Sources for Chesters Roman Fort

The following list comprises the key material, visual and written sources for the study of Chesters Fort.

Stone plaque recording an aqueduct erected by a cavalry unit occupying Chesters Fort
An inscription recording an aqueduct built by the Second Asturians at Chesters, now in the Chesters Museum

Material Sources/Collections

Chesters Museum

The material held in the museum at Chesters comes from many sites in the central sector of Hadrian’s Wall. Reserve material and the archive from this collection are stored at Corbridge Roman Site along with the Corbridge and Housesteads archives.

The material from Chesters is well known for its inscriptions and sculptures. Outstanding among these are:

  • A headless stone sculpture of a female standing on the back of a heifer, of outstanding sculptural quality by the standards of the northern frontier zone. She is the goddess Juno Regina, consort of the sky-god Jupiter Dolichenus, who would have been depicted standing on a bull in an accompanying statue of which only the base remains.
  • An inscription recording an aqueduct (aqua adducta) (see illustration above). This is dated by the name of the governor of Britain it refers to, Ulpius Marcellus, to the period AD 178–84. The name of the cavalry regiment ala II Asturum can also be read.
  • Later inscriptions bearing the name of the ala II Asturum, such as one depicting a standard bearer, dating to AD 221–2, which reads Salvis Augg Felix ala II Asturum – ‘while the emperors are safe, the ala of Asturians is happy’.
  • Other items, as well as the usual horse harness, military gear, pottery and coins, include about 50 quern stones (on display in the Small Gallery), iron tools and other utilitarian items, which are well preserved from this site in comparison to other assemblages from Hadrian’s Wall.


British Museum

In the British Museum is the original of the Chesters Diploma, found in the south gate in 1879. This is a fine example of an inscribed bronze certificate awarding Roman citizenship to an auxiliary, honourably discharged after 25 years’ service. A facsimile is on display in Chesters Museum.

Published Inscriptions

All the inscriptions on stone are collected in the Roman Inscriptions of Britain (RIB) series:

  • Collingwood, RG and Wright, RP, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, vol 1: Inscriptions on Stone (Oxford, 1965), nos. 1448–1496 and 1142 [accessed 10 August 2016]
  • Tomlin, RSO, Wright, RP and Hassall, MWC, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, vol 3: Inscriptions on Stone 1955–2006 (Oxford, 2009), nos. 3298–3301

Each inscription has a number with the prefix RIB.

The Chesters Diploma can be found in:

  • Frere, SS, Roxan, M and Tomlin, RSO, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, vol 2: Instrumentum Domesticum, Fascicule 1 (Oxford, 1990), no. 2401.10

A fragment of a second diploma was found at the same time (RIB 2401.13). 

Published Sculpture

Coulston, JC and Phillips, EJ (eds), Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani: Corpus of Sculpture of the Roman World – Great Britain, vol 1, fascicule 6: Hadrian’s Wall West of the North Tyne and Carlisle (Oxford, 1988) [the sculptures are arranged by category, not site; use the index to locate those from Chesters]

Watercolour view of the remains of the commanding officer's house at Chesters
View of the baths in the commanding officer’s house at Chesters by Henry Burdon Richardson, painted in 1848 © Laing Art Gallery, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Visual Sources

  • C Richardson, HB Richardson and TM Richardson, watercolours, 1830s–1840s, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne) [accessed 26 Feb 2018]
  • David Mossman, watercolours, 1869, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle [one is reproduced in the 2011 English Heritage guidebook, 38]
  • Robert Blair, sketches, 1878–85, Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland Museum and Archives, Woodhorn
  • JP Gibson photographic collection, 1880s–1930s, Northumberland Museum and Archives, Woodhorn
  • Material from the former Museum of Antiquities, including photographs of 1927–9, earlier postcards and a collection of aerial photographs, Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Views on the Wall, album of photographs, undated but between the 1870s and 1890s, Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum, South Shields
  • Charles Anderson archive, English Heritage, Carlisle Castle [photographs of Ministry of Works consolidation in progress]
  • James Irwin Coates archive 1877–96, published in Wilmott, T, Hadrian’s Wall: Archaeological Research by English Heritage 1976–2000 (London, 2009), 8–49 [accessed 17 August 2012] 

Historic England Archives

Items in the Historic England Archive at Swindon relating to Chesters include:

  • photograph of the bath house changing room, probably taken in 1886, showing all seven niches containing animal bones and the floor covered with paving slabs (OP03257)
  • album of postcards, 1900–35, containing many views of Chesters (AL0226).

More details of these and many other items can be found in the online catalogue. Some material is not yet listed in the online catalogue, including a large collection of aerial photography; for a full search, please contact the search team.

Copies of images and documents can be ordered through the website or by contacting the archive. For details of current charges for these services see the archive price list.

Published Secondary Sources

Antiquarian Accounts and Early Excavation Reports

Bruce, JC, The Roman Wall, 1st edn (London, 1851) [especially 170–93]

Bruce, JC, The Roman Wall, 2nd edn (London, 1853) [especially 141–62] [accessed 17 August 2012]

Bruce JC, The Wallet-book of the Roman Wall (Newcastle, 1863) [especially 91–9ff]

Bruce, JC, The Roman Wall, 3rd edn (London, 1867) [especially 144–165]

Bruce, JC, ‘An account of the excavation of the south gateway of the station of Cilurnum’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 2nd series, 8 (1880), 211–21 [accessed 17 August 2012]

Bruce, JC, ‘On the forum of the Roman station at Cilurnum’, Archaeologia, 46 (1880), 1–8 [principia]

Bruce, JC, Handbook to the Roman Wall, 2nd edn (London, 1884) [especially 68–107]

Bruce, JC, Handbook to the Roman Wall, 3rd edn (London, 1885) [especially 83–118] [accessed 17 August 2012]

Bruce, JC, ‘Some excavations at Chesters’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 2nd series, 13 (1889), 374–8 [barracks] [accessed 4 October 2012]

Bruce, JC, Handbook to the Roman Wall, 4th edn (Newcastle, 1895) [especially 72–8 and 86–119] [accessed 17 August 2012]

Clayton, J, ‘Account of an excavation recently made within the Roman station of Cilurnum’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 1st series, 3 (1844) 142–7 [ praetorium] [accessed 17 August 2012]

Clayton, J, ‘Notes of an excavation at Cilurnum’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 2nd series, 7 (1876), 171–6 [east gate] [accessed 17 August 2012]

Coombs, H and Coombs, P, Hadrian’s Wall in 1801: Observations on the Roman Wall by Rev John Skinner FSA (Bath, 1978), 34–5

Harper, RP, ‘An excavation at Chesters, 1960’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 4 (1961), 39, 321–6

Horsley, J, Britannia Romana (London, 1732), 143–4 [main account], 215–17 [inscriptions] [accessed 17 August 2012]

Hutchinson, W, A View of Northumberland with an Excursion to the Abbey of Mailross in Scotland, vol 1 (Newcastle, 1776), 73

Hodgson, J, A History of Northumberland, pt 2 vol 3 (1840), 180–82

Hodgson, JC (ed), North Country Diaries, second series (Surtees Society 124, 1915), 232–4 [Bishop Pococke’s visit of 1760] [accessed 17 August 2012]

Hodgson, TH, ‘The “praetorium” at Chesters’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 3rd series, 4 (1909–10), 134–43

Journal of Roman Studies, 36 (1946), 134 [discovery of Turret 27A beneath the fort]

MacLauchlan, H, Memoir Written During a Survey of the Roman Wall (London, 1858), 27 [accessed 17 August 2012]

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 3rd series, 2 (1905–6), 293 [principia]

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 3rd series, 10 (1922), 216–18 [relationship between the fort and the preceding Wall ditch and with the Wall as eventually brought up to each side of the fort]

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 4th series, 10 (1945), 274

Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2nd series, 1 (1901), 84–8

General Background and Recent Developments

Bidwell, P (ed), Hadrian’s Wall 1989–99: A Summary of Recent Excavations and Research Prepared for the 12th Pilgrimage of Hadrian’s Wall (Carlisle, 1999) [especially 114–20]

Bidwell, P, Roman Forts in Britain (Stroud, 2007)

Birley, E, Research on Hadrian’s Wall (Kendal, 1961), 172–5 [overview of earlier research and of the state of knowledge in 1960]

Breeze, DJ and Dobson, B, Hadrian’s Wall, 4th edn (Harmondsworth, 2000)

Breeze, DJ, Handbook to the Roman Wall, 14th edn (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2006), 195–215, 484 [earlier editions of the Handbook contain additional details and earlier views, especially the 13th edition of CM Daniels (1978), 106–120, 332, and the 12th edition of IA Richmond (1965), 80–95, 219]

Hodgson, N, Chesters Roman Fort (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2011) [buy the guidebook]

Hodgson, N, Hadrian’s Wall 1999–2009: A Summary Excavation and Research Prepared for the 13th Pilgrimage of Hadrian’s Wall (Kendal, 2009) [especially 108–10]

Tomlin, RSO, Wright, RP and Hassall, MWC, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, vol 3: Inscriptions on Stone 1955–2006 (Oxford, 2009), nos 3298–9 [recently found inscriptions]

Whitworth, A, ‘Charles Anderson and the consolidation of Hadrian’s Wall’, in Hadrian’s Wall: Archaeological Research by English Heritage 1976–2000, ed T Willmott (London, 2009), 50–71 [accessed 7 March 2015]

Willmott, T (ed), Hadrian’s Wall: Archaeological Research by English Heritage 1976–2000 (London, 2009) [accessed 7 March 2015]

Roman Name

Fernández Ochoa, C and Morillo Cerdán, A, ‘Cilurnum and Ala II Asturum: a new epigraphic document relating to the Spanish origin of a military toponym in Britannia’, in Roman Frontier Studies 1995: proceedings of the XV International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, ed W Groenman-van Waateringe, BL van Beek, WJH Willems and SL Wynia (Oxford, 1997), 339–41 [for the suggestion that Cilurnum derives from the Cilurnigi of northern Spain]

Rivet, ALF and Smith, C, The Place Names of Roman Britain (London, 1979) [especially 307–8] 


Gillam, JP, Jobey, IM and Welsby, DA, The Roman Bath-house at Bewcastle, Cumbria, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Research Series 7 (Kendal, 1993) [measured survey of the baths]

Macdonald, G, ‘The bath-house at the fort of Chesters (Cilurnum)’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 8 (1931), 219–304 [now out of date regarding knowledge of Roman baths and identification of room functions]

Vicus and Cemeteries

Bidwell, P, Hadrian’s Wall 1989–99 (Carlisle, 1999), 116 and fig 32

Burnham, B, Hunter, F, Fitzpatrick, A, Worrell, S, Hassall, M and Tomlin, R, ‘Roman Britain in 2003’, Britannia, 35 (2004), 253–349

Hodgson, N, Chesters Roman Fort (English Heritage guidebook, London 2011), 32 [buy the guidebook]

Salway, P, The Frontier People of Roman Britain (Cambridge, 1965) 

Museum and Finds

Allason-Jones, L and Mackay, B, Coventina’s Well: A Shrine on Hadrian’s Wall (Oxford, 1985) [contains incidental discussion of the Chesters collection and the catalogue by Wallis Budge)

Clayton, J, ‘On a Roman signet-ring, representing a chariot race, found at Cilurnum in July 1882’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 2nd series, 10 (1885), 133–7

Wallis Budge, EA, An Account of the Roman Antiquities preserved in the Museum at Chesters (London, 1903) [museum catalogue (not always reliable) and biographical account of John Clayton and his archaeological career; accessed 17 August 2012]

Wilson, RJA, ‘Roman vaulting tubes (tubi fittili) from Chesters’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 31 (2002), 180–85

Wilson, RJA, ‘Roman vaulting tubes (tubi fittili) from Chesters: an addendum’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 32 (2003), 192–3

Unpublished Secondary Sources

A copy of the reports listed below should be held by the relevant local Historic Environment Record (sometimes referred to as the Sites and Monuments Record). Many of these can be searched via the Heritage Gateway website.

Anderson, FW, ‘Report on the stone finds; Chesters Roman Fort, Northumberland’, unpublished report, AML Reports (Old Series) 2738, English Heritage (undated)

Bidwell, PT and Snape, ME, ‘The Roman fort of Chesters and its environs: a survey of the extent and preservation of its archaeological deposits’, report commissioned by English Heritage Properties in Care North (1993) [contains catalogue of archives, photographs and extensive bibliography]