Britannia, by William Camden

Observations upon that part of the Picts Wall, which lies betwixt Newcastle and the Wall’s-end; in a second Journey, begun May the 25th, 1709.

Big F FROM West-gate in Newcastle,Newcastle. the Wall seems to have continued its course directly through the present Town of Newcastle to Pandon-gate;Pandon-gate. so, through a piece of ground, whereon stands the Keelmen’s-Hospital;Keelmen’s-Hospital. thence, under a House called the Red-barns,Red-barns. and so for about two miles and an half partly by the road-side (which leads to N. Sheeles) but for the greater part through delicate inclosed grounds, to its utmost period, which is nigh the town calledWall’s-end. Wall’s-end. As on the other side of Newcastle, so likewise on this, the Wall has met with the like, or rather worse, treatment, by reason of the vast improvements and inclosures that have been made; and the old Inhabitants thereabouts still tell you of vast quantities of Stones that have in their remembrance been dug out of it, and carried away to build houses, &c.See, p.1058. However the Wall it self is still very discernible, as is likewise the Vallum on the North-side.

The place where the Pagan Temple stood, at Godmundingaham,Godmundingaham. seems to be an exact semi-circle (whose diameter is two hundred and fifty or two hundred and sixty yards) being distinguish’d into a great many parts or portions, whereof some seem to be more peculiarly designed for the worship of the Idols,The Idol-Temple. the rest to be Offices or Appendices for the reception of such persons as came there to worship; and others again appear probably to have been the places where the Victims themselves were slain and offered, and where all their necessary Utensils, &c. were deposited. Subservient to this latter purpose, is a place, in length one hundred and fifty yards, in breadth twelve or fourteen, and about eight yards deep, except on the East, where from this bottom there rises a hill at least eight or nine fathom perpendicular, whence one easily surveys the whole Area, and which seems to have been more particularly set apart for the worship of the chief Idol: For this hill (as the Minister of the place, a very intelligent man, assured me) was artificial, and probably made of the rubbish which was dug out from below. This hollow and deep place seems also to have been portioned into two squares, a small space being only left betwixt them. Besides this hill, there seem to be but two other places more immediately set apart for worship, each whereof may be about sixty yards or upwards one way, and about twelve or fourteen the other. But what I call Offices, are very numerous over the whole plot, though of very different sizes and forms. As to the form, they tend mostly to a round or oval, and some few, square; but the size is vastly different, some being only six, seven, or eight yards in circumference; others again twelve, fifteen, or twenty. I was informed that good quantities of Stone had been dug out in many places, and another place was shown me, where several rows of Ashlers had been found, a course of sandy metal lying betwixt every row. This heretofore fam’d place goes now by the name of The Howes,Howes. and close adjoyning thereto on the South, is a pretty large piece of ground of ten or twelve Acres, now a Corn-field, called Chapel-Garth-Ends. The foundations of a Wall are to be seen on the North side, where it unites the two extremities of the semi-circle; but all the semi-circular part seems to have been secured by a mount of Earth.

In this compass, from Newcastle to the end of the Wall, I could observe only three of their Castles;Castles from Newcastle to the end of the Wall. two whereof were of the common size, but the last (which stands within one hundred and twenty yards of the Wall’s end) was pretty large, being from West to East about twenty three or twenty four yards long, and from North to South at least sixty. To the extremity of the South-walls whereof on either side, there evidently appeared to me to have been a double Wall or Flanker of Stone joined (though the Area within was much short of the breadth of the Castle) and thence to have been continued at least sixty yards lower down the Hill, and in all probability to the very brink of the river Tine, which is not at more than fourscore yards distance from the lowest and farthest place I could trace this Flanker to, and not above two hundred yards from the Wall it self. And this ground being at the bottom of the Hill, and withal soft and spungy, it may pretty reasonably be concluded, that the foundation of the Wall, during this long tract of time, may have sunk in, and so lie under.

From the Castle to the Wall’s-end, is (as I said) a space of about one hundred and twenty yards:Flankers of Stone. there also I observed the plain Vestigia and Foundations of a considerable Flanker of Stone, turning from the utmost point of the Wall, directly Southwards, for at least one hundred yards, in length, partly upon the top, and partly upon the declivity of the Hill. And though I could not observe it farther, by reason of the soft and spungy nature of the soil; yet I do not at all doubt but it was extended into the Tine it self, which flows but one hundred or one hundred and twenty yards lower than where I could trace it to. And to strengthen this conjecture the more, there are the evident marks of a large Vallum or Ditch, still fairly to be discerned without, upon the East side.

Between the Castle and the Wall’s-end,Wall’s-end. and upon the top of the Hill, the Inhabitants have a tradition, that the old town of Wall’s-end or Vindobala, formerly stood (though what is now so called, stands at somewhat more than a quarter of a mile’s distance to the North from the Wall it self;) and accordingly they tell you, that vast quantities of Stone have formerly been dug out of that space. The ground where the Wall is terminated, is called the Well-lawsWell-Laws. (as the Inhabitants think, from some Well that was formerly there, and which, after much endeavour, they were never able to discover) but in my opinion, from Saxon wealh or Wall, and Saxon laeswe pascuum, as if the Saxons called it the Wall-Pasture, by way of eminence; for the Inhabitants say, it is the richest ground in that part of the Country; (but it is now meadow). This seems to be the most rational Etymology of the word; unless any body had rather derive it from Saxon Vall, and Saxon hlaewe or Saxon hleaw, a rampire, or hill, in respect to the high situation of the Wall in this place, in comparison of the ground and the river below.

The Wall ended 4 miles short of the Sea. I spoke with several old people who had lived hereabouts for thirty, forty and fifty years, and upwards, and who had likewise (as they told me) spoken with others, that were long since dead, of eighty and a hundred years of age, who all unanimously agreed, that neither the Wall nor the Ditch went further than this place; nor could they ever meet with the Vestigia of them in the roads to Sheelds or Tinmouth, which lay in a direct line from the Walls-end, and were at about half a mile’s distance from the Tine. Nor indeed could I find the least appearance either of Wall or Ditch, though I sought very diligently through several fields; so that I am entirely satisfied, that the Romans thought the breadth and depth of the Tine (which is now within four miles of the Sea, and no where fordable) a sufficient security.⌉

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06