Building In South Shields, Tyne And Wear
A reconstruction of a gatehouse and buildings on the original foundations of the Roman buildings.
A roman walks into a bar, holds up 2 fingers and says “I'll have 5 beers!”
Once you're finished tittering, let us introduce to you to the Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields. Situated in the middle of a housing estate and only a five minute walk from the seafront, it is the most extensively excavated Roman military supply base in the Empire.
You might be thinking this is in pretty good shape for someone that is nearly 2,000 years old, and you would be right, as this is actually just a reconstruction of what the West Gate would have looked like. There aren't many places in the country where you can see buildings like this brought to life.
The original Arbeia fort was built in AD160 by the Sixth Legion and as it was right next to the North Sea, then it was perfect for offloading supplies from the large ships for distribution inland and also there to protect the main sea route to Hadrian's Wall.
There was a headquarters in the middle, two granaries down the sides and a Commanding Officer's house with barracks and workshops in the quadrants. The first garrison stationed here contained 500 cavalry recruited from what is now modern day Hungary.
Between AD 222 and AD 235 an additional seven new granaries were added and remained occupied throughout the rest of third and fourth, until the romans left Britain in the 5th century.
It was rumoured that the fort continued to be occupied and was the birthplace of the Northumbrian King Oswin. However without the expertise of the Romans looking after the place, it fell into disrepair.
In the 1870s the site was first excavated and then 100 years later in 1970 all modern buildings were cleared from the site. Following that in 1986, the West Gate, barracks and Commanding Officer's house have been reconstructed on their original foundations to showcase what it would have looked like back in the day. This is pretty much what you see now.
If you're wondering where the name Arbeia came from, it's Latin for 'place of the Arabs' and relates to the regiments in South Shields being recruited from the middle east.
It is managed by Tyne and Wear Museums and is free entry. There is also a museum to visit and you can climb to the top of the West Gate.
Contributed by Simon Hawkins
Thanks for checking out this place on the Fabulous North! I do enjoy a wander out in to the countryside trying to find hidden gems that not many people know about. You can't beat a rogue Pele tower up a remote hill or a mysterious stone circle or a stunning waterfall secluded in a forest.
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