South Shields (Arbeia) 9th June 2001

Click here to see the location of the fort in modern South Shields.  The earliest structures on the site date to around 125AD, including a cobbled parade ground. These structures appear to relate to a civilian site which was probably associated with fort built in 1st century. A new fort at South Shields was built in around 160 AD, garrisoned by combined cavalry and infantry unit. It was extended in 205-207 and became a supply base for Severus' campaigns in 208-210. Most internal buildings were demolished and replaced with 13 granaries. In 222-235 a further 7 granaries were added and the supply base served the garrisons of Hadrian's Wall. In the 4th century there was a garrison of Tigris bargemen stationed in the fort who were probably responsible for ferrying supplies along the Tyne.

The fort was discovered and excavated in Victorian times and the site became a public park.  In recent times the western gateway was re-constructed on site in 1988 and currently re-constructions of the commandant's house and a barrack block are underway in the south east corner. We were fortunate to be shown the reconstructions and the latest excavations by Graham Stobbs of the Tyne and Wear Museums service.

Arb Gate2.JPG (160899 bytes)

Reconstructed West Gate

Arb View.JPG (197312 bytes)

View of the fort from the gate rampart.  Two of the large granaries can be seen in the foreground.  The buildings under construction in the background are reconstructions of a barrack block and the 4th century commandant's house

Arb Atrium.JPG (161538 bytes)

Graham shows us the atrium of the commandant's house.

Arb Peristyle.JPG (132394 bytes)

Peristyle of the commandant's house.

 Arb Triclinium.JPG (168115 bytes)

Triclinium (dining room) of the commandant's house.

Arb Wattle.JPG (130201 bytes)

Experimental wattle and daub wall.   The partitions in the barrack block will be of this construction.

Arb Graham.JPG (146044 bytes)

Graham describes the cavalry barracks which lie beneath the later granaries.  Under the flagstones there is a pit which is thought to have collected horse's urine

Arb Altar.JPG (206793 bytes)

Reconstruction of the altar at the east end of the principia.

Arb Barrack.JPG (168088 bytes)

Barrack block under construction.   We have no idea what the dowser was looking for!

For further information on Arbeia see:

Current Archaeology web article - includes detailed information on the 4th century commandant's house.

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