Keys to the Past

Glossary

Milecastle

A military base built in connection with Hadrian's Wall. These were (usually) regularly spaced at every Roman mile giving the name. At some points, such as the eastern section of Hadrian's Wall this is uncertain. These fortifications acted as based for small garrisons - though to be part of the larger cohort units.
Milecastles usually had two gateways; one, to the north, and one to the south through which a drain passed to remove effluent. Both gateways would have substantial doors in, beneath possible small raised parapets with battlements. Good examples of the gateways can be seen at Milecastle 37 (Housesteads, Northumberland). Above the gateways were inscribed stones to the Roman emperor giving the details of the legion building party. Some of the gateways can never have been used for they overlook cliffs, e.g. Milecastle 42 (Cawfields, Northumberland). Internal buildings would have included barracks, latrines and possibly a small stable.

There are varying forms of gateway and milecastle dimensions, which in the absence of other evidence have been used to suggest the legion builders. Outside of the gateways causeways allowed passage across the northern ditch and the Vallum. In the turf-wall sector of Hadrian's Wall the base of the walls were turf, though supplemented by the use of timber for the buildings and battlements. The milecastles have conventionally been number east to west for convenience.

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