A hidden section of Hadrian’s Wall was recently unearthed during routine groundworks at Fenham, Newcastle.
The discovery was made by workers from Northumbrian Water, who were conducting a mains replacement on West Road, on the outskirts of Newcastle city centre.
Built in AD 122, Hadrian’s Wall stretched 73 miles from the North Sea to the Solway Firth and marked the furthest limit of the Roman Empire.
Unearthed on the northern edge of the main trench, the section of wall was excavated and cleaned by Archaeological Research Services, who had been commissioned to carry out a watching brief.
The 3m-long section of wall was formed of rectangular and square dressed sandstone blocks. The inclusion of a single large granite block likely represents a later repair.
The wall comprised two courses of stone that were bonded together using a mixture of clay and small, irregular sandstone fragments.
According to analysis of the deposition and composition of the remains, it is likely that the section formed a part of the southern face of Hadrian’s Wall, and was erected during the earliest phases of its construction.
Commenting on the discovery, the team from Archaeological Research Services said in a statement: ‘We were very aware, before the watching brief began, that we had a high chance of encountering the wall during the groundworks as its route along the West Road in Newcastle is fairly well documented. The wall has already been found in various locations nearby and is visible above ground level.
‘However, it is still always exciting when a new, undocumented section is encountered as we never really know how well the wall has survived and whether there will be anything to see below-ground at all.’
Following its analysis, the wall was covered over with sand and a protective sheeting to preserve it in situ beneath the road.
In order to resume the mains replacement, a revised and rerouted trench was excavated with a buffer of 0.6m around the stonework.
With the structure now safely reburied, the recorded data will help reconstruct the layout of this important slice of Hadrian’s Wall.