Film ID:
NEFA 11398

THE LIVING WALL

1974

Visitor Tabs

Description

A Tyne Tees Television documentary co-produced with Border Television in which author and journalist Hunter Davies gives a personal walking tour of Hadrian's Wall from Wallsend in the east to Bowness on the Solway Firth in the west. Originally transmitted on 10 June 1974 the film looks at the history of Hadrian's Wall and the people who live and work around the wall today.

The programme begins by showing sheep climbing over a section of Hadrian's Wall. There are various general views showing the wall within the rural landscape.

Close-ups of a Roman coin with an imprint of the Emperor Hadrian, and a map of Great Britain showing Londinium in the south and roads leading north to Corstopitum and Luguvialum on the edge of Caledonia. An image of Roman soldiers fighting appears followed by Hadrian's Wall, crossing east to west

(Titles over aerial view showing Hadrian's Wall crossing the rural landscape and people walking beside it.)

Title: The Living Wall

Title: A Personal View of Hadrian's Wall by Hunter Davis

Hunter Davis walks along a terraced street in Wallsend heading towards Swan Hunters shipyard. As he crosses a junction, a woman walks past. As he continues along the street a number of cranes can be seen in the distance.

General views of cranes, ships and men at work inside Swan Hunters. A number of workers are asked about Hadrian's Wall. A few don't know anything while another knows about it as it ends just outside his office. General view of an office block in the shipyard with Hunter Davis standing on a raised pathway above a section of grey stone and plaque. This marks the end of Hadrian's Wall.

Two small children sit on the edge of a cobbled street; washing hanging on a line in the near distance. A line of cobbles marks out the edge of the roman fort of Segedunum. General view of the exterior of a working mens' hostel under which lies the remains of the roman fort. A number of men stand around outside the building including a bearded younger man smoking a clay pipe.

Hunter Davies heads west away from the shipyard along a different terraced street. The film cuts to aerial views firstly showing Swan Hunters shipyard followed by the centre of Newcastle and the bridges crossing the Tyne.

Walking along the West Road out of Newcastle, Hunter Davies approaches a 60 yard section of Hadrian's Wall just of the road and beside a number of suburban semi-detached houses. He walks along the wall and talks about its construction and describes how it would have once been over 15ft high with a parapet. Nearby are the remains of a turret built into the wall. General views of Hunter walking around the remains, discussing how it would have looked and how it fitted into the rest of the wall.

Travelling shot west along the Military Road outside Heddon-on-the-Wall. Walking along the side of the road is Hunter Davies who says the wall runs underneath the road. Coming to a stone wall he looks over into a ditch which was part of the wall construction. On the south side of the wall he walks through undergrowth and down into a Roman earthwork called a vallum which has a flat bottom and earth banks on each side.

The film cuts to an aerial view of the River Tyne running through the rural landscape of the North Tyne Valley.

Hunter Davies walks around the bridge abutment crossing the North Tyne at Chesters Roman Fort. He sits over a bollard, once hung with chains. A carving of a phallus, a Roman symbol for good luck, is cut into a stone embutment.

On the other side of the river visitors walk around the Roman bathhouse. Hunter Davies gives a guided tour of the bathhouse and talks about the many rooms inside the buildings and the various activities that took place there. Visitors to the bathhouse listen to Davies' tour.

General views of tourists looking around Chester Roman Fort. People are seen walking through a number of gates while workmen hammer in fence posts. People walk along a pathway leading to a building, possibly the visitor centre.

Two miles from Chesters Roman Fort Hunter Davies arrives at Limestone Corner, the most northerly part of the wall. Large whinstone boulders are scattered around an unfinished Roman ditch. Hunter meets Thomas Edwards who is looking at a wedge hole cut into one of the boulders. These, he says, were hammered in to help slit the rock. They continue to talk about both Limestone Corner and Hadrian's Wall in general. Mr Edwards talks about his admiration for the Romans for helping to bring about both law and hygiene.

The film cuts to a pen-and-ink drawing of an archaeological dig at Limestone Corner that took place where a well dedicated to the God Coventina was discovered. There are views of the stone altars found in the well plus a horde of Roman coins. Hunter Davies stands over a small overgrown pond under which lies the remains of the well.

At the nearby fort of Carrawburgh is the temple to the god Mithraic. Hunter is joined by Professor Eric Birley who is described by Hunter as 'the greatest living authority on the living wall'. Professor Birley takes Hunter through the temple and describes in detail each section from the anti-chapel, main chapel through to the altars. The sequence ends with views showing a recreation of the altars on display at the Newcastle Museum of Antiquities [now the Great North Museum].

Tile: End of Part One

The second part begins with an overhead view of Hadrian's wall.

Title: The Living Wall Part Two.

Hunter Davies walks along the wall and approaches Housesteads Roman Fort (Vercovicium).

The film cuts to an aerial view of Housesteads showing the 'playing card' shape of the fort with rounded corners. On the ground Hunter Davies looks at a plan of the fort. He walks around past a water tank and talks about the fort's latrines, ' the finest in Europe'. He then walks around the granaries and the stone pillars that would have been under the wooden floor providing ventilation.

Buses pull into Housesteads visitors' car park as a school group begins the walk to the fort. General views of tourists and visitors walking to and from the fort. On the path Hunter Davies speaks with a Dutch couple about the reasons for visiting the fort and what they think of it. The man says he doesn't know if it is real or not. At the fort itself Hunter speaks with two young Dutch women. One of the women is surprised to learn that the Romans used concrete to help construct the fort. The sequence ends with Hunter walking away from the fort.

General views of visitors walking the three and a half mile path along the wall owned by the National Trust. A woman wearing a bikini and walking boots stomps past.

It is raining as Hunter Davies walks along another section of the wall at Windshields Crag, the highest part of Hadrian's Wall at 1230ft. He is wearing waterproof clothing and passes another walker carrying a large camping backpack heading in the opposite direction.

The film cuts to show a man starting a diesel cement mixer. Along a section of wall three men work to conserve the wall using concrete. Hunter Davies speaks with two of the workmen about some of the items they have found in the wall and about some of the Roman mistakes they've noticed in the wall.

A man uses a pickaxe to dig out a section of wall that is buried in the earth. This footage is intercut with Hunter Davies in conversation with Charles Anderson, foreman of works at the Department of the Environment, who has been working on the wall for the past forty years. Hunter asks why the wall hasn't been rebuilt as it originally was. Mr Anderson says the Department of the Environment 'didn't have the nerve'. 

The film cuts to Hunter Davies standing beside a mock-up of a complete section of Hadrian's Wall, built at Vindolanda. He walks up a set of stone steps onto the parapet and looks across the landscape.

A school party is on a guided tour of Vindolanda. Hunter Davies walks across the site towards an archaeological dig talking place nearby. There are general views of mainly young women working in the trenches or removing wheel barrels of earth. Robin Birley (son of Professor Eric Birley) is Director of Excavation and overlooks the workers. He uses a small trowel to dig in a uncovered section of earth. Interview with Robin Birley who says the women on site can do a really good hard-days work.

One of the female works passes Hunter Davies holding a ox head that has just been uncovered. She says that they have also found Samian ware and leather. Around a table a number of leather, pottery and jewelry items found during the excavation are laid out. In a saucer of water are a number of writing tablets made of polished wood and ink. A photocopy of what is written on one of the tablets lays nearby. The sequence ends back with Robin Birley who says these tablets could help write a 'new chapter in the history of the period'.

The film fade to show Hunter Davies climbing over a ladder stile into a field where he meets local farmer Ted Woodman. In the field is the wall fort of Aesica at Great Chesters. As the two men walk around the un-disturbed fort Mr Woodman talks about how believes the Romans are a nuisance and a problem for him as a farmer. Cattle can be seen wondering around the field near the fort which has wooden fences protecting the archaeology. The sequence ends with Hunter saying goodbye to Mr Woodman and walking through what remains of the fort watched over by Mr Woodman's dogs.

General views of Hunter Davis walking along one of the best preserved sections of wall at Walltown Crags.

Hunter Davies arrives at Poltross Burn, the best preserved mile castle on Hadrian's Wall. Views of Hunter explaining to the camera about the barracks and an oven built into a wall.

The film cuts to show a small girl holding a bucket from which a goat is feeding. Mr Ron Dawkins stands beside his two sons who are also holding buckets from which goats are eating. Mr Dawkins runs a guest house where Hadrian's Wall passes through his back garden. They talk about what it is like having the wall run so close to his property and about his goats milk which they collect for their guests. 

Walking beside the wall through a field of crops Hunter Davies advises that the wall, now in its 45th mile, is entering Cumberland (Cumbria). Along the river Irthing Hunter walks carefully over the rocky shoreline and then across the river.

The film cuts to Hunter Davies walking along the edge of field and looking at a section of Roman masonry overrun by earth and a knotted tree. He walks into a field near the village of Walton and looks over the last section of the wall in the west.

General views of the exterior Castlesteads Mansion out of which Hunter Davis walks. Walking through a door which leads into a walled garden he asks a Gardner where he could find Lady Johnson, wife of Major General Sir George Johnson. In the rose garden Lady Johnson tends to a flower bed as Hunter arrives. They talk about the Roman artifacts that were uncovered in the grounds of the mansion, some of which have been given to Carlisle Museum, the other being in the summerhouse. Inside the summerhouse views of various stone alters and sculptures laying against the far wall.

The film cuts to an aerial view of Carlisle. Hunter Davies walks along Castle Street past Carlisle Cathedral. General view of a busy shopping street in the town and people walking along it. Hunter walks towards an old Jacobean house; Tullie House Museum. Inside people are seen looking around the various Roman alters and sculptures on display.

At a table Robert Hogg, Curator of the Tullie House Museum, holds a Roman domestic shrine. He describes the sculpture and says shows the 'measure of religious feeling at this time'.

The film cuts to show a woman sitting inside a horse box. General views of people and farm animals on display at the Cumberland Show in Bitts Park. There are view of cattle and sheep as well as horses being paraded. Sitting on a bank Hunter Davies watches as a horse and rider jump a number of fences. Two men wrestle while on a raised stage a group of traditionally dresses women perform a Scottish dance.

The film fades to Hunter Davis walking across the mud flats on the Solway Firth. A road sign reads 'Bowness on Solway'. Hunter walks along the quiet main street of Bowness on Solway. There is no one about other than a man who quickly steps inside his house and a woman standing in the road beside her property.

High on the wall of a cowshed is a small piece of stone in the shape of a shield. This is the only remaining piece of masonry from the Roman fort and is a tribute to Jupiter.

Hunter Davis speaks with a number of local residents asking where Hardrian's Wall is. One man didn't know it existed while other know of its existence but does not know where it is. A young woman who is unbuckling her child from the back of her car believes it is at Port Carlisle. After speaking with another older woman Hunter is advised by a man in glasses that the wall is under a nearby house.

The waters of the Solway Firth splashes onto the banks as Hunter Davies walks past. As he stands there talking to camera there are views looking across the water into Scotland. Hunters ends the programme by saying that the wall is growing all the time as more and more of it is uncovered each year. The wall represents a cross section of Britain today and shows views and ways of life... a Living Wall.

There is another aerial view of visitors walking around one of the Roman forts along Hadrian's Wall. The film ends with images taken from the programme.

End Credit: Script and research Hunter Davis and Michael McHugh.

End Credit: Film Editor Bill Oxenham

End Credit: Camera Simon Crouch, David Dixon, Norman Jackson, Fred Thomas F.R.P.S.

End Credit: Sound Tim Amyes, Harry Brookes, Ray Hole, Louis Kramer, Bob Rhodes

End Credit: Executive Producer Leslie Barrett

End Credit: Director Jeremy Lack

End Credit: Tyne Tees Television and Border Co-Production.