Notes: Located in South Shields the site has ‘unusual’ opening times for a museum. It is strongly recommended you check the timings before travelling. Despite being worthy of an entry free, none is charged.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Extensive reconstructions of a Roman Gatehouse, Commanding Officer’s House and Barracks (including a variety of interpretations of the internal layout). The layout of the fort, as modified throughout the Roman era, is visible and a small museum is also on the site.
A crucial logistical hub that sustained the troops garrisoning Hadrian’s Wall and the military operations of emperor Septimius Severus in his invasion of Scotland in the third century A.D. Today the fort boasts impressive reconstructions of Roman military buildings.
HISTORY OF ARBEIA ROMAN FORT
There is some evidence to suggest that a fort existed near the site of Arbeia around the time of construction of Hadrian's Wall (A.D 122) but it has not yet been located and probably was on a slightly different location than the 'current' fort. Arbeia itself was built by the Sixth Legion (Legio VI Victrix) probably circa-AD 160 to support the re-occupation of the Hadrian's Wall after abandonment of the Antonine frontier. Although conforming to the standard Roman 'playing card' layout associated with Roman forts it was clearly a supply depot from the start due to the large number of granaries within the walls - whereas a normal fort would have one or two (to hold sufficient supplies for the garrison for a year) Arbeia originally had many more.
The first written reference to the fort is not found until the early-third century AD where it is described as a supply fort used to support the Severan campaigns in Scotland (AD 208-11). Following the death of the emperor, Arbeia once again shifted focus towards logistical support for Hadrian's Wall with an enlargement of the fort and the adding of seven new granaries in AD 222-35 enabling the fort to act as a depot for the inland forts.
Known as Arbeia this name is thought to have originated from a Latin phrase meaning 'place of the Arabs' - almost certainly a description of the garrison at some stage during the Roman occupation. However, like many forts in Britain, it would have predominantly been garrisoned by troops from Northern Europe and in the latter days of the Roman occupation of Britain (third of fourth centuries) the troops used may well have been British. Occupation of the fort continued after the Roman withdrawal from Britain circa-AD 410 but, without the skills inherent in a full time/trained military force, the fort fell into a state of decay.