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Chesters
Fort and Museum
27th May 2001

Another Outing for the Webmaster

With the pictures of Vindolanda proving popular, I decided to head out into the borders of Scotland and England once more to visit the fort of Chesters, Roman Cilurnum.
For this particular weekend a living history event was announced, which promised to provide me with ample opportunity for some photos.

I travelled there using the Hadrian's Wall Bus Service, which runs during the summer months, connecting the main attractions along Hadrian's Wall with the east and west coast of England.

However, once there any 'living' Romans were rather scarce on the ground. It appeared that all but two of the promised reenactors had thought better of it.
All credit to the two braves who did turn up and faced the gathered multitude. Rome is no doubt proud of you !

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Right after the entrance you come upon a traditional, little museum. No new-fangled plastic exhibits, but a charming little building with old-fashioned glass vitrines displaying some of the finds made on and around the site over time.
It includes a haul of coins, on which those familiar with the emperors will recognise some of the portraits.

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Left: Entering the site of the fort itself it is the north gate you come upon first.
Right: The lower stone walls of the barracks are still nicely preserved.

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The commander's residence, the praetorium, is still well preserved, too. And the remaining hypocaust (under-floor-heating) proves that also at Chesters a fort commander would live in comfort.

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The eastern gate leads down to the river, across which a bridge carried the road eastwards.
Yet for more private purposes than transport and trade, there was a smaller gate set into the wall a little further south.

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The nature of these more private purposes is soon revealed, when on the slope towards the river one finds the grand bathhouse. As you can tell by comparing the height of the people on the picture to that of the walls, the bathhouse is truly still in excellent condition.
Another practical insight into the bathhouse is the well preserved 'stoke-hole', where the maintainance of the fire which heated the water and warmed the floors.

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On the left: The hot bath, caldarium, of the bath house.
On the right: This is assumed to be the apodyterium, where the soldiers would undress. The niches one thinks would be the places where they would then place their belongings.

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Back at the fort, the walls were further fortified by towers, one of which you see here on the left.
On the right: The fort's south gate.

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On the left: No fort would ever be complete without a principia, it's headquarters building.
On the right: A little north of the principia you then find the west gate.

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Finally, two brave Romans did finally venture out to face the barbarians.
On the left: An optio in chain mail (ca. 1st century AD)
On the right: A lightly armed auxiliary (ca. 1st century AD)

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In the museum a model gives an impression of what the site once would have looked like.

Well, it was a long journey, the distance Carlisle to Chesters takes about two hrs on the bus, and but for our two heroes, no Romans were to be seen. But the Chesters Fort site and museum well made up for it.
When compared to a site like Vindolanda there is much less buildings there. However, those which are there are substantial and hence very impressive.
The little museum is delightful and I can indeed recommend the site for any of you who might wish to go and see for yourselves. It is well worth a visit.

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