The iconic 73-mile long monument which marked the northern most frontier of Rome’s empire is a World Heritage Site and runs through some of Britain’s most stunning and desolate countryside in Northumberland.
Now it is hoped what could be the biggest community archaeology project to ever take place in the region will see more than 500 people getting involved in excavations, events and research into the eastern section of the wall from its starting point at Wallsend in North Tyneside heading as far west as Hexham and Corbridge.
The scheme organised by Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) has been awarded an initial £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help develop the idea. A further £410,000 is now being sought by TWAM from the HLF towards the three year £550,000 project.
Its aim is to uncover details about the lesser-known parts of Hadrian’s Wall, including large sections hidden under modern buildings and roads.
Paul Bidwell, senior manager at TWAM Archaeology,explained: “It’s well known that the wall begins at Wallsend and stretches for 73 miles to the West. But how many people know that there are the remains of a Roman fort in Benwell, or that Newcastle’s Westgate Road follows the route which Hadrian’s Wall once took through the city?
“Through this new project, we want to get people from the region involved in finding out more about the history of Hadrian’s Wall in the North East, and how it shaped the region as we know it today.
“This will be the biggest community archaeology project which has ever taken place in the region. We hope that people will be able to develop new skills, take part in excavations and research, and ultimately find out more about one of our region’s most important historic sites.”
He added that the eastern section of the wall is an under-exploited resource where there has been little involvement by local communities.
The main areas of interest will be the surrounds of the Roman forts at Wallsend and Benwell, and also the search for where the Roman Stanegate road from Corbridge to Carlisle crossed the North Tyne.
Road, utility and development works have found the wall along the Fossway, Shields Road in Byker and Throckley in Newcastle, where Roman defensive pits which contained sharpened wooden entanglements were discovered.
Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “We at the Heritage Lottery Fund are pleased to support Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums and bring their vision for Hadrian’s Wall a step-closer to reality.
“There is still work to be done in developing the project but we will be offering our full support in taking their application further.”
Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum in South Shields, Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum in Wallsend and the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle will play host to a range of talks and events.
Arbeia and Segedunum are both Roman forts which were built at the same time as the wall. Meanwhile, the Great North Museum: Hancock is home to the largest collection of Roman finds relating to the wall.
Martin Williams, principal trading and development manager at TWAM, said: “Over the next six months we will be consulting with local communities to find out how they can become more actively engaged in the heritage of the wall. We will also be approaching other funders in the region and farther afield to ensure the project can go ahead as planned in autumn 2012.”