Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mapping Hadrian’s Wall

The earliest itineraries of Hadrian’s Wall are the enamelled pans (the Rudge Cup, the Amiens patera, and the Staffordshire Moorlands/Ilam pan) listing the forts at the western end, soon followed by the list of officials ‘per lineam Valli‘ in the Notitia Dignitatum. However, as William Shannon shows in his book Murus Ille Famosus, the earliest proper map is probably an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon one, showing the British Isles with a crude line and a corrupt caption that may once have read ‘murus pictis‘.

Horsley Wall map extract

Generalised maps of varying quality proliferated in the 16th century but a significant development came with the publication of John Horsley’s Britannia Romana in 1732, which included a map of the Wall made for him by George Mark. This was the first serious attempt at a survey of the Wall. Soon after, the decision to build the Military Road from Newcastle to Carlisle led to a survey of the proposed line by Campbell and Debbeig in 1749. The two known surviving copies include a detailed record of the remains of the Wall, including what may be the first attempt at an elevation drawing of the curtain wall (from a section west of Harlow Hill which, ironically, would soon be destroyed by the construction of the road itself). Both Horsley’s text and the Military Road survey appear to have ‘informed’ the derivative publication by John Warburton of his Vallum Romanum in 1753.

MacLauchlan’s survey of Birdoswald

In the 19th century, the Duke of Northumberland commissioned Henry MacLauchlan to prepare a detailed survey of the Roman Wall, which included several site plans (like that of Birdoswald, seen here). MacLauchlan wrote his Memoir (published in 1865) to accompany the overall plan of the Wall and it was sufficiently highly thought of to be used in several editions of Collingwood Bruce’s Handbook to illustrate the course of the monument and can still be purchased from various outlets as an attractive historic print. Its publication more or less coincided with that of the Ordnance Survey’s First Edition series of one-inch and six-inch sheets.

Via Mapping Hadrian’s Wall | Per Lineam Valli