When you stay at Willowford Farm, Hadrian’s Wall starts on the doorstep.
Initially, it is believed that the Wall from Willowford westwards was built of turf. Hadrian ordered it to be rebuilt in stone in AD122 and it stood firm for around 300 years until the fall of Rome. After that it fell into ruin, helped by looters taking the dressed stone to build farms and houses. Over time the Wall collapsed into more of a mound that was slowly covered with earth and vegetation. Nearly 1600 years later the mound at Willowford Farm was excavated to reveal one of the longest unbroken stretches of Hadrian’s Wall remaining, which at places still stands 8ft high and includes the remains of two turrets.
Where the Wall meets the River Irthing in our bottom field, the impressive remains of a Roman bridge can now be seen. The design of the bridge and the sheer size of the stones used is testament to the Romans’ great engineering skills, as well as their manpower. In our top field, the Romans built a camp, probably during the construction of the stone Wall, whose foundations are still clearly visible.
It is thought that the stone Wall was built in about 6 years by groups of men organised in cohorts and posted to a specific section of the frontier. In the wall of our byre is a stone engraved by the chief stonemason for this section of Hadrian’s Wall, Philipus of the Fifth Cohort.