THE UK and Scottish Culture Ministers met this week – and toured the Roman Antonine Wall across Falkirk District.
UK Minister Barbara Follett MP arrived at Callendar Park in Falkirk on Tuesday to see the remains of the turf wall, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
She later met up with her Scottish counterpart, Mike Russell MSP, on a visit to Kinneil Roman Fortlet at Bo’ness.
The Ministers chatted to pupils from Kinneil Primary School and Bo’ness Academy who had been learning about the Wall – as well as representatives from the various public bodies behind the World Heritage bid.
Ms Follett said: “The Antonine Wall is the remains of one of the world’s most important Roman frontiers. It is also a marvelous example of lasting historic construction and conservation.
"Much is being done to widen the public’s access to features of the Antonine Wall and to help them understand its significance as an historic monument and an economic, educational and social asset for the communities that live along it.
"It is rather wonderful to know that, centuries after its construction, people can come to the Antonine Wall see for themselves the furthest extent of the Roman Empire. This would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of the governments of the United Kingdom; Scotland and Germany who are just the latest in a long line of custodians of this wonderful monument.”
Mr Russell commented: “To this day the Romans are renowned for their designs and ambition, aspects that have as much in common with modern Scotland as it does with our history. Being able to stand here and still see the 2,000 year-old legacy of what they built allows us to truly comprehend what a breath-taking achievement this was.
“It is truly wonderful to see the children of Kinneil Primary School here learning about their history enthusiastically and celebrating it. We must aim to translate the international recognition the Wall now shares with other Frontiers across Europe with that same passion and enjoyment. Showcasing our culture and history is something we should all take pride in and the Antonine Wall, along with the many other events taking place for the Year of Homecoming, is a great example of that.
“The success of the Antonine Wall bid for World Heritage Site, the fifth in Scotland, was achieved with the support of many people, councils and organisations and I am delighted that so many are able to join me to welcome Barbara Follett to see the UK’s latest World Heritage Site for herself.”
Falkirk Council said it was pleased to host the event.
Councillor Adrian Mahoney, the convener of Leisure, Tourism and Community at the Council, said: “The bid to make the Antonine Wall a World Heritage Site was a long process – but an excellent example of partnership working. It involved the local authorities along the Wall, Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission here in Scotland. It was backed by the previous Scottish Executive, and now Scottish Government, and finally put forward by the UK Government. It is therefore appropriate that both the UK and Scottish administrations were represented this week.”
He added: “I was particularly pleased that the Ministers were able to meet the children from Kinneil Primary School, who were suitably dressed for the part in Roman costumes. Part of the World Heritage Site runs through the children’s playground at Kinneil.
“Earlier, Mrs Follett met pupils from Bo’ness Academy who had been involved in a project about the Antonine Wall. I hope both Ministers enjoyed their visits to Falkirk district and will take away lasting memories about the heritage of this area.”
ABOUT THE WALL
The Antonine Wall was the frontier built by the Roman army in the years following AD 140 on the orders of the Emperor Antoninus Pius. It ran for 40 Roman miles (60 km) from Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde and consisted of a turf rampart fronted by a wide and deep ditch. Forts provided accommodation for the troops based on the Wall as well as points where the Wall could be crossed. They were linked by a road, known as the Military Way. The frontier was only occupied for about a generation before being abandoned in the 160s.
During its occupation it was the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire, and, for its time, it was the most advanced frontier which the army had constructed.
The nomination for World Heritage Site status began in March 2003 and involved the five local authorities along the line of the Wall – East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire Councils. The Wall became a World Heritage Site in July 2008 and joins Hadrian’s Wall and the German limes as part of the transnational “Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site”.
Falkirk district boasts some of the best preserved sections of the Wall – at Kinneil Estate, Bo’ness; Polmont Woods; Callendar Park, Falkirk; Watling Lodge, Tamfourhill; and Roughcastle and Seabegs Wood near Bonnybridge. It has Roman displays at Callendar House in Falkirk and Kinneil Museum in Bo’ness.
The area will also feature on a new £50 note, being released by the Clydesdale Bank later this year.