The Antonine Wall at Cawder Golf Club
The Antonine Wall formed the north-westerly frontier of the Roman Empire in the mid-second century AD.
It became Scotland’s fifth World Heritage site in 2008 when it was recognised by UNESCO as part of a Trans-national Frontiers of the Roman Empire site which includes Hadrian’s Wall and other remains in Germany.
The Antonine Wall runs through the golf courses at Cadder and forms its most important antiquity and the courses lie between the Cadder Fort to the East and the Wilderness Plantation Fortlet to the West.
The Wall enters the golf course from the east just south of the 11th Tee on the Keir course, runs down the hill and turns SW under the cottage behind the 9th tee, heads off past the second green, across the road, the lake and then curves upwards to the west along the slope of the hill to the south of the practice area. An early drawing of the ditch survives which shows it running past the Dovecote (see Fig 1) and it can also be seen in the snow in winter (Fig 2). It meets the path behind the 18th tee on the Cawder course and runs uphill to turn west just south of the 17th green. A small mound running downhill from the path is likely to be the remains of the Wall itself (Fig 3). The ditch becomes clearly visible running across the 11th fairway into a wooded area where the line becomes difficult to follow (Figs 4 and 5).
There is no physical trace on the 10th fairway but the line of the Wall is known to continue just north of the Balmuildy road at this point where it then runs into Wilderness Plantation and then down the hill to Balmuildy Fort.
It was built during the reign of the emperor Antoninus Pius during the governorship of Lollius Urbicus and is fairly securely dated to around 142-143 AD.
It runs from near Bo’ness on the River Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the north bank of the River Clyde in the west.
Unlike its predecessor, Hadrian’s Wall, this wall was built mainly of turf on a stone base and had a large ditch to the north with a road known as the military way running along behind to the south. The stone base was around 4.5m wide and the body of the wall survives only to around 1.5m today but estimates suggest it may have originally been around 3m high and may or may not have had a walk way and palisade on top. The ditch to the north averages around 12m wide and 3.5m deep and contained a square drainage channel at the bottom. The earth from the ditch was piled up in front of it in what is known today as the ‘Outer Mound’ of about 20m wide. The southern edge of the ditch started some 6-9m north of the wall face thus ensuring that those on top of the wall could see into the bottom of the ditch. At fairly regular intervals along the Wall there are forts and fortlets of varying sizes and there is evidence of civilian settlement as well.
The men building the Wall recorded their work on what are today called Distance Slabs and one of these is displayed inside the clubhouse. The club’s official history states that “Toward the end of the sixteenth century it was very much in fashion for country gentlemen to have special stones built into their mansion houses. John Napier of Merchiston, Edinburgh, the inventor of logarithms, was married in 1572 to a daughter of Sir James Stirling and it was he who presented the Roman stone to his in-laws for building into Cawder House.” The stone is inscribed “LEG II AUG FEC” which was the builders shorthand for Legio II Augusta Fecit (The Second Legion Augustus built this). The text is enclosed by a wreath which is supported by two winged Genii each standing on the head of an eagle which arises from behind a cornucopia. The stone is situated in the ground floor Junior Changing Room wall. A second stone was said to have been built into another building here and was donated to University of Glasgow in about 1735.