Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site is to host a major new exhibition in 2017 celebrating the cavalry regiments that once guarded this famous frontier of the mighty Roman Empire.
Taking place from Saturday, April 8, to Sunday, September 10, 2017, Hadrian’s Cavalry explores the role and daily life of the Roman army’s cavalry forces in a unique wall-wide exhibition that stretches the full 150 miles of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site area – from Maryport in the west to South Shields in the east.
The exhibition will bring together a unique group of Roman cavalry objects, including ornate helmets, armour and weapons on loan from national and international museums, such as the British Museum, National Museums Scotland, the Musee d’Art Classique de Mougins (France), Archäologisches Landesmuseum Baden-Württemberg / Limes Museum, Aalen, the Archaeological State Collection, Munich and the Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart (Germany), alongside objects from museums across the Wall.
The new exhibition will also feature one of the largest Roman Cavalry re-enactments ever seen in the UK.
The main funder of Hadrian’s Cavalry is the Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund.
Bill Griffiths, head of programmes for Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and chair of the Hadrian’s Cavalry steering group, said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, bringing together for the first time these very special Roman cavalry objects. To be able to do it across the museums and heritage attractions of Hadrian’s Wall, where cavalry regiments played a key role in protecting the Empire and projecting Imperial power, makes it even more exciting.
“The cavalrymen were famous for their lavishly decorated helmets and body armour. The cavalry horses were also held in high esteem; enjoying customised stabling in barrack blocks built to accommodate the riders and their mounts.
“Hadrian’s Cavalry will reveal the story of the Roman riders through a unique exhibition spread across 10 museums and heritage attractions, each with its own special exhibition and objects. Never before have people been able to see this collection of Roman cavalry objects in the actual locations they would have been used.”
In addition to the wall-wide exhibition, Bitts Park in Carlisle will host two days of Roman cavalry re-enactments, one of the largest seen in the UK, on July 1 and 2. Thirty Roman cavalrymen - a turma or troop - will come together for the first time in almost 2,000 years.
Bill said: “The troop will showcase some of the exercises the cavalry would have performed on training grounds at sites across the Wall and described by Hadrian himself almost 2,000 years ago. It will be an amazing spectacle and unique to this exhibition. We are grateful to Carlisle City Council who are helping to fund this special event, to Christian Levett for helping sponsor the exhibition, and to our main funder, Arts Council England.”
Highlights of Hadrian’s Cavalry include the exhibition at Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum in North Tyneside, where the recruitment, training and tactics of the cavalry will be explored. An interactive zone, including the chance to dress a Roman cavalry horse, will uncover more of the day-to-day life of the regiment.
Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle celebrates the prestige and power of the Roman cavalry helmet with an exhibition including two bronze ‘Ribchester-style’ Helmets, which are being displayed together at the museum for the very first time.
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle is home to one of the biggest Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibitions; looking at the role of the cavalry regiments in Carlisle, across Hadrian’s Wall and across the entire Roman Empire. An immersive audio/visual experience will take visitors back in time to experience what life was really like for cavalrymen along Hadrian’s Wall.
Some of the Roman forts along the Wall will highlight the role of cavalry horses in Roman society. The exhibition at English Heritage’s Corbridge Roman Town and Museum will explore what the depiction of horses in Roman artefacts – including brooches, sculpture and pottery – tells us about their status and role in Roman life. Chesters Roman Fort and Museum will tell the story of the strong bond between cavalrymen and their horses, including how the animals were looked after and maintained.
The display at Roman Vindolanda will focus on the personal stories of cavalry soldiers stationed on the Wall itself, revealed through the Vindolanda writing tablets and other objects found in on-going excavations at the site.
More displays at Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum, Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum, the Roman Army Museum and Senhouse Roman Museum will complete the story of the Roman cavalry. There will also be smaller cavalry themed events over the year.
Completing the Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition will be a specially commissioned contemporary art installation at Chesters Roman Fort. The piece, at the Roman site from July 2017 until September 2017, will use the natural environment and sound to evoke the presence of the 500 hundred horses once stabled within these iconic Roman ruins.
Jane Tarr, Director North, Arts Council England, said: “I’m really pleased that the Arts Council is supporting the Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition through our Museums Resilience Fund. This is a fantastic example of partners working together to bring Hadrian’s Wall to life right along its length. Visitors to the world heritage site and local audiences will get to see world-class objects, many in the locations they would have been seen 2,000 years ago. I look forward to seeing how the project develops and how it will enable the museums involved to become more sustainable and resilient businesses. It will be interesting to see how this project can provide a model for the future.”
The 10 museums and heritage attractions taking part in Hadrian’s Cavalry are:
· Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum (South Shields)
· Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum (Wallsend)
· Great North Museum: Hancock (Newcastle upon Tyne)
English Heritage venues:
· Corbridge Roman Town and Museum (Corbridge, Northumberland)
· Chesters Roman Fort and Museum (Chollerford, Northumberland)
· Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum (Haydon Bridge, Northumberland)
· Roman Vindolanda (Bardon Mill, near Hexham)
· Roman Army Museum (Greenhead, Northumberland)
· Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery (Carlisle, Cumbria)
· Senhouse Roman Museum (Maryport, Cumbria).
For more information visit www.hadrianscavalry.co.uk