William Hutton: History of the Roman Wall - Background

William Hutton

The first person we know to have walked the Wall from one end to the other (since the Romans!) was William Hutton, a book seller from Birmingham, who set out from home on 4 July 1801.

He first walked all the way from home to Carlisle, then set off for Bowness, backtracked to Carlisle and continued to Newcastle and Wall’s End (23 July) - then back again to Carlisle – and home to Birmingham (7 August) – a round trip of 601 miles.

At one point, he was appalled to see workmen demolishing part of the wall to get stones for building a farm house. He wrote 'How little we value what is daily under the eye!'  He managed to persuade the landowner to stop the work - and the stretch concerned still survives intact at Brunton Bank


He was aged 77 at the time, and reckoned he lost a stone of weight on the walk. 

He published his account of the journey in 1813, in a book entitled 'The History of the Roman Wall which crosses the Island of Great Britain from the German Ocean to the Irish Sea, describing its Ancient State and its Appearance in the year 1801


Text and photo by Bill Shannon. Portrait of Hutton from frontispiece to his History of the Roman Wall