The CORIA Project

Early Excavations

There have been three major campaigns of excavations on the Roman site at Corbridge: the pre-First World War Corstopitum 'diggings' of 1906-14, the 'clearance' work of 1933-40 after the central part of the site had been given to the nation, and the Universities of Durham and Newcastle training excavations of 1946-73.

Corstopitum 1907The first campaign of excavations was brought to an abrupt halt by the onset of war and never resumed, consequently the only reports ever published were interim annual accounts. At the time, the work excited national interest, with popular accounts appearing regularly in The Times, alongside more detailed reports in the major academic journals of the day.

The 1906 excavations were begun in order to provide information on the Roman site for the History of Northumberland volume which included the parish of Corbridge. The results were so promising that it was quickly decided to continue the work.

Corstopitum 1907Funding was raised from subscriptions, donations, and grants from learned societies, as well as small charges for admission to see the archaeologists in action and the sale of specially produced postcards.

The early excavations were far more extensive than the existing 1.8ha English Heritage site might suggest, covering some 7.8ha by the time they ended in 1914. They were rightly famous in their time and ordinary travellers and international scholars alike visited the 'diggings' on their way to see Hadrian's Wall.

Corstopitum 1907Small portions of the original excavation trenches are still visible at Corbridge, including the revetting with cobbles around the mouth of the drain under Site 11 (the large courtyard building) and the outline of the edge of the excavators' trench around the shrine of the headquarters building on the western side of the same structure.

Although much criticised in later years by those who were not there at the time (and largely influenced by some bitter comments by Woolley in later life, especially about Haverfield's 'hands-off' approach to running things), Corbridge took archaeology in Edwardian England to new levels of excellence and helped advance a new generation of academic and professional archaeologists.

boy with trugs