A major and unique exhibition which celebrated the prestigious Roman cavalry regiments has contributed to a 12 per cent rise in visitors to Hadrian’s Wall and its legacy continues to benefit the region.
Hadrian’s Cavalry, which ran between April and September 2017, explored the role and daily life of the Roman army’s cavalry forces and stretched the length of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site area.
A unique range of remarkable and finely decorated Roman cavalry objects including ornate helmets, armour and weapons were included in the exhibition, on loan from national and international museums.
Bill Griffiths, head of programmes at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and the project’s chair, said: “Hadrian’s Cavalry brought together all the museums along Hadrian’s Wall in partnership to tell the story of an often-overlooked part of life on the Roman frontier. People mostly remember infantry men stood on top of Hadrian’s Wall but a third of all troops were actually cavalry men.
“The exhibition included loans from across Europe, allowing everyone involved to develop closer relationships with these museums and create a lasting legacy. Indeed, together we have been working on several legacy projects, including films about the exhibition and the associated live-action event Turma! Hadrian’s Cavalry Charge in Carlisle.
“Then there is Cavalry 360 – a wind sculpture replicating the sound of horses’ hooves which was commissioned for Hadrian’s Cavalry. This will be touring heritage sites across the UK from September this year, starting with an appearance at Greenwich Peninsula for the London Design Festival.”
Hadrian’s Cavalry stretched the length of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site with 10 museums and venues involved – Senhouse Roman Museum, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Roman Army Museum, Vindolanda, Corbridge Roman Town & Museum, Housesteads Roman Fort & Museum, Chesters Roman Fort & Museum, Great North Museum: Hancock, Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths & Museum and Arbeia Roman Fort & Museum.
Alongside the exhibits on display, Hadrian’s Cavalry included re-enactment events, family activities and inspiring talks. ‘Turma! Hadrian’s Cavalry Charge in Carlisle’ was a dramatic re-enactment event that brought together a full troop of 30 Roman cavalrymen to perform manoeuvres described by the Emperor Hadrian nearly 2,000 years ago. Performances of Turma! at Bitts Park in Carlisle attracted over 3,000 visitors.
Jane Laskey, museum manager at Senhouse Roman Museum in Maryport, said: “We are a fairly small museum, so it was great to get support from the larger museums and we were able to learn about how they work. Similarly, these larger institutions were able to learn from us and the flexibility of the ways that we work.
“We were able to develop networks with museums along Hadrian’s Wall and further abroad, and the success of the project demonstrated that we can be trusted with international and national loans.”
Arts Council England supported Hadrian’s Cavalry with an award of £690,000 through its Museum resilience Fund.
Nikola Burdon, relationship manager at Arts Council England commented: “One aspect which made the project a fantastic fit for our Museum Resilience Fund was the diversity of partners involved, working across a large geographical area. It was brilliant to see large and small organisations working together to produce an exhibition that benefitted all of Hadrian’s Wall.
“While there was a coherent theme throughout Hadrian’s Cavalry, each exhibition was very individual with a variety of objects and interactive elements. What was really special about the project was the amazing visitor offering – from all the museums, exhibitions, the Turma! event and the work alongside children and young people.”
As well as proving to be popular with visitors, the exhibition gained wider recognition when it was named North East Museum of the Year at the Journal Culture Awards 2018.
As part of the work to promote the exhibition and leave a lasting legacy, insight-led research, marketing and digital agency NGI Solutions was selected to lead the Hadrian’s Cavalry marketing campaign alongside the promotional work of all the venues involved. The agency’s work was shortlisted in the North East Marketing Awards 2018.