TV programme on Hadrian's Wall

The programme was shown a couple of days ago, but being a History Channel programme it will no doubt be seen again. This piece from the Newcastle Journal includes a pic.

Wall has place in Neil’s heart

May 22 2008 by Ben Guy, The Journal

HISTORY expert and television presenter Neil Oliver is well- known for skirting the coastline of Britain in the television series Coast, but in a programme tonight he chooses somewhere further inland as his top historical location.

The celebrity archaeologist has chosen a North East landmark as his favourite place, highlighting Hadrian’s Wall as the place he most likes to visit.

He said: “As an archaeologist I appreciate it as the most elaborate part of the boundary of the Roman empire anywhere in the world.

“They went to more trouble to underline their presence in that part of the British Isles than anywhere else, and in that way it is a landmark superior to any other in the Roman world.

“And being from Dumfries I remember going on family days out and school trips, so it is a vein that runs through my interest in history and archaeology.”

The programme is one of a series entitled My Favourite Place, which feature personalities taking viewers on a tour of their favourite English Heritage properties around the country.

In the programme Neil examines the history of the Wall, and the relevance of the decisions the Romans made to modern-day Britain.

He said: “The Romans shaped so much of what we now know as England and Scotland.

“The Wall doesn’t represent the border between the two countries, but the fact that they drew the line so close to it nearly 2,000 years ago is clearly significant.”

And he said it wasn’t just the geographical significance of the site that makes it special, as the discovery of the tablets at Vindolanda gives a real insight into the lives of people living in and around the Wall during that era.

The tablets are a series of letters written on wooden or wax bases by Romans, which have been discovered at the site in recent years.

Neil added: “The letters bring it to life and it makes it fascinating to speculate on how life was.

“In them you read of people complaining about the roads.

“You normally associate the Romans with the roads they built, so to hear them complaining about the quality of the roads in the letters is really interesting.”

On top of the historical interest of the wall, Neil said the scenery surrounding the site added to the allure of the area.

He said: “I have had a soft spot for Northumberland for a long time.

“Through doing Coast I have followed the whole of the country’s coastline, and Northumberland is up there at the top.

“There is a magic about Lindisfarne, perhaps because it becomes an island two times a day, and also because it has such a special look and light. It has a feeling of peace and calm that is good for the soul.”

Ten facts about Hadrian's wall:

:: It was built by the Emperor Hadrian from AD 122-30, with construction starting in the east and heading west.

:: The original wall was 73 miles long and measured between 3-6m high, not including ditches, berms and forts.

:: It ran from Wallsend near Newcastle in the east to Bowness on the Solway Firth in the west of England.

:: It was the third of four such fortifications built across Britain to prevent military raids.

:: It was largely constructed using local limestone.

:: It was made a World Heritage Site in 1987.

:: The Wall was garrisoned by the Roman army, and numbers fluctuated throughout the occupation but may have been around 9,000 strong in general.

:: The gates through the Wall are thought to also have served as customs posts to allow trade taxation.

:: A National Trail footpath running along the length of the Wall was opened in 2003.

:: Much of the preservation of what remains of the Wall can be credited to John Clayton, town clerk of Newcastle in the 1830s, who strove to preserve the Wall after a visit.


My Favourite Place, with Neil Oliver’s Hadrian’s Wall, will be shown on The History Channel – Sky Channel 529 – tonight at 8pm. Other celebrities who will appear in the weekly series include Bill Bailey, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Peter Snow, Konnie Huq and Charlotte Ulhenbroek.

Is classics still relevant? An alfresco Latin lesson convinces Christopher Middleton

From the Telegraph. The Telegraph page includes a photo.

A triumph of the ego

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 24/05/2008

Is classics still relevant? An alfresco Latin lesson convinces Christopher Middleton

Close your eyes and you could be in a musty classroom translating Caesar's Gallic Wars. “So, metus, meaning fear, is the subject,” announces the teacher. “Fear capit (verb, seizes) animam (object, the soul).

Metus capit animam – fear seizes the soul.” The words are spoken with the same intonation – part ecclesiastical, part musical – adopted by classics teachers through the centuries. Yet in place of a pipe-gnawing housemaster of advancing years, this lesson is being delivered by a young woman.

What's more, instead of sitting bolt upright at their desks, her pupils are sprawled on rugs in a grassy, municipal park on the outskirts of Oxford.

Yes, it's quarter past two on a Sunday afternoon and, while other park-users are engaged in dog walking and frisbee throwing, this group of a dozen students has gathered to swap reflexive verbs under the banner of Latin in the Park.

The organiser of this twice-weekly event is Dr Lorna Robinson, 29, who gave up a comfortable job at one of Britain's top public schools to spread the gospel of Latin. “My job at Wellington College was lovely, but I just felt I was perpetuating a system whereby classics was seen as something purely for private schools,” she says. “I mean, even a basic grasp of Latin gives you incredible insights into the English language. That's something to which I feel everyone is entitled.”

This is why Dr Robinson has advertised her Latin in the Park sessions (admission £1) not in Oxford's colleges, but on its housing estates. One of the students today, for example, is the sister of the postman on the Blackbird Leys estate. “My brother mentioned it and I thought I'd give it a go,” she says.

None of the other participants has done any Latin, either, which means it's time for Dr Robinson's eye-opening introductory lesson, showing how many modern English words have their roots in Ancient Rome (binoculars, lunatic, sinister).

“Oh, I get it!” cries one of the students. “That word solus means alone, like in solitary.” And video means see, and retro means backwards. Soon, the cries of recognition are breaking out all round and, after just 40 minutes and two rounds of chocolate flapjacks, the group finds itself translating its first solid chunk of Latin text.

It's not just adults to whom Dr Robinson imparts this gift. She has pioneered the teaching of Latin in state schools both in Oxford and in Hackney, in London.

“Latin ties in very well with our broader curriculum,” says Tim Hunter-Whitehouse, head of Benthal Primary School in Stoke Newington, north London, where Dr Robinson teaches Year Six. “It fits in with English, in terms of helping children to master technical aspects of vocabulary and grammar, and it fits in with history, in that our kids are studying the Romans.

“More than anything else, though, the children enjoy it. While people from an older educational generation might remember Latin lessons as being repetitive and dull, the way Lorna teaches makes it all very lively and practical.” As well as performing tasks of linguistic prestidigitation (“The children love it when I tell them 'umbrella' means 'little bit of shade'”), Dr Robinson also harnesses the power of myth.

“Stories are a great way of winning pupils over,” she says. “Apart from anything else, classical myths show just how little human nature has changed over the centuries. Children love the story of Icarus, whose father Daedalus warned him not to fly too near the sun. They say it reminds them of not listening to their dads, too.”

Yet this is not just about adding a few colourful stitches to the pupils' educational quilt. Dr Robinson has also started steering some of her young charges towards academic qualifications. “At Cheney School, in Oxford, our first ever group is taking Latin A-Level this summer and there is a brand-new GCSE class in Ancient Greek,” she says.

“What makes me feel so strongly about this is that I was state-educated at primary school but then, at the last minute, my parents sent me to Oundle, where I got a fantastic classical education.

“Knowing that I came so close to missing out means I'm determined not to let others do the same.”

# Latin In The Park is held on Thursdays at noon and on Sundays at 2pm; meet in South Park Oxford, at the bottom of Headington Hill (participation fee £1). For further information on this and other classical outreach projects, see

# A recommended book for beginners is Getting Started with Latin by William E Linney (Armfield Academic Press), which is available from Telegraph Books for £11.50 plus £1.25 p&p. To order call 0870 428 4112 or go to

Chester holds Roman festival tomorrow and Monday

Shrine to host Roman festival

May 23 2008 by Laurie Stocks-Moore, Chester Chronicle

A TWO-DAY Roman extravaganza will take Chester back to the first century AD.

The second annual Festival of Minerva is a free event set up by Roman Tours/Deva Victrix and the Grosvenor Museum.

After the success of last year’s inaugural event, 2008’s festivities will be staged over two days this weekend – Whitsun bank holiday – on Sunday and Monday.

The main events will take place at the site of the original 2nd Century shrine to Minerva, and the only remaining rock- carved shrine left in the western hemisphere, at Edgar’s Field Park in Handbridge.

Her shrine is in Edgar’s Field because the site was once a Roman quarry and she would have been the patron goddess of those working there.

Centurion Paul Harston, otherwise known as Ocratius, says: “Drop in and discover your heritage. Edgar’s Field is Chester’s best kept secret.

“Minerva was the third most important deity in the Roman pantheon and she was obviously important to the Romans who built Chester because they made the shrine.”

Minerva, daughter of Jupiter, was the virgin goddess of poetry, crafts, and the inventor of music.

Fittingly, from 11am- 3pm on both days of the festival there will be displays of Roman dancing and a metal smith and potter will be re-enacting the art of period crafts.

At 11am, about 15 soldiers will begin their parade to Edgar’s Field from The Cross in Chester city centre and an accurate reconstruction of the dedication to the shrine will take place at 1pm.

The Emperor will then give offerings to Minerva at the shrine, just as he would have 2,000 years ago.

Mr Harston added: “It was very successful last year and a few people travelled all the way from Cornwall, but few people even know where Edgar’s Field is.”

“We are putting something back in and trying to put a big spotlight on our heritage which is unique in Britain.”

A live centurion will also be stationed at the Grosvenor Museum overseeing a host of other activities.

Fishbourne Roman Palace celebrates its 40th anniversary

Fishbourne Roman Palace celebrates its 40th anniversary

Fishbourne Roman Palace will mark its 40th anniversary with a family trip back to the year it opened as a museum.
On Saturday May 31 a fleet of 1960s vintage cars will welcome visitors to the Palace for a return to 1968 to see how the archaeologists uncovered the world-famous mosaics.

Penelope Parker, marketing officer, said: “Hands-on activities such as making a Roman pot or finding artefacts with a metal detector will entertain you. Test your knowledge on the 1960s memories quiz trail.

“In the Collections Discovery Centre see the gallery of images from the opening ceremony and enter a prize draw for a family ticket to a private view of the conservator at work. Steam train rides, live music and a picnic bag from our café make this a memorable day out. Come in 60s fancy dress and party 60s style!”

Penelope added: “40 years ago the opening of Fishbourne Roman Palace was an historic event.

Visitors were able to come and see the remains of a substantial Roman Palace with its remarkable mosaics.”

More details on 01243 785859.