Replica of the Eastgate Roman AltarThis replica of the Roman Altar, stands next to the bus shelter in Eastgate.
Antiquarian engraving of the Eastgate Roman AltarAntiquarian engraving of the Eastgate Roman Altar.

Interpretation panel adjacent to the replica altar at Eastgate.Interpretation panel adjacent to the replica altar.

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Bank of Rookhope Burn, Eastgate
Current Location: Durham University Archaeological Museum Theme: Religion
Period: Roman
Date: c.242AD

What is it?
A Roman altar dedicated to the god Sylvanus – God of the woods and hunting. It was carved from millstone grit. It was erected by Aurelius Quernius , the Roman cavalry commander from Longovicium fort to give thanks for the  successful hunting down of a very large wild boar.  It was found by some schoolboys from the school at Eastgate on 15th November 1869. It was first in the possession of Mr E.J.W. Hildyard of Horsley Hall before being housed in The Old Fulling Mill Museum in Durham. A replica altar was erected in Eastgate on 15th November 1969. This stands next to the bus stop near the Cross Keys Inn.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The altar shows that during Roman times Weardale must have been a favourite hunting ground for soldiers from nearby forts during their leisure time. Some of the forest had been cleared by this time, but many of the tributary valleys were still well-wooded, such as the Rookhope Valley. 

Why is it important?
Although altars have been found further north alongside Hadrian’s wall, the Eastgate altar represents evidence that the Romans were present in Weardale. It proves that some kind of Pre-Christian religion was practiced in Weardale. Very often the sacred place was located where a special occurrence happened such as the killing of a boar.

Further Information
    Text References:
  • Weardale Gazette Magazine, 2008. “When Romans came to Weardale”.

  • Other Useful Information:

  • Hardie C.  Hammond N, 2007. The Archaeology and Architecture of Weardale. The Weardale Society.

 


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