Housesteads Moss Troopers background

Granary, Housesteads

 The antiquary William Camden could not visit Housesteads while in the area in 1599 for fear of the Moss Troopers living there

In 1599, the great antiquary William Camden visited Cumberland in the company of Sir Robert Cotton, with the intention of visiting as many ancient sites as they could, particularly along the line of the Pict's Wall, as they called it, which Camden described as "that most famous monument of all Britaine" (1637 edn, p.782).  The results of their visit were incorporated into the 1607 edition of the Brittania.  He was clearly very impressed by what he saw, describing it thus (originally Latin, but translated by Philemon Holland for the 1607 edition) " Verily I have seene the tract of it over the high pitches and steepe descents of hills, wonderfully rising and falling". And he noted "It had many towres or fortresses, about a mile distant from another"(1637 edn, p.793)

However, he was not able to continue his journey along the Wall into Northumberland for fear of the Moss Troopers.  In the vicinity of "Busie Gap, a place infamous for theeving and robbing" he was forced to report what he had heard, not what he had seen "as I could not with safetie take the full survey of it, for the ranke-robbers thereabout" (1637 edn, p.800). They were probably living in the ruins of Housesteads Roman Fort.

 

Text and photo by Bill Shanon