Height of Roman Tyne fort success

IN TOUCH ... the fort, seen here during early excavations, enjoyed a line of communication south of the Tyne.
IN TOUCH ... the fort, seen here during early excavations, enjoyed a line of communication south of the Tyne.

WE all of us know and love the rise and fall of our landscape round here.

But it’s sobering to be reminded of their strategic value, militarily.

This goes back to speculation as to why the Romans chose our south side of the Tyne on which to build their fort, and not the north (especially given that the Wall ended on the north bank of the river).

I suggested it might have been because the headland here at Shields was more accessible than Tynemouth’s, with its sheer cliff face.

But John Welsh in Hebburn explains the strategy that more likely lay behind it.

Says John: “If you head towards Gateshead, which is all high ground, they had an observation post at Springwell from which could be seen all of the activity going on to the next observation post, which was at Whickham.

“It was a line of communication right down to Shields, guarding the fort.

“The Newcastle side didn’t have the height that Gateshead has.

“Have a trip up the old Roman road through White Mare Pool and Wardley, and you will see from the top of Sheriff Hill what I mean. You will be looking down on Newcastle.

“The first thing a good commander does is to make sure that he controls the land he has taken. That was the way of the Roman army.”

Well, there you go!