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.

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