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P. Mcmillan, The Evening Chronicle ● icnewcastle.icnetwork.co.uk

Blazing a Roman trail underneath fire station

A team of archaeologists is to dig for Roman remains - on the site of a Tyneside fire station.

The excavations in Newcastle are planned around Westgate Fire Station, on the junction of Westgate Road and Wingrove Road, which is in the Hadrian's Wall corridor.

The station, built in 1964, is due to be replaced by another, in Rye Hill, this summer with the dig due to begin after the crews have moved out.

A team from the archaeology department of the Tyne & Wear museums service will start excavations to evaluate the site's significance.

If evidence of ancient buildings or a trench, known as a vallum, are discovered it could affect future development on the site.

Divisional Officer Dave Brown of the Tyne & Wear Fire Service, said: "The archaeologists came a few weeks ago, asking to survey the station. They went away to review that because a dig might have affected the performance of the station.

"But Pilgrim Street and the West Road stations are amalgamating with the new station in the Colby Court area of the West End. This is to increase operational efficiency and it will open in June.

"The staff are very supportive of this - as they are of anything that supports the North East. It's exciting for anybody interested in history, particularly in that era.

"Some firefighters walk the length of the wall to raise money for charity."

Ged Bell, Newcastle City Council's cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, welcomed the dig, which he called an important project.

He added: "The Roman Wall could run either through the northern part of the site or in front of it under the forecourt or road. The course of the Military Road and vallum also run through the site.

"We need to check for evidence of past activity on the site, including other tracks or features which might be expected to accompany the Military Way.

"This dig is potentially exciting, as no previous archaeological investigations have been carried out on this particular site even though we know it's definitely on the line of Hadrian's Wall."

A similar dig at Pendower Hall, in Fenham, just west of the fire station, revealed the Military Way to be in good condition. Last week, a Roman workshop, civilian buildings, industrial sites and a cemetery were discovered on 15 acres of farmland at Bardon Mill, Northumberland.

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