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Portgate on the Wall

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Corbridge.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.
Medieval County of Northumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY980686
Latitude 55.01195° Longitude -2.03279°

Portgate on the Wall has been described as a Pele Tower although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a Bastle although is doubtful that it was such.

There are no visible remains.


The Roman Wall passed north of Portgate at which there is a square tower still standing, but the ruins of old buildings referred to by Camden are probably those at Halton more than half a mile to the east. The tower is of much later date than Roman (Horsley 1732).
A survey of c.1715 refers to an 'ancient pile' at Portgate (Hodgson 1916).
Centred NY 9805682 The farm called Portgate lies south of Hadrian's Wall.
To the north and east of the farm buildings are traces of depopulation consisting of low banks dividing the area into crofts and two or three steadings of small rectangular buildings. The area may have extended to the south and south west where there has been much surface quarrying. The remains cover about six acres and are typical of deserted medieval villages in Northumberland.
It is considered probable that the tower stood within or near this area. The Border Surveys of 1415 and 1542 do not mention a tower at Portgate and it is possible that it was one of the Bastle type, many of which were erected in the late 16th century.
None of the existing farm buildings show any traces of antiquity. The farmhouse is 18th century (F1 EG 14-MAY-1956).
The township of Portgate was in the regality of Hexham. It does not appear in the 1296 Lay Subsidy, but may have existed then. The earliest reference to the hamlet is 1387. Three messuages were recorded there in 1640. Armstrong's map of 1769 showed only two buildings. It now comprises a farmstead and a cottage. Evidence for a village is mainly dependent on earthworks. The field north of the steading contains a block of at least three crofts aligned E-W, adjoining the Roman 'vallum' on the north, and with house platforms on the south side. A second row of tenements probably lies beneath the farmstead (Wrathmell 1975)
Portgate Tower. Recorded by Camden. Tower thought to be of a late date. No remains standing; site unknown (Long).
Medieval crofts are visible as earthworks on air photographs centred at NY 9811 6861. A series of boundary banks are visible forming crofts. Some boundaries are still extant on the latest 2000 oblique photography. (Northumberland HER)

The 1715 survey refers to an 'ancient pile' but even a building just over a hundred years old might be considered ancient in such a survey, certainly if it was built from reused stones from Hadrians's Wall. The 'square tower' mentioned seems to Halton Castle and nothing to do this site. This appears to have been a small township and even a small gentry status pele tower is probably unlikely on tenurial grounds however the 1715 survey does not include modest pele-house type bastles and it, also, may be referring to Halton Castle.
In fact there is no physical evidence of any form of medieval defensive building here and the historical sources are Camden writing in the early C17 and dismissed by Horsley as early as 1732 and a survey of c. 1715 which is, at best, ambiguous and both source may well be referring to Halton Castle half a mile to the east.
Neither historical source give exact locations. The township of Portgate is 300m south of Hadrian's Wall but the Roman gateway of Dere Street (the actual Port Gate) is 700m to the east (at NY987686) andHalton Castle is 1300m south east of that gateway. There was a large strong gateway at Port Gate but the excavations reports don't mention medieval use (but that may not actually exclude medieval use).
On balance Gatehouse is of the opinion that there was no medieval fortification at either Potgate township or the Roman Port Gate and the historical references are to Halton Castle.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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