Corbridge is a beautifully well-preserved Roman market town, and in later years, back as far as 1827, it was rated a shoppers paradise – a reputation it still upholds today. This pretty village is packed full of history and character around every corner, as well as being close to the World Heritage site of Hadrian’s Wall. A wander along the attractive streets of Corbridge with its plethora of little independent shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants with their impeccably decorated facia’s will tempt you to linger for longer.
Once a garrison town for Roman soldiers and a safe crossing place over the Tyne, houses here are built with stone hewn from the Roman town of Corstopitum, where today’s Corbridge grew from.
Enjoy music, street theatre, festival stalls and a beer tent offering a range of ale, cider and wine at the annual Corbridge Festival, and in the run up to Christmas there is a very good Christmas market held near the end of November, perfect for kick-starting the festive season and stocking up on unique Christmas gifts.
Where to Dine out in Corbridge
The Corbridge Larder cannot be missed during your stay, they stand for quality and value above all else. Their products are extensive and of the finest quality: over 100 types of cheese, 80 types of jam, marmalade and honey, home-made pies, quiches and tarts, Italian antipasto, Greek meze and fine cheese from their award winning cheese shop. Their ‘Heron Cafe’ coffee shop only serves what they sell, so you’re guaranteed a very good lunch! Tel: 01434 632948 or click here to visit their website
The Black Bull lies cosily in the heart of Corbridge, in a traditional building which dates back to 1755, The Black Bull is brought to life by blooming flower baskets during the summer and the welcome glow of coal fires through the winter, serves good, honest pub grub. Click here to visit their website.
A historic coaching inn built in 1569 in this beautiful town, The Angel is a boutique gathering place for all day dining with Northumbrian tradition in the bar, lounge, barn restaurant and they even have a fish and chip takeaway! The Angel has a renouned reputation as the best pub in Corbridge and guests travel from far and wide for their great traditional Northumbrian food. Tel: 01434 632119 or click here to visit their website.
Tea and Tipple
A quirky little cafe in the main square in Corbridge, they are licenced too if you fancy a little more than a pot of tea! Apparently their scones are the biggest and best in the village, so if it’s cream tea you’re after, try here. Tel: 01434 632886
Walks Around Corbridge
As Corbridge is so close to Hadrian’s Wall, the most impressive walks around this area will be along the Wall. We have listed below some of best trails and other walks around the area. For more specific information about Hadrian’s Wall please click HERE to visit our information page.
The Housesteads Roman Trail
This trail is perfect for dog walkers as well as pet-free travellers and covers some of the less well-known historic sites along the route. The central section of Hadrian’s Wall offers some of the best vantage points of the entire 73 miles and some of the most noteworthy Roman sites along this section are set up high overlooking some of Britain’s finest countryside – a fantastic photo opportunity for any camera enthusiasts (or something to show off back at home!).
The Chesters Trail
Chesters and nearby sites offer a relaxing and tranquil section of Hadrian’s Wall country, located next to the North Tyne River and close to the market towns of Hexham and Corbridge. Probably one of the more elaborate areas of the wall, the Chesters Roman Trail is bursting with historic stories, monuments and remains and is one of the most interesting trails along Hadrian’s Wall.
Corbridge and Aydon Castle
This walk is very well known around the area and takes about 4-5 hours – a total of 6 miles – and goes through Aydon Castle too. Click here for the full route, map and directions from Visit Northumberland’s site, which you can also print off and take with you. With thanks for this information to www.hadrians-wall.org.
Chesters and Humshaugh
Located at Chesters Roman Fort not far from Corbridge, this walk is easier, only taking about an hour (although a bit longer if you wanted to see the attractions such as the Roman fort and museum), and it about 2.5 miles. Click here for the full route, map and directions which you can also print off and take with you. With thanks for this information to www.hadrians-wall.org.
The Corbridge Cookshop
A fabulous haven of everything ‘kitchen’! From quirky utensils to strange fabrics, this shop is an Aladdins cave. Click here to visit their website.
Corbridge Wine and Spirits
A handy shop in the main square for all your tipples and tonics.
A decent sized Co-op for your essentials.
The Corbridge Village website is very good for keeping us up to date with local events. Click here for the latest news and exact annual dates listed on their website (on a column to the right-hand side), but please see below a list of the annual events happening in Corbridge and around the local area.
Annual Steam & Vintage Rally
Located at Tynedale Park, the Annual Steam and Vintage Rally shows all vehicles from classic cars to tractors. Hosted June every year.
The Hexham Regatta
One of the biggest one-day regattas in the country. Enjoy a picnic or some hot and cold refreshments whilst sitting on the banks of the Tyne watching this very popular event. Hosted each year in June.
The Tynedale Beer and Cider Festival
Usually held on the middle weekend in June, the annual charity beer festival raises funds for good causes. Over 130 beers and ciders available with live music and good food on offer.
Hexham Ladies Races Day
Picnics and Posh Frocks, if this is your sort of thing then this is not one to miss for horse racing fanatics and country folk. Usually held on the weekend in the middle of June.
Corbridge Music Festival
Usually held on the second weekend in July, this is a lovely family day out, and you can even camp if you want!
Corbridge Village Show
In the first weekend of September, usually before the children go back to school, the village show is a homely, community event that is worth a visit.
Carol Singing and Late Night Christmas Shopping
If you want to get into the Christmas spirit then here is the place to do it. Usually held on the first Thursday in December, they have carol singing in the square, mulled wine, mince pies and other sweet treats as well as tombolas and other traditional village games and stalls. A really, lovely evening.
History of Corbridge
The visible remains at Corbridge are largely those of a Roman town, 2½ miles south of Hadrian’s Wall, which developed after AD 160 around a base for legionary soldiers. This replaced a succession of forts on the site, built from about AD 85 where one of the main routes northwards crossed the river Tyne. Corbridge became one of only two substantial towns in the Hadrian’s Wall zone and remained a vibrant urban community until the last days of Roman Britain. The site was extensively excavated in the 20th century.
The boar was the emblem of the Twentieth Legion, who were present at Corbridge in the AD 160s.
The Fort at Red House
Of the original fort to the west, at Red House, only the baths and a few associated buildings have ever been found. Its short life may have been due to river flooding. The present, eastern site may also have offered a better spot to build a permanent river bridge.
A tombstone of the first century AD, found in nearby Hexham Abbey, strongly suggests that the crack cavalry regiment ala Petriana was based at Red House or the earliest Corbridge fort (or both).
The Forts, AD 85-160
The successive forts are deeply buried and largely invisible beneath the remains of the later legionary base and town, but were explored in excavations from the 1940s to the 1970s. The role of the fort was to control the river crossing and, from about AD 122, to provide support for Hadrian’s Wall, the building of which began in that year.
Corbridge was the scene of concentrated activity in the years AD 139–40, when inscriptions show that major buildings, probably granaries, were under construction. Traces of the fort granaries have been found beneath the remains of the much later, visible granaries on the site.
This was precisely the time when Hadrian’s Wall was abandoned and replaced by the Antonine Wall in Scotland. The surge of activity at Corbridge is connected with its role as a supply centre and strategic base on Dere Street, the main road into Scotland.
The Legionary Base from AD 160
The occupation of Scotland under the emperor Antoninus Pius was short-lived. By AD 160 the Antonine Wall had been given up and Hadrian’s Wall had been recommissioned. Corbridge now lay a short distance to the rear of the restored frontier Wall. As early as the AD 160s, detachments from the Twentieth Legion (Legio XX Valeria Victrix, whose main base lay at Chester) and the Sixth Legion (Legio VI Victrix, from York) were present at Corbridge, building temples and other major structures. These legionaries had two main roles. One was to support and help garrison Hadrian’s Wall and in particular a chain of outpost forts that extended up Dere Street as far as Newstead-on-Tweed (at least until AD 180). The other was to supervise and administer Corbridge as a stores base and market for the northern frontier.
This last role is signalled by the provision in the centre of Roman Corbridge of buildings on a truly imperial scale. Site XI (a name bestowed during the Edwardian excavations), a square building with ranges of rooms opening onto a central court, is most convincingly interpreted as a combined warehouse and macellum (market). The granaries of the last fort, west of Site XI, were retained and rebuilt at around the same time that Site XI was constructed.
At some point after the removal of the defences the site was ravaged by a destructive fire, attested by the ‘Corbridge destruction deposit’. Site XI was unfinished at the time of the fire and building was never resumed, so the great storehouse-market is essentially an incomplete structure. Some have been tempted to associate this fire with an attested barbarian invasion and crossing of Hadrian’s Wall in the early AD 180s.
The Military Compounds
In the early 3rd century, after the emperor Septimius Severus (reigned AD 193–211) had restored stability to the province and its northern frontier, Corbridge remained a base for detachments from legions whose fortresses lay further south in Britain. A pair of purpose-built, stone-walled compounds housed these legionary detachments, as inscriptions and sculpture relating to Legio II Augusta from the headquarters building of the western compound show. The compounds overlie the fire deposit and are thus later in date than Site XI; they may quite possibly date from the early 3rd century. The granaries were probably rebuilt under Severus in their visible and enormous form. Corbridge was one of the two main supply bases during Severus’s expedition in Caledonia in AD 208–11.
The Civilian Town
By the early 3rd century, if not before, an extensive civilian town had grown up around the core of the military garrison and supply centre. The walls surrounding the legionary compounds are meandering and their gates ornate rather than defensive, suggesting that their main function was to segregate the military personnel from a surrounding community of a burgeoning urban character.
Probably by the 3rd century Corbridge was the capital of a self-governing administrative division or civitas (as was Carlisle in the west), although there is no record of its name. In the 4th century the town prospered as a civil centre, probably defended (although our knowledge of the defences is slight) by a walled circuit. There may well still have been a military presence in the compounds at the centre of the town, but the identity of the late Roman garrison is unknown.
Major, centrally organised repair works took place on the main road through Corbridge as late as AD 370, but the town seems to have been rapidly abandoned when Roman administration in Britain collapsed in the early years of the 5th century.
After the Romans
The Saxon settlement at Corbridge was established (probably in the 7th century) half a mile east of the ruins of the Roman town, at a good fording place. By this time the Roman bridge must have been unusable, but striking enough as a ruin to lend its name to the successor settlement.
As early as the 670s the remains were quarried by the Saxon builders of St Wilfrid’s church at Hexham, and stone-robbing went on for centuries: there is much Roman stone in the later Saxon fabric of the church of St Andrew at Corbridge. King John dug in the ruins for treasure in 1201, finding nothing but stones ‘marked with brass, iron and lead’ – a reference to blocks in Roman structures, such as the fountain or the bridge, that were bonded with metal cramps.
The 16th-century antiquaries John Leland and William Camden (visiting in about 1539 and 1599 respectively) were struck by the upstanding ruins of Roman Corbridge, and although John Horsley recorded the site as largely levelled by the plough by the early 18th century, in the same period Alexander Gordon described ‘the circuit of the walls’ as still being conspicuous. The site was finally completely levelled by agricultural improvements in about 1810.
In 1861–2 excavation by William Coulson uncovered the northern end of the Roman bridge and other structures inside the town. Systematic excavation began in 1906. The central part of the site was given to the nation in 1933 and is now in the care of English Heritage. This area has been the focus of research carried out since 1914.
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