Archery and gladiator battles set for annual fair at Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields

Youngster Erin Gatt, nine, has a go at archery at last year's South Tyneside Roman Festival.
Youngster Erin Gatt, nine, has a go at archery at last year's South Tyneside Roman Festival.

Visitors of all ages can try their hand at archery and watch gladiators battle at the annual Arbeia Roman Fort spring fair.

Taking place on Saturday, April 6, the Roman Spring Fair will kick off the new season at the South Shields historic venue.

Arbeia in South Shields was taken over by gladiators as visitors flocked to the last year's South Tyneside Roman Festival.

Arbeia in South Shields was taken over by gladiators as visitors flocked to the last year's South Tyneside Roman Festival.

It will feature costumed historical performers and historical tents on the fort site at the Lawe Top, a World Heritage Site.

Visitors can also take part in other activities like belly dancing at the free event.

And for the first time, the museum will welcome well-behaved dogs.

Event organiser at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums Cheryl McCarrick said: “The Historical Combat Company always bring a riot of colour and character to Arbeia for the Roman Spring Fair, this year’s going to be great.

“We can’t wait to welcome back visitors after the winter season.”

The museum now has new digital interactive screens in the galleries which means people can delve into richer information about the finds on display.

There is also a new scale model of the full size Roman Commander’s house is in situ for children – and grownups - to explore.

The gallery improvements mark the end of the first phase of the larger redevelopment plan, funded by DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

This has seen developments of the site’s interpretation and access through South Shields.

The museum and unique Roman reconstructions now open for the season and the summer event programme is filling up with regular tours, live music and more gladiators and Roman markets later on in the year.

Inhabited for 300 years by Romans, Arbeia has a rich history - from the supply base for Hadrian’s Wall to Roman Emperor Septimius Severus’s HQ for the Scottish invasion to the birthplace of Northumbrian King Oswin.

Arbeia is the only site in Britain to have a range of in situ reconstructed Roman buildings and is home to the largest collection of objects from any Roman site in northern Britain.

Arbeia, South Shields’ Roman Fort is open until Monday, September 30.

It is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, Saturday, from 11am to 4pm and Sunday, from 1pm to 4pm.

Entry is free and donations are welcome.

Arbeia Roman Fort is managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums on behalf of South Tyneside Council.