The Wooden underworld secures National Lottery funding

Vindolanda Trust - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Toilet seats and potter’s wheels – rare preserved artefacts of everyday Roman life to be seen by public for first time at top Hadrian’s Wall attraction.


The Vindolanda Trust has gained full support with a £1.3m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to secure the future of its internationally significant collection of wooden Roman artefacts and enable the public to see many of them for the first time.


The Vindolanda site, possibly best known as the discovery place of Britain’s oldest surviving handwritten documents and thousands of ancient Roman shoes also has a vast collection of other organic material, preserved in the anaerobic oxygen-free ground giving visitors a unique window on the past.


As well as examples of leather, textiles and flora, thousands of wooden objects have been excavated at the site – from water pipes and axles to a bread shovel, inscribed barrel staves and even a toilet seat. Alongside the ancient Roman fort, the collection, which is recognised as a national treasure, tells the fascinating everyday story of those who lived and worked on the Northern Frontier nearly 2,000 years ago.


Made possible by National Lottery players, the ‘Unlocking Vindolanda’s Wooden Underworld’ project will expand the museum by creating a gallery with special display cases allowing temperature and humidity to be kept at safe levels, enabling significant pieces of the wooden collection to be taken out of storage.


Visitors will also hear the incredible survival story of the collection – from the science behind how they lasted two millennia to their conservation and the research that is uncovering their origins.


Patricia Birley, Chair of the Vindolanda Trust’s Development and Impact Committee, said: “We are extremely grateful to National Lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund for this generous grant towards a museum extension and activities programme at Vindolanda. The new extension provides an opportunity to exhibit some of our most rare and outstanding wooden finds which form an important part of our designated Roman collection of National importance. Many of these incredible wooden objects, which include water pipes, building timbers, furniture, barrels and a toilet seat would have remained in storage and unseen without the support of the National Lottery. The new fit for purpose extension will be linked to an activity area creating a vibrant hub for visitors and volunteers”.


Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “From a collection of wooden Roman artefacts unrivalled in Britain to the science behind its survival, Vindolanda has an incredibly story to tell. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re delighted to support this project which will secure the future of the site’s wooden underworld and allow the public to discover its secrets for the very first time.”



Vindolanda plays an important role in the archaeological research, conservation and public enjoyment of this part of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. This project will give visitors a new opportunity to engage with the work of the Trust and view an important part of our national history. Construction work is expected to start on site this summer with the new gallery and activity room opening in late Spring 2018.




Notes to editors


About the Vindolanda Trust

The Vindolanda Trust is an independent archaeological charitable trust, founded in 1970. The Vindolanda Trust does not receive any annual funding and relies on the visitors to both Roman Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum to fund its archaeological, conservation and education work.  Roman Vindolanda is regarded as the most exciting archaeological site in Europe with its wealth of archaeological remains and ongoing excavations. Vindolanda is home to the world famous Vindolanda Writing Tablets, voted as Britain’s top archaeological treasure by the British Museum, these thin hand written wooden notes have revealed an astonishing amount of first-hand information from the people who lived at this site 2000 years ago. In May 2016 the Vindolanda was awarded Designated status by the Arts Council England recognising the collection as being of national significance.



About the Heritage Lottery Fund


Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.



Further information


For further information contact Rebecca Lamm, HLF press office, on 020 7591 6027 or


For further information about the Vindolanda Trust contact Sonya Galloway, Communications Manager, on 01434 344277


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