NGRef: NZ 300 660
OSMap: Hadrian's Wall, LR88.
Type: Wall Fort, Fort, Minor Settlement, Temple Or Shrine
Wall: W (3) to Pons Aelivs (Newcastle, Tyne & Wear)
River Tyne (upstream): ENE (5) to Sovth Shields (South Shields, Tyne & Wear)

Segedunum - 'The Strong Fort'

Scene overlooking the Segedunum
fort from the new viewing tower.

The wall originally started from Pons Aelius (Newcastle upon Tyne), and had reached westward as far as Cilurnum (Chesters) before it was decided to build an extension of the wall from the original terminus at the Tyne bridge a further 3½ miles eastwards to a new fort at Wallsend. Although there were four milecastles along the stretch of wall between Wallsend and Newcastle, nothing now remains to be seen, and the wall itself lies buried mostly beneath the modern A187 road. It would appear that this extension of the Wall was not backed by an equivalent continuation of the vallum.

The Notitia Dignitatum lists the name of the fort in the early fifth century as Segeduno, which could be Welsh/Gaelic in origin, derived from the words sego ('strength') and dunum ('fortified place'), the name Segedunum being translated as 'the Strong Fort'. The earliest appearance of the modern name occurs c.1085AD, when it was recorded Wallesende.

The Hadrianic Fortifications

Plan of Segedunum in the Severan period
Adapted from Roman Forts by Anne Johnson
(fig.201, p.272).

The Segedunum fort is aligned to the north-north-west and measures some 453 by 394 feet (138 x 120 metres), having a typical 'playing-card' outline which one always associates with Roman encampments, this one covering an area of 4 acres (1.65 ha). The fort, like all others on the eastern half of the Wall had its defences, gateways and corner-towers built of stone from the outset. The fort was built to house a cohors equitata, a mixed unit of 480 infantry soldiers and 120 cavalry troopers; the northern part of the fort, the praetentura, extended forward of the Wall and was occupied by six infantry centuriae, while the southern part of the encampment, the retentura, was occupied by four cavalry barracks.

Of the interior buildings during the Hadrianic period, only those in the latera praetorii or central range were built of stone; they were, the principia or regimental headquarters building in the centre of the fort, flanked on the east by the praetorium or commanding officer's house, and on the west by a double-granary or horraea. The six infantry and four cavalry barracks, together with a large structure in the south-eastern corner of the central range, were all originally built of timber. The area to the immediate north of the via principalis, the main east-west road through the middle of the fort, was taken by two long, narrow structures which ran the entire length of the road, and are presumed to be store-houses and/or workshops.

Alterations During the Severan Period

"The Second Augustan Legion (made this)."
(RIB 1308)
The Severan Valetudinarium
was provided with fresh water
along these stone channels.

During the reign of emperor Septimius Severus in the latter half of the the second century, the Wall once-again featured largely in imperial campaigns, and a large amount of re-building work was undertaken along its entire length. Segedunum had all of its barracks rebuilt in stone, a large fore-hall was added to the front of the principia in the centre of the fort, and a valetudinarium or military field hospital was built in the south-east corner of the latera praetorii next to the granaries. A large water settling tank was built just inside the west gate of the fort at this time, which was used to distribute water to the interior buildings, particularly the hospital to the south where the channels used to supply fresh water and to flush out the latrines can still be seen.

The Garrison Units

"To the god M[ars],¹ the Standard-bearers and Commander of the Second Cohort of Nervians ... of the gods."
(RIB 1303; altar base?)
  1. Mars is assumed, though the god may be Mercury.

The unit which comprised the original garrison at Wallsend is unknown, but by the end of the second century the fort was inhabited by Cohors II Nerviorum Civium Romanorum, raised from the allied states in Gallia Belgica (modern Belgium), and originally sent to Britain with Petillius Cerialis in 71AD, along with five other Belgian cohorts. A sculpted slab bearing a dedicatory inscription from the unit was found to the west of the fort.

"For Jupiter Best and Greatest, the Fourth Cohort of Lingones, part-mounted, while being instructed by Julius Honoratus, centurion of the Second Augustan Legion, willingly and deservedly fulfilled their vow."
(RIB 1299; altarstone)

The Nervian cohort was replaced by the third century with Cohors IV Lingonum Equitata, another part-mounted unit also numbered among the substantial Belgic auxiliary force of Cerialis, and listed as the fifth century occupants of the fort in the Notitia Dignitatum. See also the altar to Jupiter (RIB 1300) below.

Tribunus Cohortis Quartae Lingonum Segeduno
"The tribune of the Fourth Cohort of Lingones at Segedunum"
(Notitia Dignitatum xl.33; 4th/5th C.)

The Gods of Segedunum

Iovi Optimo Maximo

"For Jupiter Best and Greatest, Aelius Rufus, Prefect of the Fourth Cohort of Lingones (made this)."
(RIB 1300; altarstone)

Apart from the altar dedicated to Jupiter Best and Greatest shown above, very few religious inscriptions on stone have been recovered from the Wallsend fort. The only other altar is missing the name of the god, and an altar base mentions building restoration but the dedication has again not survived; both of these are shown below.

"...typum with colonnaded-hall and a sanctuary, Gaius Julius Maximinus centurion of the Sixth Victorious Legion has made in accordance with a vow."
(RIB 1305; altar base)
"... ... the Prefect Didius Severus, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 1301; altarstone)

The Wall's Eastern Terminus

An 80 metre section of Wall
just to the west of the fort
under the trowel in 2000.

The Wall from Newcastle abuts onto the south-western side of the fort, at its porta principalis sinistra, where the gate itself opened out onto the north side of the Wall. The Wall was also continued from the south-eastern corner tower of the fort a further ¼ mile to the River Tyne where it was extended into the stream down to the low-tide level. It is thought that a monumental statue of the emperor Hadrian himself once adorned the very end of the Wall at Segedunum, perhaps placed so as to face ships arriving at the busy port which nestled within the protective walls of his great fortification, and impressing upon their passengers who it was that built it.

The Civilian Settlement

A minor civilian settlement is evidenced in the angle between the Wall and the fort, which continued for a short stretch westwards alongside the river, a Roman quay has also been confirmed in the immediate area between the wall extension and the south-east defences of the fort. Evidence of a Roman bath-house, in the form of flue-tiles and fragments of pilae, have been found in the area of the 'Ship in the Hole' public house outside the south-western defences of the fort.

Segedunum Today

Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum
Admission Charged Car Parking Cafeteria Facilities for the Disabled Variable Opening Hours Information Available Site Museum
The Segedunum museum and visitor centre at Wallsend opened in June 2000 and is an absolute 'must-see' for anyone visiting in the north-east of England. The site is only two hundred yards south of the Wallsend Metro Station, and is dominated by a 34 metre high viewing tower which overlooks the fort from the east, from which there are superb views of the whole of the Roman camp. The remains of the interior buildings have been delineated and augmented by modern paving and coloured gravel, revealing the plan of the fort as it was in the Severan period. The site also includes the only reconstructed Roman bath-house in Britain, which is based on the plan of the Roman baths at Chesters, adapted to fit within the confines of the Wallsend heritage site. The viewing gallery in the tower includes a superb computer-generated animation of the entire lifetime of Segedunum, from 1AD to 2000AD. There is a reconstructed section of Hadrian's Wall about one hundred yards west of the fort on the opposite side of Buddle Street from the museum entrance. The reconstruction overlooks a short stretch of the Wall itself, which was being excavated and examined by archaeologists when we visited in August 2000. For those wanting more information on the history of the site there is a well-presented, 60 page guide-book available from the site-shop, and also a dedicated website (see below).
The aspect across the praetorium to the viewing tower opened in June 2000.

The Official WebSite
This place is highly recommended, a definite 10/10.

The Segedunum Museum has been awarded a place on the list of the world's top 10 museums, chosen by a panel of international experts.

Segedunum Bibliography

See: Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989);
Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) p.45;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own. Togodumnus

Segedunum Related Lynx

Historical Note

When the Swan Hunter shipyard was being built at Wallsend, several yards of the foundation of the wall were unearthed, and some of it subsequently travelled several times around the world in a glass display case aboard the ocean liner Carpathia, which was among the first vessels launched from here. Togodumnus

Link to maps of the area from: StreetMap Old-Maps MultiMap

Roman Name

Ravenna Cosmography: Serduno

Page Citation: Kevan White (2018) "Roman Britain: SEGEDVNVM - WALLSEND"