In Hadrian’s sandals

A distant view of people walking at Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland

Have you ever stood on Hadrian’s Wall on a cold and windy day? If so, you would pity the poor Centurions who were once stationed here. Their job was to defend the Roman Empire from the barbarians.

Restoration man

The Emperor Hadrian gave orders in AD 122 to build a great wall, after receiving 'divine instruction'.

Jump forward seventeen centuries to the 1830s when the antiquarian John Clayton started buying up the surrounding land. He employed his own workforce to restore and preserve the remains of Hadrian’s Wall.
Clayton’s workmen dug out and built up large tracts of the wall, topping them off with protective turf. However, when he died his hard work nearly went to waste when his land was passed on to relatives, only to be lost to their gambling debts.

Detail from The Romans cause a Wall to be built for the Protection of the South by William Scott Bell, Wallington
One of a series of eight oil paintings illustrating the history of the English Border

In 1857, William Bell Scott painted a mural for the Central Hall at Wallington to illustrate the Romans building the Wall. But all is not as it seems. The 'Centurion' standing on the wall is none other than John Clayton himself, whom Bell Scott had witnessed during the rebuilding.

The mural illustrating the building of Hadrian's Wall is one of a series of scenes on Northumbrian history commissioned for Wallington.

Protecting history

Enter the twentieth century, when the National Trust began the process of conserving Housesteads Roman Fort, the Clayton Wall and the surrounding landscape. Today, the whole area is protected as a World Heritage Site, and thanks to John Clayton, we can still enjoy a blustery day walking in the footsteps of the soldiers of Rome.