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Historic England Research Records

South Shields Roman Fort

Hob Uid: 26402
Location :
South Tyneside
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : NZ3650067900
Summary : The site of the Roman fort was first occupied by a Middle Iron Age round house, this was overlain by late Iron Age plough marks. There may have been a fort near the known site from the Flavian period, though this is only conjectural. The visible stone fort was built circa AD 163, though there appears to have been reduced occupation in the late 2nd century. Around AD 205-7 the fort was extended and converted into a supply base; the principia was also rebuilt and a dividing wall separates the base. The garrison is the Fifth Cohort of Gauls. From AD 222-35 the dividing wall was demolished, the supply base enlarged, and a new principia built on a different site. In the late 3rd/early 4th century AD the fort was destroyed by fire; a new principia was built, some of the granaries were converted into barracks, and a new courtyard house was built, the garrison was the Numerus of Tigris Bargemen. From the mid-4th century AD there are widespread minor alterations, the fort's supply base function may have ended and a church may have been built in the forecourt of the principia, this is indicated by the discovery of a table altar. In the post-Roman period the southwest gate was isolated after circa AD 400 with a ditch, then restored to use when a wooden arch was inserted into the gateway. Occupation appears to have continued into the fifth century AD, though the removal of the upper stratigraphy by ploughing and Victorian archaeologists makes any definite interpretation impossible. The fort may have been recorded in Anglo-Saxon records as Caer Urfa and been a royal residence, though how much Roman fabric survived is debateable. A gate and part of the wall have now been rebuilt.
More information : NZ 3667. Arbeia - South Shields (Roman Fort) (1)

(NZ 36506794) At the Lawe, South Shields, excavations have completed the plan of the Severan supply-base (see plan). Sixteen granaries and two barracks have been located and a total of four barracks and twenty-two granaries can be inferred. Conversion of the granaries into living quarters is now dated to early in the 3rd century. Hadrianic and Antonine barrack blocks were found underlying the granaries, with their fabric partly incorporated in the later buildings. The SW gate had a single portal between projecting towers and was of one build with the wall of Hadrianic date. Pottery of the latter half of the 4th century or early years of the 5th was most abundant, although no contemporary structure was encountered. There was no trace of pre-Hadrianic occupation of the site, nor of violent destruction at any period. (2)

Name 'ARBEIA' accepted for 4th. edition R.B.Map.

The Roman Fort at South Shields (probably built around AD 128 to guard the mouth of the River Tyne) is of similar dimensions to Housesteads Fort and measures 186m (620ft) by 108m (360ft) enclosing an area of 2 ha (5.1 acres). The defensive system consisted of a stone wall (2.4m (8ft) wide) with a gateway in each of its four sides, backed by a turf rampart and fronted by two V-shaped ditches. Remains of barracks or stables, storehouses, headquarters buildings and granaries have been found. In AD 208 the frontage of the fort (which had previously faced north was changed, a new headquarters building facing south was built, and the north gate partly blocked. After Severan's Scottish campaigns the fort reverted to something like its former use and many of the granaries were turned into living quarters. In AD 222 a new water supply was installed. The fort, probably deserted from the end of the 3rd century until sometime in the 4th century, was occupied by Tigris Bargemen at the end of the 4th century and it probably went out of use soon after this. (3)

NZ 36476792. The fort is mainly as described and planned by authorities 2 and 3 though excavations have now revealed the north tower of the west gate; the north west angle tower, the north gate and part of the east wall and south east angle tower (see illustration). Excavations in 1977-8 have also exposed part of the south east corner and angle tower and several buildings of a southern extension of the fort which has been provisionally dated (a) to about 160 AD. The earlier fort measured 143m north west /south east by 112m transversely and the later extended fort was 186m north west - south east by 112m. This extension was only fronted by a single V-shaped ditch. There is no visible evidence of any of the ditches to be seen now. Published Survey (1/1250) revised. (4)

A full account of the excavations between 1875 and 1975 was published in 1979. A summary of the chronological conclusions was as follows:-
Period I - First half of Hadrian's reign, small cohort fort facing south; reduced garrison during Roman occupation of Scotland.
Period II - Early in the reign of Marcus Aurelius; fort reoccupied and possibly enlarged, axially, southwards. Internal buildings largely rebuilt.
Period III - Latter part of the reign of Septimus Severus possible enlargement now if not before; fort largely rebuilt internally as supply-base for Severan campaigns in Scotland.
Period IV - Severus Alexander; fort reoccupied by a cohort; headquarters building rebuilt facing south; many granaries converted to living quarters.
Later Third Century - Evidence for non-military activity within the defended area and neglect of defences; cohort probably removed and place taken by occupants of now abandoned vicus.
Mid-Fourth to Early-Fifth Century - Evidence for increased use of site though little of new structures; garrison: Numerus Barcariorum Tigrisiensium (5).
Further excavations on the defences between 1977 and 1981 have been described in detail by Miket (6).
A Bronze object 14.8cm in length, with a domed head supported by a flanged cup with ridging at the neck, from excavations at the fort in 1977, has been identified as a Roman surgical instrument (4). Arbeia - Roman fort at South Shields (7). (5-8)

NZ 365679. South Shields. Roman fort listed under Roman remains. Scheduled no. 2. (9)

NZ 365 679 South Shields Fort
A second phase of excavation began in the 1980s and has continued each year since. A short interim report of each years' excavation can be found in `Britannia', details of which are listed.
Additional references. (10-20)

The excavated remains of the fort were mapped from air photographs from 1984, 1989, 1993 and 2001. Much of the fort wall with towers and gates was recorded along with granaries and the possible headquarters building (principia). Several different phases of construction have been recorded, with features overlapping each other. Vertical air photographs from the 1940s show a few indistinct parch marks and earthworks in an area of open ground over the fort but the rest of the fort is covered with a landscaped park and housing in the 1940s. (22)

A discussion of the 1999-2009 excavations results. (23)

Located on the English Heritage map of Hadrian's Wall 2010. (24)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Roman Britain : historical map and guide
Source details : Ordnance Survey Map of Roman Britain 3rd Edn 1956
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : The journal of Roman studies
Source details : (J P Gillam)
Page(s) : 177
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 57, 1967
Source Number : 10
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 277
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 15, 1984
Source Number : 11
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 268
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 16, 1985
Source Number : 12
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 332
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 17, 1986
Source Number : 13
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 315
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 18, 1987
Source Number : 14
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 431-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 19, 1988
Source Number : 15
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 272-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 20, 1989
Source Number : 16
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 315
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 21, 1990
Source Number : 17
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 232
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 22, 1991
Source Number : 18
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 267-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 23, 1992
Source Number : 18a
Source : The catalogue of small finds from South Shields Roman fort
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : no.2
Source Number : 3
Source : Arbeia Roman fort, South Shields
Source details : Arbeia Roman Fort (pamphlet) Tyne and Wear Council Council Plans
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 19
Source : Rural settlement in the Roman north
Source details :
Page(s) : 125
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 19a
Source : Roman forts of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD in Britain and the German provinces
Source details :
Page(s) : 93, 288, 289
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 20
Source : Current archaeology
Source details : 'The Tigris Boatmen Lived in Luxury' (P Bidwell and S Speak)
Page(s) : 283-7
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 116, 1989
Source Number : 21
Source : Excavations at South Shields Roman fort, volume 1
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 22
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR NZ 3667/31 (4900/23) 22-DEC-1989
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 23
Source : Hadrian's Wall 1999-2009
Source details :
Page(s) : 61-72
Figs. : 05-Oct
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 24
Source : An Archaeological Map of Hadrian's Wall, 1:25,000 scale
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ISS 10-OCT-78
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4a
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : R Miket (Keeper) Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum, South Shields, Plan
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Archaeologia Aeliana : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details : (L Allason-Jones)
Page(s) : 239-41
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 7, 1979
Source Number : 6
Source : The Roman fort at South Shields : excavations 1875-1975
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : no.1
Source Number : 7
Source : The Roman fort at South Shields: excavation of the defences 1977-1981
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : The place-names of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 256
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9
Source : Ancient Monuments Board for England, 25th Annual Report 1978
Source details :
Page(s) : 72
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Round House (Domestic)
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 128
Monument Type : Fort, Gate, Tower, Wall, Granary, Building
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Structure
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 333
Monument Type : Church, Altar
Evidence : Conjectural Evidence, Find
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : Anglo-Saxon
Monument End Date : 1066
Monument Start Date : 450
Monument Type : Settlement
Evidence : Documentary Evidence

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : TW 2
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Tyne & Wear)
External Cross Reference Number : 914
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Tyne & Wear)
External Cross Reference Number : 915
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : NZ 36 NE 4
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 26425
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1031047
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 26504
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 26405
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1407116
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 26499
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 26407
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, SOUTH SHIELDS (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1875-01-01
End Date : 1877-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, THE LAWE, SOUTH SHIELDS (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1933-01-01
End Date : 1933-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ROMAN REMAINS PARK (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1949-01-01
End Date : 1950-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BEACON STREET, SOUTH SHIELDS (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1959-01-01
End Date : 1959-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BEACON STREET, SOUTH SHIELDS (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1960-01-01
End Date : 1960-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, PEARSON STREET, SOUTH SHIELDS (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1961-01-01
End Date : 1961-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BARING STREET, SOUTH SHIELDS (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1962-01-01
End Date : 1962-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, THE LAWE (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1966-01-01
End Date : 1966-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BARING STREET/GREEN'S PLACE (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1970-01-01
End Date : 1970-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SOUTH SHIELDS (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1975-01-01
End Date : 1975-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SOUTH SHIELDS (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1977-01-01
End Date : 1981-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NZ 36 NE 4
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1978-10-10
End Date : 1978-10-10
Associated Activities : Primary, SOUTH EAST QUADRANT, SOUTH SHIELDS, (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1995-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAWE TOP WATER MAIN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SOUTH SHIELDS (ARBEIA)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: HADRIAN'S WALL WHS MAPPING PROJECT, NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2002-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 67 BARING STREET, SOUTH SHIELDS
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2002-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SOUTH SHIELDS (TIME TEAM)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2004-01-01
End Date : 2004-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ARBEIA STREETLIGHTING
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2007-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 197 ROMAN ROAD
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2007-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ARBEIA ROMAN FORT
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2008-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, THE LAWE, SOUTH SHIELDS
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2015-01-01
End Date : 2015-12-31