In celebration of Hadrian’s Wall’s 1900th anniversary, English Heritage has installed a contemporary and colourful take on the original Roman gatehouse at Housesteads Roman Fort – one of the Wall’s best preserved and most important sites.
Created by renowned artist r, Morag Myerscough and the local community the temporary installation – called ‘The Future Belongs To What Was As Much As What Is’ – stands in the exact spot that the north gatehouse at Housesteads once stood. The colourful re-imagining of the gatehouse echoes the original building in size and as visitors can climb to the top, the installation opens up views of the ancient landscape, last seen by Roman soldiers 1600 years ago.
English Heritage’s Chief Executive Kate Mavor, said: “Hadrian’s Wall is one of England’s most iconic landmarks and to mark its anniversary, we wanted a meaningful way to connect people of 2022 back to AD122. We hope that placing such a bold contemporary art installation in this ancient landscape will not only capture people’s imagination but maybe also challenge their ideas of what the Wall was for. Not just a means to keep people out, but a frontier that people could – and did – cross. To create this work we’ve engaged with a wide range of community groups who have all played a part in making this such a striking and vibrant piece of art…and living history.”
Morag Myerscough said: “The moment I saw Housesteads and started walking around the fort I had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to make an installation there. I stood in the remains of the north gatehouse and I looked at the wilderness that appeared to be unchanged since Roman times and I knew immediately that was the place.
“It was so important to me, and to English Heritage, that the work was a collaboration with the local community and that it relates to the people it is for. The whole work has been created and made with the local community, we have made it together.”
The brightly coloured wooden placards that comprise the outer shell of the artwork, over a largescale scaffold frame, were designed in response to the collection of Roman artefacts on display Chesters Roman Fort Museum, Roman designs and community workshops. The words and phrases seen across the installation come from Morag’s collaboration with poet, Ellen Moran and the local community through workshops where volunteers also helped to paint the placards, following the artist’s designs.
As part of the HW1900 Festival, the installation is open to the public from 30th July to 30th October 2022, after which the structure will be completely removed and the placards will be offered to the community members who painted them.
English Heritage’s newly launched creative programme uses contemporary visual and performing arts to complement the existing interpretation at sites and engage new audiences in distinctive aspects of the history of key sites across the country.
English Heritage would like to thank The National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery players for making this projects possible.