Hadrian's Wall - Milecastle 42 - Cawfields

Hadrian's Wall Milecastle

The Cawfields Hadrianic mile castle is certainly one of the most photogenic on the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall, especially when viewed from the limestone stack of Cawfield Crag just to the south-west. The siting of this milecastle shows the inflexible mindset of the Roman military, as its northern gateway opens out onto the vertical face of Cawfields Crags, whereas there is a natural crossing of the limestone ridge at Hole Gap just a few yards to the west of the site.

The milecastle measures 63 feet from east to west by 49 feet north-south (19 x 15 m) giving an occupation area of only 0.07 acres (0.03 ha). It was built with ‘broad-wall’ ramparts 8 feet (2.4 m) thick, even though the Wall hereabouts is only 6 feet (1.8 m) in width; this has been taken to mean that the milecastle was built in the original intended guage before the wall was built, and when the Roman engineers came to build the barrier wall through the Cawfield area the decision had been made to reduce the thickness of the rampart wall, presumably to save both time and effort.

Temporary Marching Camps near Cawfields

There are ten known temporary marching camps in the Cawfields area; one north of the Wall at Cawfields itself, four just to the south of the Vallum at Haltwhistle Burn, another two at Markham Cottage to the south-west, another about ½-mile to the south-east near the Stanegate at Milestone House, and two others forward of the Wall to the north-west at Burn Head and Chesters Pike. In addition to these temporary camps there is also a small fort on the Stanegate at Haltwhistle Burn about ¼-mile south of the Wall.

Milestones from the Military Way Near Cawfields Milecastle #42

There are no entries in the R.I.B. for the Cawfields milecastle itself, but a couple of inscribed Roman milestones have been uncovered along the line of the Roman Military Way about 220 yards to the ESE (see below). Both of these inscribed stones now reside in the Chesters Museum, while a third uninscribed Roman pillar still lies in situ on the Roman Military Way just south of the Cawfields milecastle.

RIB 2307 - Milestone of Numerian

For the Emperor Caesar Numerian, most noble Caesar.

N [.] C

Lines 2 and 5 have traces of an earlier text; in l. 5 it is possible that avg has been altered to n[.]c R.P.W.Numerian, while Caesar, A.D. 282-3.

RIB 2306 - Milestone of Severus Alexander

For the Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander Pius Felix Augustus, pontifex maximus, in his second year of tribunician power, consul, father of his country, under the charge of Claudius Xenephon, emperor’s propraetorian legate, 18 miles.


The milestone belongs to a series along the Military Way, south of Hadrian’s Wall. The nearest junction to which the 18 Roman miles (26.6 km.) may be measured seems to be Portgate, 20â…• Roman miles (29.9 km.) to the east, where the Military Way joins Dere Street. For a discussion of this see Wright, loc. cit. R.P.W.Severus Alexander, 10 Dec. 222-9 Dec. 223. See RIB 2299, where the governor’s name is spelt as Xenophon.

Map References for Cawfields

OS National Grid Reference: NY 7157 6669
Dimensions: 63 x 49 ft (19 x 15 m)
Area: c. 0.07 acre (c. 0.03 ha)

References for Cawfields

  • Roman Camps in England – The Field Archaeology by Welfare & Swan (HMSO, London, 1995);
  • Hadrian’s Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton & Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984);
  • Hadrian’s wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (OS, Southampton, 1989);
  • Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain – Vol.1 – Inscriptions on Stone by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);

Roman Roads near Cawfields

Military Way: W (0.75) to Great Chesters (Great Chesters, Northumberland) Military Way: E (4.75) to Vercovicivm (Housesteads, Northumberland) Probable Trackway: S (0.25) to Haltwhistle Bvrn (Northumberland)


Sites near Hadrian's Wall - Milecastle 42 - Cawfields