The pilgrimage of hadrian’s wall 2009
david Breeze accepts his festschrift, prepared in secret, and presented at the Limes Congress.
So how does the Pilgrimage work?
Ihave been concerned with Hadrian’s Wall for over 40 years, and this past summer I completed my fifth Pilgrimage. I had the honour of being named Chief Pilgrim, which meant that I had to do much of the organising.Asanyonewhohasorganisedaconferenceknows, the main reason for its success is careful planning, which, for thePilgrimage, takes four to five years.Weliketotakeitslowly, allowing time to shape and amend the programme. In fact, the planningstartsalmost10yearsahead,asaftereachPilgrimagewe have a post-mortem and then shake the dust off that report as we start thinking about the next.
BelOw Breeze at Brunton.
I write ‘we’, but who are ‘we’? The Pilgrimage is organised by the two archaeological societies of the north of England: the Society ofAntiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne and the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society. Both societies are of considerable antiquity, the former being founded in 1813 and the latter in 1866. Each provides three respresentatives to a special organising committee for the Pilgrimage, with the Universities of Durham and Newcastle also furnishing one each.
The event that was subsequently recognised as the first Pilgrimage was held in 1849, when John Collingwood Bruce, a distinguished Newcastle lawyer, led a small group of ‘pilgrims’ to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall. The Pilgrimage may thus fairly claim the title of being the oldest archaeological tour in Britain. It might be expected that such an event would have its traditions, and so it does. Since 1930, the Pilgrimage has alternated running east to west and west to east. In 2009, it was the turn to travel west to east. A new tradition was invented in 1999: the laying of a wreath at the memorial to Bruce in St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle, undertaken to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Pilgrimage, and repeated last year.
The 1930 Pilgrimage saw another innovation: the introduction of a handbook. In the 1990s, the organising committee felt that it was time to move on from the relatively simple handbook, which had primarily been a programme with information on the sites to be visited along with details of recent research. Paul Bidwell was commissioned to produce a more detailed over-view of the previous 10 years of research on Hadrian’s Wall. This new approach was so popular that the format was repeated in 2009, when Nick Hodgson compiled Hadrian’s Wall 1999-2009. At about 200 pages apiece, each are indispensable for students of the Wall.
Thishandbookisnottobeconfused with the Handbook to the Roman Wall. The first edition of this was another action by Bruce. When Bruce undertook his 1848 tour, he had visited the Wall before, but this was a defining moment: the start of an interest in the Wall which continued to the end of his long life over 40 years later. The
current archaeology | www.archaeology.co.uk
March 2010 |