The site of the Roman military base and town at Corbridge (possibly known to the Romans as Coria) lies on a river terrace on the north bank of the Tyne, to the west of the modern town of Corbridge, founded in the Anglian period. Founded some time after AD 85, the site now visible is only a small part of the original settlement. One of the garrisons of the earliest fort was probably the ala Petriana, the tombstone of the cavalryman Flavinus being built into the cloister of Hexham Abbey. Walled military compounds and civil buildings overlie the remains of a series of earlier forts, the only visible signs of which are the central headquarters building and the subsidence caused by one of the sets of defensive ditches.
The site is important as it sits at the junction of the Dere Street, which crossed the Tyne on a large stone bridge, the remains of which can still be seen in the river (when it is low), and the Stanegate, which ran from Corbridge to Carlisle. Dere Street was the main route from York to Scotland in Roman times and continued to be an important highway into the medieval period (its route is now followed – more or less – by the A68).
Although King John dug for treasure during his visit to the Tyne valley (all he found was building materials), and a 19th-century antiquarian named Coulson conducted a minor investigation looking for the north abutment of the bridge, the first major campaign of excavation took place in 1906-14. This was the first true training dig in England and was Leonard Woolley’s first experience of field archaeology. During his sojourn as supervisor of the excavations, however, he was fortunate enough to discover the Corbridge Lion.
To many, the Roman site is most famous for the Corbridge Hoard, the discovery of which enabled the articulated armour known as lorica segmentata to be fully understood for the first time.