Vindolanda Fort fresh water piping system discovered

Dr Andrew Birley Dr Andrew Birley has continued the work started by his grandfather at Vindolanda

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An archaeologist in Northumberland has uncovered more of a Roman water system first found by his grandfather.

Dr Andrew Birley and a team of volunteers have been excavating land surrounding Vindolanda fort just south of Hadrian's Wall.

The project to discover and record the pipework at the fort near Hexham was started 82 years ago.

The team has identified the spring-head and piping system used thousands of years ago.

During an excavation in 1930, led by Prof Eric Birley, an area of the Vindolanda site became flooded and not suitable for further investigation.

Spring water

Six months passed and as the water was not drying up the site was covered up and the results documented.

It was only with the use of modern pumps that Prof Birley's work has finally been completed and the full extent of the Roman water distribution system uncovered.

Dr Birley, who preserved his grandfather's original site notes, said: "We have found the main water tank and spring-head, and thousands of gallons a day are still bubbling through from the surrounding land and fields.

"They weren't a great distance down, probably about six feet, and there is a small stream coming out of it.

Water ditch The aqueduct and ditch were exposed in the 1930s

"It is proper spring water, which is what the Romans preferred to use, as their other water, from the river, was used for waste."

"We can now start a map of where the water has gone, right across the site, and start to work out how all the buildings at Vindolanda were supplied," he added.

The current dig, which has been assisted by up to 500 volunteers, is scheduled to end at the end of August.

Dr Birley added: "They had to stop work back in the 1930s because of the heavy rain - the sort of rain we have been having this year.

"But to be honest, given the conditions and the amount of water that is there, without the modern pumps of today they wouldn't have had a hope in hell of doing this back in the 1930s."

Vindolanda was occupied for more than 300 years and was an important frontier fort and village long before the construction of Hadrian's Wall.

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