The Archaeological Site

Coventina's well can still be visited today, as can the finds from it.

How to get to the site

The well is at Carrawburgh on Hadrian's Wall. It is always open and admission is free. The nearest big town is Newcastle-upon-Tyne, twenty miles west. The nearest village is Hexham, four miles northeast. The site is four miles west of Chollerford on the B6318 road. You can find it near the northwest corner of the Roman fort of Brocolitia.

There's a small car park for visitors to the Brocolitia fort. Leave it and walk along the road, keeping the earthwork remains of the fort to your left. You'll see a fence running at right angles to the road on your left. It dips into a depression that is much overgrown with weeds and, depending on the time of year, wild flowers. There you'll find the well, fenced in by barbed wire, still overflowing its basin. Mind how you go, as naturally the area is really muddy!

If you prefer, a much less muddy way to visit the well is exit the car park with your back to the road, and follow the path clockwise around the fort's remains, to the Mithraeum. (A Mithraeum is a temple to the Persian sun god Mithras, much worshipped by members of the Roman military. The fort also had a Nymphaeum, a shrine to Nymphs, nearby, and altars to other gods and goddesses such as Minerva, the Matronae and Fortuna, were found here. The Romans, like the Celts before them, were polytheists.) Walk around the Mithraeum, veer left and cross the fence using the stile. The well is on your right, fenced off with wire.

Various wildflowers grow at the well, including Blood-drop Emlets, a type of Mimulus.

Blood-drop Emlets.

Roman has a page for Brocolitia, the small fort on Hadrian's Wall that is right beside Coventina's well. Information here includes directions to the site, contact information, opening hours, etc, so it is useful.

For an idea of what the temples looked like when they were in use, you might want to visit Vindolanda, a Roman fort that has reconstructions of the Roman-era buildings, such as this temple:

Where to view the finds

The finds from Coventina's well are stored at the museum beside Chester's Fort, which is a few miles away along the B6318. Chesters Roman Fort is the six-acre remains of a large, well-preserved Roman fort, a short distance from Coventina's well. It's interesting in itself, especially the bathing areas by the river, but the on-site museum, housed in a fine Victorian building, displays a collection of Roman finds retrieved by the local antiquarian John Clayton. These include important early archaeological discoveries relating to the central section of Hadrian's Wall, and the finds from Coventina's well, some of which you can see on the images page.

Visitors' impressions

Here are what some visitors thought of their trips to the site. If you'd like to add to this section, contact me.

Tehomet writes:

I had a great time checking out the finds from Conventina's well, (Celtic and Roman carvings, glassware, jewellery, coins, and a human skull) in the museum, and then stomping around in the undergrowth on the earthworks looking for the well itself. It was blowing a gale and the wind scoured my face, nearly blowing me off my feet more than once. I had vague directions from an out of print book; I know where springs tend naturally to occur, where the water table intersects with the ground surface; and I had high hopes, but it wasn't until a couple of hours later, when I actually had the sandal sucked off my foot by mud, which feels just as disgusting as it sounds, that I realised I had found the well.

The Mithraic temple and the Roman fort on the same site have guidebooks, signposts, information boards, reconstructed parts, protective surrounding walls, little leaflets, probably an annual advertising budget. Conventina's well isn't even marked on the maps! It's so overgrown you can't even see the stone basin that the spring fills. I don't know why this is, when the well is much rarer a remain than even a Mithraeum, although it's possible that it's sort of tourist board sexism; the well is the site of a shrine to a goddess rather than a god, so it gets short shrift? But maybe that's paranoia on my part. But the well is sprinkled with beautiful wild flowers and it was a magic spot for me.

Juergen writes:

Here are my thoughts about Coventina's well. My study of the book about the finds and the study of the site gave me fascinating results. This is indeed even today a mystical place and a powerful spot. Think about the two hundred and fifty years of Roman occupation. Created for spiritual purposes, the well itself may be a passage between this world and the Otherworld. It preserves a haunting atmosphere.

For the archaeologist, there is still the foundation west of the shrine (perhaps the doorway for visiting spirits?) to excavate, and the connection to the Nympheum. I think the site is owned by a farmer but is near the fence to Brocolitia. Regrettably, no-one has put any information there about the well itself. The well is fenced in with barbed wire and people on the pathway maintained by English Heritage that bypasses the site do not notice it. I think it would be nice to have at least an information board there. Can the farmer who owns the land be persuaded to do something with the well?


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