History

 

The first fortification at Halton was a Roman fort built as part of Hadrian's Wall by the Sixth Legion (Legio VI Victrix) around AD 122. Known as Onnum, it was one of seventeen such outposts that straddled the Wall and was situated between the forts at Rudchester (Vindovala) and Chesters (Celunno). It was configured in the normal playing card layout - rectangular with rounded corners - and enclosed around four acres. Three of its four main gates provided access to the north of the Wall. Dere Street, which ran through a dedicated gate less than a mile to the west, was the main road north and it seems likely the garrison at Halton was a mixed infantry/cavalry Regiment in order to patrol this route.

 

Halton Fort was substantially upgraded circa AD 208 with a large extension being added to the south-west quadrant. The change was implemented currently with the campaigns of Emperor Septimius Severus who sought to pacify the Picts north of the Wall. The enlargement to the fort was probably implemented when a 500 strong cavalry Regiment, the First Sabinian Wing of Pannonians (Ala I Pannoniorum Sabiniana), was assigned to Halton probably to patrol Dere Street. The fort remained occupied until the early fifth century AD when Roman control of the province broke down

 

A fortified manor house was established at Halton in the thirteenth century by John de Halton possibly replacing an earlier settlement. The focal point of his property would have been a stone hall surrounded by a barmkin (curtain wall). Re-using the ample supplies of dressed stone from the former Roman Fort, it is probable the defences were constructed at some point after the outbreak of the First War of Scottish Independence (1296-1328) in response to Scottish raids across the border. Such an attack seems to have led to Halton being briefly abandoned in favour of Sewingshields Castle in the early fourteenth century perhaps currently with the attacks on nearby Aydon Castle in 1315 and 1317. Halton was restored however and the earliest surviving reference to the site, dated 1382, describes it as 'Halton fortlet' which was owned by Robert de Lowther.

 

When Robert died the castle passed to William Carnaby. A Scottish attack on Halton in 1385, in which William was captured, probably prompted construction of the pele tower but it was certainly standing by 1415. Like the earlier barmkin, this four storey rectangular structure was built from stone plundered from the Roman fort. Early in the fifteenth century the Carnaby family added a manor house connected to the north side of the tower. Halton passed to John Douglas in 1695 and the the following year he demolished the manor house and replaced it with a new Jacobean style wing. It remains in use as a residence with no public access.

 

Bibliography

 

Bates, C.J (1891). Border Holds of Northumberland. Andrew Reid, London.

Breeze, D.J (2002). Roman Forts in Britain. Shire Archaeology, Oxford.

Dodds, J.F (1999). Bastions and Belligerents. Keepdate Publishing, Newcastle.

Embleton, R and Graham, F (1984). Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans. Newcastle.

Emery, A (1996). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, Vol. I. 1300-1500. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Geldard, E (2009). Northumberland Strongholds. London

Graham, F (1977). Old Halls, Houses and Inns of Northumberland. Newcastle.

Hugill, R (1939). Borderland Castles and Peles. London.

Jackson, M.J (1992). Castles of Northumbria. Carlisle.

Moffat, A (2009). The Wall. Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh.

Pevsner, N (1957). Buildings of England: Northumberland. Penguin, London.

Salter, M (1997). The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland. Folly Publications.

What's There?

Halton Castle remains a private residence with no public access but the tower can be seen from the public road/right of way. Halton Chesters Roman Fort, which now only exists as slight earthworks, is also visible from the public footpath. Aydon Castle is approximately one mile to the south.

Halton Chesters Roman Fort. The earthworks of Halton Chesters Roman Fort, which was one of the outposts on Hadrian's Wall, can be found just to the north of the castle. When originally built the fort was configured in the standard 'playing card' layout and probably housed a part-mounted garrison. Around AD 208 this unit was replaced with a fully mounted Regiment prompting the expansion of the fort. A bath house was added within the fort's perimeter in the late third century which was unusual as normally as such facilities were outside the walls due to the risk of fire.

Halton Castle. Originally an unfortified manor, the outbreak of the First War of Scottish Independence in 1296 led to the addition of defences. The tower itself was added in the late fourteenth/early fifteenth century.

HALTON CASTLE

and HALTON CHESTERS ROMAN FORT

Halton Chesters Roman Fort, also known by its Latin name of Onnum, was built around AD 122 as one of the many outposts along Hadrian's Wall. Centuries after its abandonment, its stone was robbed to build Halton Castle in order to defend the medieval manor against growing lawlessness following the outbreak of the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Getting There

The site of Halton Roman Fort is found on the B6318. Hadrian's Wall path runs through the site and a further public right of way runs south to Halton Castle itself. However there is no vehicular access or parking nearby so visitors arriving by car should consider combining a visit with nearby Aydon Castle which offers parking facilities.

Halton Chesters Roman Fort

NE45 5QA

55.010830N 2.005914W

Halton Castle

NE45 5PH

55.005082N 2.006123W

Aydon Castle Car Park

NE45 5PJ

54.993149N 1.999643W