Britannia, by William Camden

⌈An Additional

Big T THE first occasion of building the Roman Wall (which now goes by the name of Graham’s Dike) was given by Julius Agricola; of whom Tacitus has left us this character, Non alium Ducem opportunitates locorum sapientius elegisse, That never did any General use greater discretion, in the choice of places. And here, particularly, he made good his claim to that Character; for, the Isthmus or neck of land upon which it was built, is not above sixteen miles over, betwixt the rivers of Forth and Clyde. So that, having fortified that slip of ground with garrisons, the Enemies were, as Tacitus has observed, summoti velut in aliam Insulam, removed in a manner into another Island.

Agricola did not build a Wall. But here, we must not imagin, that Agricola built a Wall along this tract; since neither Historians nor Inscriptions give us any reason to believe it. Tacitus only observes, that this narrow slip of ground Præsidiis firmabatur, was secur’d by Forts and Garrisons; and we may be sure, if there had been any thing of a Wall, he would not have omitted the mention of it. So that it is probable that Agricola contented himself with placing Garrisons at such convenient distances, as that the Forces might easily draw together upon the first apprehension of danger. Whether some of the Forts that are plac’d upon the Wall, were built by him at that time, or by others afterwards, is not certain; however, it seems probable that he built these following Garrisons.Elgovae

Garrisons. 1. That which is call’d Coria Damniorum, from the Water of Caron that runs near it. The neighbours thereabouts call it at this day Camelon; not that it is to be imagin’d, that this is the Camulodunum mentioned by Tacitus, (which is some hundreds of miles distant from hence) but rather the Camunlodunum, which Ptolemy makes a Town of the Brigantes, whom he places sub Elgovis & Ottadinis, ad utraque maria, below the Elgovæ and Ottadini, adjoyning to the two Seas, and sets the Town in the 57th Degree of Latitude. And indeed, the Gadeni which were placed here, were a tribe of the Brigantes, that possess’d the Country betwixt the Irish Sea and the Firth of Forth. Camalodunum likewise is thought to import the Palace of the Prince; and it may be gathered from History, that this was the Palace of the Picts. But by whomsoever it was built, the remains of the fortification, and the tracks of the Streets, are yet to be seen; and there is a Roman Military way which begins here, and runs South. In antient times, it was wash’d by the Sea; which hath been confirm’d by an Anchor discover’d near it, within these hundred years, or thereabouts. As a further confirmation of its Antiquity, they discover old Vaults, and meet with several Roman Coins about it; one particularly of brass, much of the bigness of a Half-crown, with a Shield on one side, and above it a Lion; but the Impression on the other side is not legible. Here it is, that Ptolemy places the Legio Sexta Victrix; and it seems to have been their head-quarters. Aedes The Duni Pacis are very near it; and just over against it, on the North-side of Carron-water, is the Ædes Termini.

2. The second Fort, built by Agricola, seems to have been some six miles distant to the North-west, where the Town of Sterling is now. For, besides that the narrowness of the river of Forth (which hath now a bridge over it in this place) required a Garrison; there is, upon a rock, this Inscription,

Inscribed rock

which sheweth that a Legion kept garrison here. It is most probable, that this is the Alauna of Ptolemy.

3. The third Garrison (for the out-guard of this, and for securing the tract where the river is but narrow) was plac’d about eight miles to the North-east from the second; * * See after The British Islands.and is more fully described in the Account of Thule, written by Sir Robert Sibbalds. It bids fairest for Ptolemy’s Victoria; which name it might possibly get from the Victory obtained near it, by Agricola, over the Caledonians. Roman Medals have been found at it: and not far from it, there runs a Roman military way.

4. The fourth seems to be that which Bede calls Guidi, and which he placeth about the middle of the Wall; call’d at present Kirkintil-loch, and antiently Kaerpentalloch, and situate upon the tract of the Wall. Here are still to be seen the ruins of great fortifications; and near it several Inscriptions have been found, some whereof were deposited at the house of Cadir. It is most probable, that this is the † † See Sterling.Coria mentioned by Ptolemy.

5. The fifth was, where the Town of Paisly now is; which one would imagin from the situation to be the * * See Northumber­land.Bremenium of Ptolemy.

6. The sixth was the most remote to the West; call’d at this day Dumbarton, and conveniently situate in a point where the water of Leven runneth into Clyde. But if this convenience were not testimony enough, the Inscriptions that are found in the neighbourhood, would put it beyond dispute.

The Wall. The placing of these Garrisons was probably the occasion of building the Wall afterwards along this tract. But in building, they took the directest line; which must be the cause why some of the Garrisons are at a distance from it. It seems also to have been built at different times, and by different men, as the situation of the ground required, for repelling the Enemy, and covering the Provincials against their Invasions. Bede tells us, That they made it between the two Friths of the Sea; that where the water did not secure them, there the Wall might defend them against the Incursions of the Enemy. From which we may probably infer, that first they began it where the river of Forth is narrow, and so carried it along the neck of land, betwixt the Firth of Clyde and Forth. But afterwards they found it convenient, that it should be carried farther East. The Penvahel or Penueltuin (where Bede says it begun) is call’d WalltounWalltoun. at this day; where there is an artificial Mount dyk’d about. The manner of the Wall will be more easily apprehended by this Draught of it, taken from the Papers of Mr. Timothy Pont (who had exactly traced it) and from the Observations of some others, who after him had been at the pains to describe it.


AAA. A ditch of twelve foot wide before the Wall, towards the Enemies Country.

BB. A wall of squared and cut stone, two foot broad; probably higher than the Wall, to cover the Defendants, and to keep the Earth of the wall from falling into the Ditch.

CC. The Wall it self, of ten foot thickness; but how high, not known.

DD. A paved way close at the foot of the Wall, five foot broad.

EE. Watch-towers within call one of another, where Centinels kept watch day and night.


FF. The wall of square stone, going through the breadth of the Wall, just against the Towers.

GG. A Court of guard, to lodge a sufficient number of Soldiers against all sudden Allarms.

II. The body of the Rampire, with an outer-wall of cut stone, higher than the Rampire, to cover Soldiers.

K. The Void within, for the Soldiers Lodgings.

Forts. Besides these, there were along the Wall great and Royal Forts strongly entrench’d (though within the Wall) able to receive a whole Army together. For the Wall being long, and they not knowing where the Enemy would make their attacks; it was necessary that lodgings should be provided against all occasions. In the fixing whereof, it is observable, that they did not so much look after high grounds, as places that were well-watered; but where these two concurr’d, they were sure to have a Fort.

The Forts which remain’d in Mr. Pont’s time, (who trac’d them all) were these. One at Langtown, a mile east of Falkirk; one just at the Rouintree-burnhead; one at Wester-Cowdon above Helen’s Chapel: one at the Croy-hill; a very great one upon the top of the Bar-hill (which hath had large Entrenchings, a fresh Spring, and a Well within it;) one at Achindevy; one at Kirkintilloch or Kaerpentalloch; one at East-Calder; one at Hiltoun of Calder; one at Balmudy; one at Simerstone; and over Kilvin river and Carestoun; one at Atermynie; one at Bal-castle over-against Barhill; one at Kaellybe over-against Cry-hill; one at the Roch-hill over-against the Wester-wood; a large one at Bankyir, over-against Castle Cary; one at Dumbass, &c.

In the ruins of that at Bankyir, there was found a large Iron-shovel, or some Instrument resembling it, so weighty that it could hardly be lifted by any man of this age. At the same Fort also were discovered several Sepulchres, covered with large rough Stones; and at Dunchroc-chyr near Mony-abroch, there have been large buildings.

Length, and Course, of the Wall. The length of the Wall is thirty six Scotch miles. Beginning between the Queens-ferry and Abercorn, it goes along west by the Grange and Kineil to Innereving. So on, to Falkirk (two miles west of which are the tracks of Camelon;) from whence it goeth directly to the forest of Cumernald (where hath been a great Fort call’d Castle-Cary.) Next, it runs to the great Fort at the Bamhill, where have been found several Stones, some with Inscriptions. From thence, it goeth to the Peel of Kirkintillo, the greatest Fort of all; and so Westward to Dumbarton, with a great ditch upon the North side of the Wall all along. It had also along it many square Fortifications, in form of Roman Camps.

As to the Inscriptions on or near the Wall; amongst those, one is said to have upon it these words,

Cohortis Hispanorum Tibicen Hic Jacet.

Others have been likewise found in these parts, pointing out some of the Forces that quartered hereabouts.

Inscription columnInscription angel
Inscription jigsaw piece

Philosoph. Transact. N.269. To these we will add the following Inscription, found at Castlehill, near Kilpatrick.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52