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Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum

Also known as Vercovicium


Featured Location Guide


Said to be the best preserved Roman fort in Britain. One of the 12 forts added to the Wall in about 124AD. It was designed as an auxiliary fort to contain a garrison (2 cohorts) of 800-1000 men and later also some cavalry. There are large sections of wall in each direction, with good views. However note that the fort is a long uphill walk from the car park.

Its said that initially it has an unknown double sized auxiliary cohort, and a detachment of legionaries  (professional roman soldiers who signed up for 25 years), from legio II Augusta. Later in the third century, cohorts I Tungrorum plus numerus Hnaudifridi and the cuneus frisiorum, the first of these still being there in the 4th century.  By 409AD the Romans had withdrawn.

Its roman name Vercovicium means 'the place of effective fighters'.

The fort was built in stone in 124AD, two years after Hadrian's Wall,  and overlaying the north, covering over the original broad wall foundations and turret 36B, the remains of which are within the fort.

The overall layout of this fort changed little, although rebuilding occurred several times and particularly the northern defensive wall was prone to collapse and modifications to buildings occurring.

What is on display represents examples from different time periods. The curtain wall, with turrets and 4 twin towered gateways can be seen, together with a headquarters building, a commanders house, granary, barrack block, hospital, latrines and more. More humps and bumps show unexposed areas. A civilian settlement was on the south and west of the fort.

The west gateway


Part of a barrack block

The commanding officers house

This position has no natural water supply, and several large stone lined tanks can be found within the fort. It is assumed these were used to store rainwater, but its also possible that there were springs further down the hill that supported the civilian population and bathhouse, as well as a supply that could be taken up to the fort. At the site you see south of the fort a round wall and a deep well, this is later than the roman period, but perhaps there is a roman well still to be discovered.

Aerial photo by Simon Ledingham used with permission. Previously on www.visitcumbria.com

The image above shows the layout well. You can see the wall around and the four gateways.  We are looking towards the south east, the wall comes from the bottom right and goes away to the west in the top right. The most prominent building in the bottom right is the barrack block, to the left of this, more like an outline, is a store room, with a bath house more distinct near to the gateway. Above the barrack block is granaries, and less distinct to its left is the Headquarters building. The larger building to the left again is the commanding officers house. Above the headquarters building is the hospital. At the extreme left just within the wall you can see the latrines, and outside the wall some parts of the civilian settlement.

Above the north gate (right of image) and to the right of the  granaries you can see the remains of turret 36b and the wall that was her before the fort. You can also see where the towers were on the perimeter wall.

Aerial photo by Simon Ledingham used with permission. Previously on www.visitcumbria.com

This second aerial photograph shows the fort in relation to the wall and landscape. The wall comes from the bottom right and goes off along the ridge to the top right. The walk to Milecastle 37    is through the woodland beyond the fort.

From the first aerial photograph above you can see the outline of a number of buildings that have not been uncovered and this site may have much more to tell us yet. Both the Multimap Google  aerial photos show additional ranges of buildings under the surface.

Geophysical surveys have shown there to be field systems to the west of the fort, and a large settlement with the south enclosed by ditches and a vallum.

A bath house has a also possibly been found.

Later the site was redeveloped and used as base for bandits.

You used to be able to walk west along the wall to to Milecastle 37, which is not far away, but the route is now blocked so that you have to go out of the pay area around the wall and back up the hill to reach a point you can get onto to wall. Likewise the route of the wall path comes either along the wall of the path to the south, until you get near the fort, then there are new steps down the wall to the north allowing a walkway past the fort but no access to it, to continue the walk along the wall. This has been done for revenue reasons and as the number of people walking the wall is small compared to the inconvenience to visitors, it would have made more sense to have left this open and relied on the honesty of most visitors walking the wall to pay if they were not members of either the National Trust or English Heritage. In practice many visitors climb the fort walls in and out to save the trek down hill and back up twice.

Remains of pillars, that was a part of the headquarters building.

See also the gallery for many more images.

Further information Grid



Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum, Northumberland

Ceremonial County: Northumberland

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Multimap     Google 


Hadrian's Wall Route Guide

Best Times to Visit:

There are a lot of events here, check events page   avoid if you want to see the fort remains well, or choose if these events offer more attractions to you. Events include Roman centurions and other units.





Other useful websites:

EH  (corrected) NT  TR 

Wikipedia  Geograph

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

Roman Frontiers    

Hadrian's Wall  

Hadrian's Wall - Featured Places



Planning Grid


Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

On the side of the B6318 west of Walwick and Chollerford.


A ten minute (they say) steep uphill walk from the car park, it took me longer.


Car park at bottom hill by road,  pay and display run by National Park.


WC in buildings by car park/road nothing on the fort, snack at museum by pay area and cafe by car park.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Views, fort remains

What to take:

Just remember you have to carry whatever you take up that long uphill walk, it will be easier if you take less with you.

Nature highlights:

I assume you may see wildlife, the day I attended there was an event on and very many people






01434 344363 

Opening times:

April-Sept 10am-6pm, Oct to Mar 10am-4pm


FREE to both English Heritage and National Trust members.

Adults 4.80, Concessions 4.10, Child 2.40, no family tickets.

Photo Restrictions:

None I saw

Other Restrictions: None I am aware of
Special Needs Access: There is an alternative parking area up a track behind the museum part way up the hill, but being realistic this is not a site for anyone who cannot walk. The walk up from the car park is steep and quite long, its the only point while visiting and photographing Hadrian's Wall that I found difficult and would think twice before deciding to do it again.
Special Needs Facilities: No facilities for anyone at the fort or the museum. Disabled Toilets at the car park by the road.
Children Facilities: There are no major risks to children at the fort, but the walk to  Milecastle 37  can involve, but need not, a walk along the top of the wall with a very steep and deep drop down the north side.
Dogs Allowed: Dogs on lead (some areas restricted)

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By:  Keith Park   Section: Roman Key:
Page Ref: Housesteads_Roman_Fort Topic: Roman Britain Last Updated: 05/2010


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