History

The Parish has an exceptionally rich heritage, with the most well known connection being with the Romans as Bowness was the western end of Hadrian's Wall started in AD122.  

The Romans made the Solway Plain a military base, and around AD122 the Emperor Hadrian constructed a frontier wall which was reinforced by forts including Maia which was at Bowness on Solway.  When the Roman Empire collapsed around AD383, the Solway was abandoned as we entered the Dark Ages.

Viking settlers are also know to have colonised the area which may have left the ancient form of fishing known as Haaf Netting as a legacy.  The Parish was formalised in Norman times.  

The coastal area was a scene of activity and sometimes violence between the Englsh and Scots.  Notably, the bells of St Michaels Church in Bowness were stolen by the Scots in 1626 then thrown into the Solway by the raiders as they retreated.  In retaliation, the parishioners stole the bells from Dornock which remain in the parish to date.

 

Bowness on Solway Timeline: 


c.1,000,000–14,000 BC: Ice Age: Glaciation of  Solway Plain.


14000-4500BC: Hunter fishers of Mesolithic Age settled.


4500-2300BC: Neolithic age settlers.


2300-1500BC: Bronze Age people settled.


1500-800BC: Beaker people arrived and settled.


800BC – 80AD: Iron Age settlers: The Carvetii Tribe (a sub-group of the Brigantes)


43AD – 409AD: The Roman years: 43AD: Roman invasion of Britain led by Claudius.


71 AD: Romans arrive in Bowness.


122AD: Hadrian’s Wall begun.


128AD: Maia fort built at Bowness.


409AD: End of Roman rule of Britain.


450-500AD: Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain.


c900AD: Vikings settle in area.


1066AD: Norman invasion of Britain.


1150AD: Holm Cultram Abbey (now Abbeytown) becomes the cultural and political centre of the region.


1500-1640: Time of the Border Reivers.


19th Century: Victorian era: Railway links Bowness to Scotland. Port Carlisle established as a major port.


1849: John Collingwood Bruce launches first Pilgrimage along Hadrian’s Wall.


Early 20th century: Edwardians favour Bowness as a seaside resort. The Banks established as an Edwardian Promenade.


2003: Hadrian’s Wall Trail opens

 

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Romans

The Romans made the Solway Plain a military base, and around AD122 the Emperor Hadrian constructed a frontier wall which was reinforced by forts including Maia which was at Bowness on Solway.  When the Roman Empire collapsed around AD383, the Solway was abandoned as we entered the Dark Ages.

The Roman Empire lasted for 900 years, from c400BC to c500AD. It stretched from Africa in the south, to Hadrian’s Wall in the north. At the time it was the largest Empire on earth, and Bowness on Solway was the most north-westerly outpost.

In 122AD Hadrian’s Wall was begun as a defence against the Picts and Scots north of the border, and sections of it still survive today. Hadrian’s Wall stretches from Wallsend on the east coat of England to Bowness on Solway. 


The Roman fort at Bowness was the second largest on The Wall and was known to the Romans as “Maia”. (the largest fort was at Stanwix in Carlisle). Many of the Roman troops manning the fort came from North Africa, and they must have experienced a great climate shock, exchanging the heat of North Africa for the cold and damp of the Solway Firth.


The invading Romans brought many things to Britain: sewage and sanitation systems, central heating (the hypocaust), roof tiles, lead pipes, wigs, false teeth, stinging nettles, cabbages, carrots, cats, peas, poppies and pansies, to name just a few.

 
Today nothing is left of either the original fort or the Wall, as after the Romans left, the stones from both were used by the villagers to build their houses, an early example of recycling. The village church, St Michael’s, is also built of dressed (shaped) stones from both the fort and the Wall.

The field opposite Wallsend Guest House, which contains many ridges ands bumps, was the site of the barracks, and there are still remains of the barracks buildings beneath the grass. However, these remains cannot be exposed as the sandstone would decay rapidly if exposed to weather conditions.

 

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Activities in Bowness-on-Solway

Things to Do

Bowness on Solway is the perfect base for visiting Hadrians Wall, Carlisle and the Lake District