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by Derry Brabbs
In Hadrian’s Wall, Derry’s book celebrates the period around 122AD when, on the orders of the Emperor Hadrian, the most important extant monument from the Roman Empire in this country was built to secure and control the Empire’s northernmost border. It cleverly utilised the narrowest part of the north of England, extending 73 miles across the Solway Tyne isthmus between Carlisle and Newcastle.
The best parts of this spectacular wall can be seen in the central sector between Walltown Crags and Housteads Fort, where it dips and soars for several miles over the undulations of the Whinn Still ridge. Sadly, there are stretches at either end of the wall where it has completely disappeared as a tangible linear structure but nevertheless survives in the many churches, farms and manor houses whose own solid walls bear testimony to its later role as a free source of ready-dressed building stone.
Derry became well acquainted with Hadrian’s Wall whilst taking the photographs for Wainwright on the Pennine Way, the second of seven books he illustrated for AW. He says: ‘I had little idea of just how awesome the three-dimensional version would be. It was a spine-tingling and somewhat humbling experience to stand alone on one of the Wall’s highest vantage points, touching blocks of stone that were originally slotted into place by 2nd-century soldiers from the Roman Legions based at York, Chester or Carleon. Because we now take so much for granted and rely on technology for even the most basic tasks, it is easy to forget just how much of our built heritage was accomplished solely through manual labour.’
Again, the book is studded with magnificent photographs, which involved Derry making countless trips over many months from Harrogate to the Wall in an effort to combat the fickle microclimates of Cumbria and Northumberland. He has assembled a portfolio of stunning images that combine harmoniously with his illuminating text to create a perfect reflection of the spirit and atmosphere of Hadrian’s Wall.
reviewed by John Burland - Member No. 2