NGRef: NY 721 660
OSMap: LR87
Type: Hadrianic Wall Fortlet, Camp, Milestone
Military Way: W (0.75) to Great Chesters (Great Chesters, Northumberland)
Military Way: E (4.75) to Vercovicivm (Housesteads, Northumberland)
Probable Trackway: S (0.25) to Haltwhistle Bvrn (Northumberland)

Hadrian's Wall Mile Castle 42 - Cawfields

N.G.Ref Dimensions Area
NY 7157 6669 63 x 49 ft
(19 x 15 m)
c. 0.07 acre
(c. 0.03 ha)
Milecastle 42 from Cawfields Crag

The Cawfields Hadrianic mile castle is certainly one of the most photogenic on the entire length of Hadrian's Wall, especially when viewed from the limestone stack of Cawfield Crag just to the south-west. The siting of this milecastle shows the inflexible mindset of the Roman military, as its northern gateway opens out onto the vertical face of Cawfields Crags, whereas there is a natural crossing of the limestone ridge at Hole Gap just a few yards to the west of the site.

The Cawfields Milecastle
from the Military Way to the south-east

The milecastle measures 63 feet from east to west by 49 feet north-south (19 x 15 m) giving an occupation area of only 0.07 acres (0.03 ha). It was built with 'broad-wall' ramparts 8 feet (2.4 m) thick, even though the Wall hereabouts is only 6 feet (1.8 m) in width; this has been taken to mean that the milecastle was built in the original intended guage before the wall was built, and when the Roman engineers came to build the barrier wall through the Cawfield area the decision had been made to reduce the thickness of the rampart wall, presumably to save both time and effort.

Hadrian's Wall Looking East
just to the east of Milecastle 42
Hadrian's Wall and Milecastle 42
looking west from the same spot

Temporary Marching Camps near Cawfields

There are ten kbnown temporary marching camps in the Cawfields area; one north of the Wall at Cawfields itself, four just to the south of the Vallum at Haltwhistle Burn, another two at Markham Cottage to the south-west, another about ½-mile to the south-east near the Stanegate at Milestone House, and two others forward of the Wall to the north-west at Burn Head and Chesters Pike. In addition to these temporary camps there is also a small fort on the Stanegate at Haltwhistle Burn about ¼-mile south of the Wall.

Milestones from the Military Way Near Cawfields Milecastle #42

There are no entries in the R.I.B. for the Cawfields milecastle itself, but a couple of inscribed Roman milestones have been uncovered along the line of the Roman Military Way about 220 yards to the ESE (see below). Both of these inscribed stones now reside in the Chesters Museum, while a third uninscribed Roman pillar still lies in situ on the Roman Military Way just south of the Cawfields milecastle.

Milestone of Emperor Numerianus
"For Imperator Caesar [Marcus Aurelius] Numerianus¹ [Pius Felix Augustus], our emperor."
(RIB 2307; dated: 282/283AD)
  1. Numerian was the younger son of the emperor Carus who came to power following the sudden death of his father in July or August 283. He was murdered by the praetorian commander Lucius Flavius Aper in November 284 whilst travelling in his litter across Asia Minor to the Bosphorous.
Milestone of Severus Alexander
"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander Pius Felix Augustus,¹ High Priest, holder of tribunician power for the second time, consul, Father of his Country; during the administration of Claudius Xenephon,² pro-praetorian legate of the emperor, eighteen thousand paces [of road was built]³."
(RIB 2306; dated: 222/223AD)
  1. These are the full names of the emperor Severus Alexander (or Alexander Severus), who was adopted by emperor Elagabalus in 221AD and succeeded him in March 222 aged only 13. He was made consul for the remainder of 222 and was granted tribunician power for the second time in December that same year. He was murdered at Bretzenheim in March 235, only 26 years old, but having reigned as emperor for half of them.
  2. Claudius Xenephon was pro-praetorian governor of Britannia Inferior during 222/223AD.
  3. Presumably to/from somewhere 18 (Roman) miles along the Roman Military Way. The only known Roman establishment fitting this criteria is the Portgate, which lies almost 19 miles to the east near the fort at Halton Chesters. There is nothing remarkable situated a similar distance to the west.

Cawfields Bibliography and Lynx

See: Roman Camps in England - The Field Archaeology by Welfare & Swan (HMSO, London, 1995);
Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton & Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984);
Hadrian's wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (OS, Southampton, 1989);
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain - Vol.1 - Inscriptions on Stone by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

This page is dedicated to Tony Price - Fanx for pointing out the deliberate stupid mistake.

Link to maps of the area from: StreetMap Old-Maps MultiMap
Page Citation: Kevan White (2018) "Roman Britain: CAWFIELDS"