Day out to Hadrian's Wall
Heather Ballantyne.

Friday 10th September saw the first Orton & Tebay Local History Society day out. The trip, arranged by our programme organiser Wendy Higgins, was a coach trip taking us all to Hadrian’s Wall. First was The Roman Army Museum situated on the line of the Wall, this makes a convenient and informative stop situated between Greenhead and Walltown Quarry. Here we saw Roman artefacts and watched the film “The Eagle’s Eye”. The Eagle’s Eye film was produced in 2002 for the Roman Army Museum and is a virtual guided tour of the Carvoran to Vindolanda section of Hadrian’s Wall complete with virtual reconstructions.

We moved on to Vindolanda. The Roman army appears to have occupied the site of Vindolanda from around AD 85 after the Governor, Agricola.

The Romans called the place ‘Vindolanda’, as many documents and an inscription confirm, perhaps because they were turning into Latin an existing native name, thought to mean ‘white lawns’ or something similar. The fort guarded the central section of the vital east to west supply route, known now as the Stanegate, and when the Wall was built some 40 year later, Vindolanda took its place between Housesteads and Great Chesters as a Wall fort. The early forts were built in timber, and required replacement every seven to eight years, even if there was no change in garrison, and the fifth such fort was constructed early in Hadrian’s reign.

Occupation was almost continuous until the end of Roman rule in the beginning of the fifth century. In the fifth and sixth century Vindolanda was still occupied, as were several other Wall forts, as what passed for government tried, successfully, to keep out the Picts from the north.

Archaeologists exploring the earliest levels have to excavate down to four metres in places, because the Romans constructed at least ten forts on the site, some larger than others. It is slow and expensive work, much assisted now by numerous specialists, and after many years of work, it is estimated that it will take at least another 150 years to complete the examination of Roman Vindolanda.

Part of the Excavations

Temple built in the gard en
In 1831 the Rev. Anthony Hedley, the first excavator of Vindolanda, built Chesterholm in the valley below the Vindolanda site as a beautiful home for his family. In 1974 the buildings and garden were purchased to house the ever growing Vindolanda collection and become its research base, and since then, numerous extensions have been built

After being allowed 2 hours to explore this vast site and museum, Joseph Jackson came to tell us about the life and times of the population at Vindolanda.

Now to make our way back but not before a stop at Lanercost Priory. The Augustinian Priory of Lanercost stands in a peaceful and atmospheric position in the lush wooded valley of the River Irthing. The priory was founded in 1166 by Robert de Vaux, Lord of Glisland in the reign of King Henry II. It was constructed from stone taken mainly from nearby Hadrian’s Wall and was completed by 1220.

During the end of 1306 and the beginning of 1307 Lanercost became a royal palace when Edward I who was then 67 became ill while travelling and he had to stay for 5 months at the Priory. The King with Queen Margaret and about 200 noblemen, doctors, bodyguards and servant had to be accommodated at the expense of the Priory . This disrupted the monastic life but the King was too ill to be moved to Carlisle until March 1307, and he did not pay for his keep as it was considered an honour to house the Royal Party . These five months almost bankrupted Lanercost Priory.

Henry VIII then finished  the priory with the Dissolution of the Monastries in  the 1530s. but luckily for us. Lanercost still required a parish  church and the nave of the priory church had been used as such for 200 years -so it seemed to make sense for this to continue.

Those of us that visited the priory ruins found it a peaceful place 

Priory Church Crossing

Tomb of Lord Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Dacre

Tomb of Charles Howard 10th Earl of Carlisle
This terracotta effigy is of  Elizabeth Dacre Howard, who  died when she was four months old on 17th July 1883. She was the daughter of  George and Rosalind Howard.

The south side of the cloisters held the refectory and under this was a place for storage of food and drink.
This is a wonderful feature with a large fireplace in the south wall which was known as the warming room, the only place where the canons were allowed to keep warm in front of the fire.
So much to see here but not enough time.
A few of us also visited the village hall. This was once  where the Dacres entertained in style. It formed the west side of the cloisture but what we see now is only half of  its original length . The hall itself is impressive but one  of its most interesting features is the tantalising traces of wall paintings on the north wall. This shows a griffin which would have been on one side of the Dacres' coat of arms.
Now we moved onto the parish church with  the statue of Mary Magdalene in its niche high above the west entrance. The day we visited we were met with  a  fantastic  display of flowers with perfume to match. The church itself has been restored many times . In the 1870s the architect C. J .Ferguson was involved in its restoration. (He was the architect for St. James' Church Tebay.)  He gave Lanercost  walls stripped of plaster new pews and a new organ and blocked the entrance into the precint.
Through the east window you can see the old ruins of the priory. These three painted glass windows were taken from “the Dining Room in the Abbey House” and were inserted into the east window at the time of the 1740 restoration. In the north-west corner of the church the three stained glass windows were designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris's company.         

By William Wailes, 1864. The upper panel depicts our Lord appearing to Mary Magdalene, the middle panel Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the lower panel the sacrificing of the whole burnt offering
The second of three windows in the Priory that were designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and executed by the William Morris Company in 1912 (sixteen years after William Morris's death). It depicts the burial of Moses.

This was a wonderful day out enhanced by Wendy's  fantastic knowledge keeping us all informed about the history of the areas we travelled through.