenham and Jesmond
Source details :
Page(s) : 501-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : vol.13
Source Number : 3c
Source : Archaeologia Aeliana : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details : (B Harbottle)
Page(s) : 79-145
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 44, 1966
Source Number : 3d
Source : Archaeologia Aeliana : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details : (B Harbottle)
Page(s) : 66
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 2, 1974
Source Number : 4
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 3: Archaeological newsbulletin
Source details : (B Harbottle and M Ellison)
Page(s) : 10-Dec
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 7, 1979
Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 RWE 08-JAN-68
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Source Number : 6
Source : The place-names of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 441
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Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 100
Monument Type : Fort, Settlement
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : Anglo-Saxon
Monument End Date : 1150
Monument Start Date : 700
Monument Type : Cemetery
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 32753
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : NZ 26 SE 19
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1007169
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 623285
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1031089
Relationship type : Is referred to by
Associated Monuments : 25076
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE GARTH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1928-01-01
End Date : 1929-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, DOG LEAP STAIRS, CASTLE GARTH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1929-01-01
End Date : 1929-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NZ 26 SE 19
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1968-01-08
End Date : 1968-01-08
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE GARTH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1976-01-01
End Date : 1983-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE GARTH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1984-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MOOT HALL, CASTLE GARTH
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1986-01-01
End Date : 1986-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: HADRIAN'S WALL PROJECT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1988-01-01
End Date : 1993-08-01
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE GARTH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1989-01-01
End Date : 1990-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BRIDGE HOTEL, CASTLE GARTH
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1995-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ST NICHOLAS BUILDING, ST NICHOLAS STREET
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1996-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BOTTLE BANK, GATESHEAD
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, MOOT HALL, CASTLE GARTH
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 1-8 WESTGATE ROAD
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2007-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FORMER BEMCO SITE, CLAVERING PLACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2008-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 1-7 WESTGATE ROAD/23-24 QUEENS LANE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31