|Map of Wall from Clyde to Forth|
Layout of wall.
The Antonine wall is a world heritage site. It was built by the Romans and stretches some 39 miles from Old Kilpatrick on the Firth of Clyde through Kirkintilloch Peel Park (by the library) to Bo'ness on the Firth of Forth following roughly the course of the Forth-Clyde canal. Although called a wall, all that remains of the turf stacked into wall today is a slight rise in a few places. However, the ditch that lay to its northern defensive side still marks the landscape in in places such as Croy where cuts across the landscape and West of Kirkintilloch the ditch forms a stain across landscape that can be seen on aerial photography.
Origin of the the wall
Like much of Roman Britain, very little is recorded about the wall by the Romans who built it. Tacitus in the biography of his father in law (Agricola) written around 98AD suggests that he built the earliest fortifications along the line of the wall:
"The fourth summer (AD81) was spent securing the ground that Agricola had overrun and had the ardour of our armies and the renown of the Roman name permitted it, he would have found a frontier to our conquests in Britain itself. For Clota (the Clyde) and Bodotria (the Forth) are estuaries where the tides of two opposite seas are carried far into the country, separated by but a narrow strip of land. This narrow strip Agricola fortified and as all the country to the south was now occupied, the enemy were effectively pushed into another island."
Many of the forts have finds dateable from this period. However Tacitus does not mention a wall and so Agricola probably only built forts which were later joined together by the wall. This wall is only mentioned in a much later biography of the emperor Antoninus Pius (after whom the wall is now named) which says:
'For he (i.e. the emperor Antonine) conquered the Britains too, through the governor Lollius Urbicus, after driving back the barbarians and building a second wall made of turf'
Presumably the first was "Hadrian's wall" but the first could be another wall along the Rhine or another wall. If Lollius built the wall, we can date its construction as it must have been begun some time after the date of the earliest inscription mentioning Lollius (139AD), and before or shortly after the first coins denoting Antoninus as imperator (victorious commander in chief believed to refer to events including building the wall) which were minted in late 142AD or early 143AD.
|Wall Foundation is visible at New Kilpatrick Cemetery, Bearsden.|
Construction of the Wall
The wall was built of layered turf on a stone foundation and it would have been higher than the 4m recorded in the earliest English texts. To the north of the wall was the ditch and to the south was a road called the military way. There are 19 known forts along the root spaced approximately every two miles as well as a few smaller fortlets believed to have been spaced about every mile. The wall was abandoned around 162AD, but reoccupied and repaired in 208AD only to be completely abandoned a few years later.
The names of the forts are unknown except for Velunia which we know from a Roman inscription with this name was Carriden on Forth. As for the rest, the only inkling to names of rest is given in the Revenna Cosmography which says:
"Here are listed the stations within the said Island joined together along a straight track where Britain is at its very thinnest from ocean to ocean, they are named:
Velunia (Carriden),Volitanio, Pexa, Begesse, Colanica, Medio Nemeton, Subdobiadon, Litana, Cibra, Credigone."
Unfortunately, there are 10 names and at least 17 forts significant enough to have been named. None of the names other than Velunia can be conclusively linked to any site. However assuming that the list runs from East to West as did a similar list for Hadrian's wall, then Kirkintilloch would have been at or near Litana. Interestingly Litana is very similar to the suffix of the old name for Dunfermlin which was "Dunferme-LITANE", later written as "Dunfirm-LING". If a similar change occurred to "Litane" then it would have changed from "Litana" to "Ling" which is very close to the original name for the parish of lenzie or "Lingie". However, even if by chance Litana and Lenzie were connected, this does not tell us which of the several forts (if any) in this area might be the original Litana" although Kirkintilloch would be a candidate.
West of Kirkintilloch: From the fort at Bearsden, the line of the wall goes across country until it crosses the River kelvin at the Balmuildy Bridge where there was a Fort. The line then heads alongside the road to a fort at wilderness plantation (on the opposite site from the waste disposal site). The line then set off again across country to a fort at Cadder and there the line of the wall crosses the Forth-Clyde Canal. The line of the wall then follows the Glasgow-Kirkintilloch Road: on its North as far as the Glasgow Bridge from where it follows the same Road to the South of the Glasgow -Kirkintilloch Road where on the outskirts of Kirkintilloch there was another fort. It then when through the town to Peel Park, where there was yet another Roman fort. Unfortunately, although this site has defensive earthworks, these are from a medieval castle built on the same location. Interesting, the name "peel" clearly comes from old Scots: "peill", meaning a stockaded fort from the same origin and "pile" and "impale".
East of Kirkintilloch: The line of the wall runs just south of the Old High Street in Kirkintilloch (outside the library) and along Hillhead Road until it crosses the Forth-Clyde Canal after which the line of the wall runs along the southern banks of the canal until it crosses over to meet the Twechar road where there was another fort. It follows the Twechar road into Twechar and then up onto Bar Hill where there was yet another fort and then across country through Croy village and then onto Croy hill where there was yet another another fort.
|Rough Castle (Falkirk)||Here ditch and to a lesser extent the wall can be seen.|
|Seabegs Wood (Falkirk)||A good section of ditch, but the wall is visible only as a rise.|
|Watling Lodge (Falkirk)||A good section of ditch|
|Hillfoot Cemetery (Bearsden)||No visible ditch or wall, but there is a good section of foundation stones|
|Bar Hill (Twechar)||The ditch can be seen running along the northern edge of the fort.|
|Croy Hill (Croy)||The ditch can be traced rising up the hill.|
|Bar Hill (Twechar)||The size and shape of the fort can be discerned from
the few remains of the earthworks,
a few internal features are also visible notably the bathhouse.
Nearby is an iron age fort and the ditch of the wall is quite easy to find.
|Roman baths (Bearsden)||The foundation stones can be seen together with some raised flooring an pool|
|Hunterian Museum (Glasgow)||Many of the inscribed stones are on display|
|Peel Park (Kirkintilloch)||The later earthworks are worth a view as is the defensive position.|
By Mike Haseler