The Vindolanda Trust also has a second museum, the Roman Army Museum at the nearby fort of Carvoran
Carvoran fort was acquired by the Trust more or less by accident. The farm came up for the sale and they were able to purchase it and have turned it into a Roman Army Museum.
Carvoran itself is an odd kind of fort. Like Vindolanda, it is not part of Hadrian’s Wall, but one of the so-called Stanegate forts situated along the road that ran in the lower ground behind Hadrian’s Wall.
The Stanegate is one of the great subjects of debate among Wall scholars. It appears that early in the Roman occupation, a road was established across Britain at this point, and fairly soon after, forts were established along the road. Now, just when it turned from being a road with forts along it into a ‘frontier’ is a matter of much debate. But soon after the Romans withdrew from Scotland after the governor Agricola claimed to have conquered the whole of Britain, but was then recalled to Rome and the northern part was given up, the Stanegate became a frontier with a number of major force established along it. Several of these forts became rather important, notably Corbridge in the East, Vindolanda and Carvoran in the centre, and Carlisle in the West: indeed Carlisle may have become the capital of northern Britain.
Carvoran was one of these forts, lying seven miles west of Vindolanda. But it is odd, because Hadrian Wall comes up close to it, but then avoids it, but even stranger, the Vallum come straight towards it, but then bends around it to the north. Just what was going on?
Carvoran itself has not been excavated in modern times. In the 18th century it was trashed by agriculture, but in the 20th century it has been left untouched except in one corner where a tower was excavated under the order of John Clayton, the landowner, for the benefit of the 1886 Pilgrimage. However, Andrew Birley has his eye on it. Part of it is a swamp due to the drainage being interrupted on a different property and he would very much like to drain the swamp and see if anything survives..
Meanwhile, the Roman Army Museum has established by the Trust and largely through the energy and vision of Robin Birley it is a magnificent display with a terrifying Roman cavalryman at the entrance and a good display of Roman armour.
I particularly liked the examples of body armour, displaying the difference between chainmail and plate armour.
It is interesting to compare Carvoran with the Museum at Wallsend. Wallsend, is essentially a municipal museum, and as a result, there is rather a feeling that it is dumbed down. The Roman Army Museum, like Vindolanda Museum is a museum without direct municipal funding and as a result, even though it is very comprehensible to children, adults can enjoy it too.