Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Time Marches on as Roman Fort Hits 30; ANNIVERSARY OF UNIQUE ATTRACTION'S CREATION AT ANCIENT SITE

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Time Marches on as Roman Fort Hits 30; ANNIVERSARY OF UNIQUE ATTRACTION'S CREATION AT ANCIENT SITE

Article excerpt

Byline: TONY HENDERSON Heritage reporter ec.news@ncjmedia.com @HendRover

IT was one problem with which the Romans never had to contend when they built a fort at the mouth of the Tyne.

But when plans were put forward to erect a full-scale reconstruction of the West Gate at Arbeia Roman fort in South Shields on the spot where the original had stood, the proposal went to a public inquiry.

And yesterday the unique Roman attraction on Tyneside reached the milestone of its 30th anniversary.

The reconstructed West Gate was officially opened by the Duke of Gloucester on April 6, 1988.

It was the only reconstructed Roman gateway in the UK to be built where its Roman predecessor stood.

Due to the Government's Conserve As Found policy - which vetoes building or adding to archaeological remains - the plan was initially challenged but after the inquiry the reconstruction was given the goahead.

One of the reasons cited was that the site was in an urban area and very little of the Roman buildings survived above their foundations.

The stonemasons employed in 1988 had to be retrained by the team at Arbeia to create the West Gate using Roman techniques.

The inner foundations comply with modern building guidelines but all the visible parts of the gateway are as authentic as possible. The reconstruction was the result of years of extensive research and planning led by Paul Bidwell, now retired head of archaeology at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM). He said: "It's very satisfying to see the West Gate at Arbeia see its 30th anniversary. The reconstructed gate house has become an icon for Roman Britain. There are no original gateways left anywhere, and as there are no surviving complete Roman buildings in the country it was a very exciting project and generated a huge amount of publicity at the time.

"I'm very proud to have been part of it and it gives people a real flavour of what it would have actually been like on that very spot 1,800 years ago."

Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for culture and leisure, said: "It is wonderful to be celebrating 30 years of the reconstructed gateway at Arbeia. …

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