VercoviciumHousesteads

The Latrines
The Latrines

One of the most popular and most visited sites along the Wall, Housesteads affords some fantastic views all round and it easy to see why the Romans chose this spot to eventually build a fort. To the west are Sycamore Gap and some fine stretches of the Wall while to the east from the fort grounds the Wall extends visibly for some distance. From the car park the fort is a steady walk uphill and can be quite tough at times although it is very manageable. The pathway is made up of loose stones so be wary of turning an ankle. Decent footwear here is recommended.

Housesteads was destroyed three times, in 197, 296 and 367 AD. However, relative peace seemed to be the norm around Housesteads and the civilian settlement had little or no protection around it and certainly prospered in the late third and early fourth centuries, no doubt aided by the gate through the Wall at Knag Burn as trade flourished. This did not last much past the later third of the fourth century as the civilians were moved to the inside of the fort. Little else is known past this era.

Perhaps one of the most famous parts of any fort in the UK is found here in the south east corner of the site. It is, of course, the Latrines. It may well be the finest example of a Latrine found in Britain inside a fort. Wooden benches formed the seating area of the communal latrine and each soldier would carry a personal sponge on the end of a stick. This was used as one would use modern toilet paper today. A channel of running water ran round the central floor and the soldier would use this water to clean the sponge after use. Body waste would drop into a flowing stream of water that would eventually take it to one of the terraces to the south a hundred yards or so away and would possibly be used as manure.

The South Gate
The South Gate

A grisly discovery was made in one of the houses contained within the vicus just to the south of the fort walls. Buried underneath the flooring were the bodies of a man and a woman who had been murdered. The house has become known as ‘The Murder House’ and it was forbidden to have any burial within a settlement under Roman law.

Garrisons known at on StreetMap Streetmap Logo link to OS map

EraGarrison
Hadriancohors milliaria pedidata
Marcus_Aureliusno evidence
3rd_Centurycohors I Tungrorum milliaria, numerus Hnaudifridi, cuneus Frisiorum Ver. (Severus Alexander) †
Notitia_Dignitatumcohors I Tungrorum †
1st_NoteThe inscriptions of cohors I Tungrorum and the numerus Hnaudifridi are undated, but a third century date seems probable.
2nd_NoteA sculpture of an archer from Housesteads has been dated to the second century, with uncertain implications.
3rd_NoteThe inscription referring to mil(ites) leg. II Aug. agentes in praesidio (RIB 1583) is generally taken with RIB 1582 to refer to a garrisoning of Housesteads by soldiers of that legion, though there is no evidence when this was.