Devil's Causeway

Roman Road

The Devil’s Causeway is a Roman road in Northumberland, in North East England. It branches off Dere Street north of Corbridge and can be traced through Northumberland for about 55 miles (89 km) north to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The Devil’s Causeway is a Roman roadway that is thought to pre-date Hadrian’s Wall. It started at the Portgate, slightly north of Corbridge (Corstopitum), where it branched off the Roman Dere Street (A68 road) as it continues north into Redesdale on its way to Caledonia. The Devil’s Causeway continued to near the mouth of the River Tweed at Berwick-Upon-Tweed and the Tweedmouth Roman Fort, where it was used to support a presumed military port.

The road passes by Great Whittington, then north-east to Hartburn, where just to the west it crosses the Hart Burn, a tributary of the River Wansbeck.

After Netherwitton, the road passes to the west of Longhorsley. It continues east of north until it crosses the River Coquet east of Brinkburn Priory, where it starts to head west by north, passing the western edge of Longframlington. North of Longframlington the road touches the A697 road, then crosses it before passing west of Edlingham. Near the village of Whittingham, there was a Roman fort at Learchild (Alavna), from here a road (Margary 88) headed west to meet Dere Street at Bremenium (High Rochester). Just north of the fort, the road re-crosses the A697 before passing Glanton and reaching Powburn.

At Powburn the A697 follows the course of the Devil’s Causeway to cross the River Breamish and stays with it for 2 miles (3.2 km). The Roman road then heads west by north, passing Newtown, Northumberland, before crossing the River Till just before Horton. At Horton the road continues as a C road for 7 miles (11 km) past Lowick.

The village of Lowick can be found in the northern part of Northumberland, 470 feet above sea level, about 9 miles (14 km) south of Berwick-upon-Tweed and 7 miles (11 km) north-east of Wooler. The ancient road used by the monks of Lindisfarne to Durham crosses the Devil’s Causeway here – it was at this crossroads that Lowick began to develop.[4]

The road then passes through Berrington, before heading towards Tweedmouth and the mouth of the River Tweed.

Which Roman Troops Patrolled the Devil’s Causeway?

Less than 1 mile (2 km) to the east of the Portgate is the Roman fort of Onnum, also known as Halton Chesters. It is probable that the Causeway was patrolled by a cavalry unit based there.

The fort at Halton Chesters was built across the line of the wall facing north, halfway between milecastles 21 and 22 about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) east of Dere Street.

RIB 1429 - Building inscription of the Sixth Legion

The Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis built this.


No commentary.

A dedicatory slab from the west gate of the fort tells how the Sixth Legion were responsible for the initial building work but does not give the name of the original garrison.

Later Garrision of Halton Chesters

The original Hadrianic fort was rather squat in outline, almost square, measuring some 440 feet north-south by 400 feet east-west, with an area of just over 4 acres (c. 134 x 122 m; 1.6 ha). It is likely, but not proven, that the Hadrianic unit was a cohors quingenaria equitata, an auxiliary force containing a nominal five-hundred men, approximately half of whom were mounted. Units of this type have been identified at many wall forts, and would have been ideally placed here, the infantry contingent to guard the Fort and Wall, and the cavalry to patrol along Dere Street and the Devil’s Causeway to the north.

A monumental slab roughly dateable to the third century was found at Halton Chesters bearing an inscription which links Ala Sabiniana with Onnum. The inscribed slab is now held at Trinity College, Cambridge. The alterations made to the fort in the Severan period were probably due to the replacing of the original garrison by Ala I Pannoniorum Sabiniana, the first cavalry regiment on the Wall, a five-hundred strong unit raised in Pannonia (modern Hungary). This unit would require more barracks and stables than the original part-mounted garrison, and the south-western extension of the defences more than likely served this purpose.

RIB 1433 - Fragmentary funerary inscription

…, a Norican tribesman, aged 30 Messorius Magnus, his brother, duplicarius of the Sabinian Cavalry Regiment, had this set up.

[...] C

Birley (Festschrift für R. Egger i 180) assigns this to the first half of the third century.A duplicarius, duplarius or duplaris was soldier receiving twice the basic rate of pay, in particular the second-in-command of a turma

The presence of Ala Primae Pannoniorum Sabiniana would also explain the new cross-hall fronting the Principia; this could have been used to assemble the officers when they were mounted on horseback, which would have been impossible in the Principia itself, where the days orders were traditionally issued. The The Notitia Dignitatum confirms that the same regiment was retained at Halton Chesters through to the beginning of the fifth century.


Sites near Devil's Causeway