Built around AD160, Arbeia Roman Fort once guarded the entrance to the River Tyne, playing an essential role in the mighty frontier system. Based four miles east of the end of Hadrian's Wall at South Shields, the Fort was originally built to house a garrison and soon became the military supply base for the 17 Forts along the Wall.
The site of the Roman Fort was open farmland until 1875 when the land was sold to builders. The news that the Roman remains were to be built on prompted local interest in the site and led to major excavations being carried out to record the remains before they were lost. The land, which contained the central section of the Fort, was subsequently bought by the South Shields Corporation and the Roman Remains Park was created.
The finds from the Fort were displayed in the Library and Museum on Ocean Road until 1953, when a small museum was built on the site itself to house them. The museum contains material from the Fort, the surrounding civilian settlement and the cemetery.
In 1986, the West Gate of the Fort was reconstructed to give visitors an impression of the size and scale of Roman military architecture. In 2002 two further reconstructions were opened to show the very different living conditions of a normal soldier, a Centurion and a Commanding Officer. The current programme of excavations at Arbeia began 23 years ago. Arbeia is the only Fort associated with Hadrian's Wall where visitors can see archaeologists at work.
Today, the excavated remains, stunning reconstructions of original buildings and finds discovered at the Fort combine to give a unique insight into life in Roman Britain.