Campaign launched to shape West of Scotland's largest Roman relic

DON'T USE UNLESS YOU HAVE PERMISSION FROM HISTORIC SCOTLAND (Note by GF) Antonine Wall: You can have your say on the future of the Roman wall.
Antonine Wall: You can have your say on the future of the Roman wall.CROWN COPYRIGHT REPRODUCED COURTESY OF HISTORIC SCOTLAND

Hadrian’s Wall is considered by many to be the definitive barrier which was built by the Romans to keep us pesky Scots out of their empire. We were too much trouble, it seems.

But around 100 miles north of Hadrian’s, stretching 40 miles across central Scotland from Old Kilpatrick in the west to Bo’ness in the east, sits the remains of another of Rome's attempts at keeping Caledonia caged.

The Antonine Wall was built in 142AD, around 15 years after Hadrian’s Wall, to help encourage trade and diplomacy between those in Scotland and Roman England.

It only lasted for around 20 years before the Romans retreated back to Hadrian’s. Academics aren't sure about the historically hasty retreat. Some believe it was a wall, rather than a bridge, too far.

Now a campaign is being launched to help raise its profile and celebrate its role in the history of Roman Britain.

“In around 142 AD, the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius decided that he wanted to expand the frontier into Scotland,” said Patricia Weeks, the Antonine Wall coordinator who is in charge of a new public consultation into the future of the world heritage site.

“Antoninus’ predecessor Hadrian never quite managed to do this. But after about 20 or 30 years, Antoninus was dead and the Romans pulled back to Hadrian’s Wall.

“Scotland was the most northerly frontier at the height of the Roman empire, which stretched across to modern day Holland, the Middle East and into North Africa.

“The Antonine Wall is the largest and most important Roman monument in Scotland and was there for military defence but also to control who was going in and out.

“Between the period of Hadrian’s Wall being built and the Antonine Wall being built, what we see is a lot of political engagement. The Romans are working with the tribal chiefs to pay bribes and send lot of Roman goods north. The Romans launched a charm offensive.”

The Antonine Wall trails through North Lanarkshire and Glasgow on its journey through central Scotland. Croy Hill, between Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, sits on the remains of one fort while a stretch of the historical site can be walked for about five miles between Castlecary and Croy.

In Glasgow, the Summerston fortlet is one of the remains of the Antonine, while many of the exhibits which relate to the site are housed in the Hunterian Museum.

There are other Antonine attractions across central Scotland ,including Roman baths in Bearsden and a well preserved stretch at Watling Lodge, Falkirk.

Miss Weeks said: “The wall was built by three Roman legions based in Scotland. The guys who were in those legions were not from Britain.

“The Roman empire moved their soldiers around to try and prevent rebellion. The soldiers building the wall probably came from North Africa, from Europe.

“It would have been quite a culture shock for them to arrive at the wall.”

Now, led by Historic Scotland, North Lanarkshire, Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, and West Dunbartonshire councils are getting involved in a series of projects to make sure its cultural importance isn't lost forever.

And Historic Scotland is asking the public for its input in shaping that push.

Miss Weeks added: “The wall runs through the heartland of Scotland. There are lots of people affected, and now this is a chance for you to tell us what is important.

“Does it need better signing? A visitor centre? This is the chance to tell us your vision.

“We are going to try and encourage people to walk as much of the wall as possible, work more with local businesses and create tourism.

“We also want to improve research of the wall by working with our fellow 'Frontiers of the Roman Empire' world heritage sites, Hadrian’s Wall and the German Limes.”

There are other Roman sites dotted across Lanarkshire.

Castle Hill, near Abington, Crawford, and Dolphinton in South Lanarkshire have the remains of Roman roads, while Castledykes Roman Fort is near Ravenstruther. The Moss Park Heritage Centre in Biggar also contains a series of displays from the area’s Iron and Roman ages.

The next public event regarding the future of the Antonine wall takes place on Wednesday, November 28 between 2pm and 5pm. Booking a place is advised.

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council said: “The Antonine Wall is a marvelous asset for Lanarkshire and Scotland and we would encourage everyone to go to the workshop to help develop the management plan.”

The Glasgow event is at The Lighthouse on Tuesday, November 20 between 5.30pm and 8pm.

Similar sessions will be held in Kirkintilloch, Old Kilpatrick and Falkirk in late November. For more information, check out Historic Scotland’s website

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