3D animation of Pons Aelius, the ancient Newcastle Roman Fort, presents a flurry of details


A few days ago we talked about the fascinating find of ‘stylish’ Roman shoes inside the Vindolanda fort, near the modern village of Bardon Mill, in northern England. Well this time around we have another Roman auxiliary castrum (fortified camp) in our sights, and it pertains to the ancient Newcastle Roman Fort, situated on the north bank of the River Tyne, in proximity to modern-day Newcastle upon Tyne. Also collectively known as the Pons Aelius (or Aelian Bridge), the scope entailed a fortified complex (the main castrum) accompanied by a small settlement and a bridge, near the famed Hadrian’s Wall in the Roman province of Britannia Inferior (corresponding to northern England).

To that end, a nifty 3D reconstruction of the Pons Aelius with many of the major details was concocted by the resourceful folks over at Ancient Vine. According to their description –

Situated on a hill the fort was originally built of earth and wood but later rebuilt out of stone. The Pons Aelius was a small fort by roman standards and housed about 480 auxiliary troops. It included the Praetorium and Principia (Headquarters and Commander’s residence), barracks, granaries, latrine and workshops.

Interestingly enough, the very name Pons Aelius was attributed in dedication to Emperor Hadrian, possibly when the Roman ruler paid a visit to Britain in 122 AD (Hadrian’s family Nomen or ‘clan name’ was Aelius). So from the perspective of terminology, the Newcastle Roman Fort’s bridge is possibly the only bridge outside Rome proper that was named after a Roman emperor.

Now since we are talking about the bridge, the Pons Aelius was constructed to strategically guard the important river-crossing. And with the nearby army encampment at Condercum, the Roman army stationed in the area would have had an excellent control (and commanding views) over the surrounding lands. But in spite of its strategic value, the castrum (having an area of around 1.53 acres) and the accompanying village only had a paltry population around 2,000 people, with majority being civilians. It should also be noted that while the Newcastle Roman Fort formed the eastern terminus of the Hadrian’s Wall, the wall was later extended three miles east, to account for the fort called Segedunum (present day Wallsend).


Lastly when it comes to history, the Pons Aelius was probably refurbished and reinforced by stone fortifications during the reign of the emperor Septimius Severus (circa early 3rd century AD). And before its abandonment in 5th century, the castrum was possibly occupied by the Cohors I Cornoviorum. According to some accounts, the soldiers of this Roman unit hailed from the Cornovii tribe who lived in the area around modern Cheshire. Later on the site was used by the Anglo-Saxons (as is evident from their excavated graves), while by 11th century it gave way to a wooden motte-and-bailey style castle, which was replaced by a stone castle keep in late 13th century AD.


Video Source / Image Credits: Ancient Vine

Article Source: EnglandNorthEast

3 Comments on "3D animation of Pons Aelius, the ancient Newcastle Roman Fort, presents a flurry of details"

  1. Dattatreya Mandal | July 18, 2017 at 10:49 am |

    Thank you for your comment. However the animation was created by the folks over at Ancient Vine. You can reach them here for your exact queries – http://www.ancientvine.com/ .

  2. BongoPedro | July 15, 2017 at 2:58 pm |

    Also, Pandon Burn which hits the Tyne near the current county court. Possibly where the small hamlet outside the fort walls sits at the beginning of the clip?

  3. BongoPedro | July 15, 2017 at 12:37 pm |

    This is great. Thank you very much for creating it! I wonder if a couple of points could be clarified. The physical geography of the modern city looks, to me, much higher than this. Do you know why this is so? There are three burns which I can’t see in the sequence. Ouseburn, Lort Burn and Skinnerburn. The mouth of the Lort Burn must have ran into the Tyne very close to the Pons Aelius which was sited pretty much where the Swing Bridge now sits. Might I ask why they aren’t modelled into the environment?

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