Tuesday, July 20, 2010

History under our feet

I missed Gateshead's cabinet meeting this morning as I had a meeting in Tynemouth with Professor Norman McCord. We were meeting to discuss the Roman fort at Washingwell, near Whickham. I am doing some research on the fort and wanted to speak to Norman about it as he was the person who discovered it, back in 1970.

Norman was also one of my lecturers at Newcastle University and we meet as a group of historians every few weeks to discuss history, foreign travel, food and the occasional bit of politics over dinner. Norman's discovery of the Washingwell Roman fort was the first evidence that suggested the early Roman frontier was south rather than north of the Tyne (where Hadrian's Wall runs). What interests me is the Stanegate, the road that linked the frontier defences. Before Norman's discovery of Washingwell, there was no evidence for the Stanegate east of Corbridge in Northumberland. Washingwell suggests the Stanegate ran right through Whickham. No one knows the route, but I have my own ideas.

Washingwell has not been excavated and was only discovered from crop marks captured in ariel photos. A couple of surveys of the site have been carried out but not a great deal was found. Anyway, Norman and I talked about the historical issues relating to the site and agreed that I will be back in a couple of weeks to interview him on camera.

The point is that there is a vast amount of history under our feet, much of which we know nothing about. And under the feet of my constituents is evidence of a major Roman road and, speculatively, a Roman settlement. It would be great to discover them.

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