South Shields

Arbeia Roman Fort & Museum

Built around AD160, Arbeia Roman Fort once guarded the entrance to the River Tyne, playing an essential role in the mighty frontier system. Based four miles east of the end of Hadrian's Wall at South Shields, the Fort was originally built to house a garrison and soon became the military supply base for the 17 Forts along the Wall.The site of the Roman Fort was open farmland until 1875 when the land was sold to builders. The news that the Roman remains were to be built on prompted local interest in the site and led to major excavations being carried out to record the remains before they were lost. The land, which contained the central section of the Fort, was subsequently bought by the South Shields Corporation and the Roman Remains Park was created.

The finds from the Fort were displayed in the Library and Museum on Ocean Road until 1953, when a small museum was built on the site itself to house them. The museum contains material from the Fort, the surrounding civilian settlement and the cemetery. In 1986, the West Gate of the Fort was reconstructed to give visitors an impression of the size and scale of Roman military architecture. In 2002 two further reconstructions were opened to show the very different living conditions of a normal soldier, a Centurion and a Commanding Officer.

The current programme of excavations at Arbeia began 23 years ago. Arbeia is the only Fort associated with Hadrian's Wall where visitors can see archaeologists at work. Today, the excavated remains, stunning reconstructions of original buildings and finds discovered at the Fort combine to give a unique insight into life in Roman Britain.

Find us at...

  • Arbeia Roman Fort & Museum
  • Baring Street
  • South Shields
  • Tyne and Wear
  • NE33 2BB

Our family-friendly offer

Arbeia Roman Fort & Museum has the following facilities for visitors. Please note that the site is not fully accessible by wheelchair (this includes the West Gate):

  • Access for wheelchair users via ramp
  • Accessible toilet
  • Male and female toilet facilities
  • Assistance available if required
  • Facilities for Deaf people and hard of hearing
  • Assistance and guide dogs admitted
  • Gift shop
  • Hot and cold drinks
  • Picnic area.
  • Please visit our access information section for more details on the facilities at Arbeia Roman Fort.


Entrance Charges   It is usually free admission for everyone. However, on some event days there will be a small charge. Please check with the site for more information telephone number (0191) 456 1369   

Car Parking   The entrance to the Fort is at the top of Baring Street in South Shields.   There is free street parking around the perimeter of the site close to the museum entrance.   

Public Transport Access Routes and Drop-Off Points  The nearest Metro station (South Shields) to the site is in King Street and the nearest bus station is in Keppel Street in the centre of South Shields. Both stations are about fifteen minutes walk away from Arbeia. Follow King Street down onto Ocean Road, passing South Shields Museum & Art Gallery along the way. Baring Street is the second turning on the left. Continue up the hill, along Baring Street, until you reach the Fort which is on the right hand side opposite Hadrian Primary School.   The nearest drop-off point by taxi, dial-a-ride or car is at the main gates to the museum. Coaches can drop people off at the main gates. There are two coach bays marked out on the street directly outside the entrance to the Fort. 

Building Entrance   From the main gates leading into the site, the approach to the main entrance to the museum is on a flat tarmac and concrete surface.  There is a gentle slope which leads up to a short steep ramp which leads to the main door of the museum.  Alternatively,  just beyond the main gates there is a path on the right which leads to the far side of the museum building. Access into the museum from this side is via a less steep ramp.   Whether entering from the front or back you will enter the museum through a set of heavy, double glass swing doors.   

Getting Around   Generally the surface of the ground out on the fort site is flat but uneven.  The main paths throughout the site are actually Roman road surfaces covered with gravel and stones so it is important to take great care when exploring the fort’s remains and making your way to the building reconstructions around the site.   There is flat level access around the Commanding Officer’s house and Barrack block reconstructions but some of the floor surfaces are uneven.   The reconstructed West Gate has three floors. There is a single step up into the ground floor of one of the Gate’s towers. The next two floors can only be accessed by using the steep wooden staircase inside.   The most direct route to TimeQuest, the interactive archaeology centre, includes two short flights of steps but as an alternative there is a flat access route (please ask for guidance if unsure of best route). However, inside TimeQuest there is a short flight of steps leading up to the interactive excavation area.   Leading from the Museum there is a flat level path which leads to the museum shop but a small step up into the building. Please ask a member of staff for assistance.   Opposite the Museum shop there is the Herb Garden which has flat level access leading to and around it.   

Seating   There is a range of seating throughout the museum, reconstruction buildings and in the herb garden.  There is also a wheelchair accessible picnic area with picnic tables and bench seating.   

Public Telephone   The phone in the museum reception area can be used in an emergency on request, or to order taxis for disabled visitors.   

Gallery Plans   As parts of the museum galleries have recently been refurbished and redisplayed, up-dated gallery plans are not as yet available. If you would like assistance please ask at the reception desk in the museum.  

Assistance Dogs   We welcome assistance dogs. However, please be aware that there are no specific ‘spending’ areas.   

Induction Loops   Listening points on the site do not have an induction loop facility as they are free-standing and battery-powered. However, large print copies of the audio commentaries and a portable induction loop are available on request from the Reception desk in the Museum   

Talking audio Guides and Listening Point   At various locations on the site there are fixed listening points.  There are two metallic push buttons on each unit. By pushing one you will find out more about the part of the site you are in; and on the other you will hear from one of the characters who lived in the Fort during Roman times.  

Displays, Exhibitions and Attractions   There is a large tactile plan of the fort on site adjacent to the first fixed listening post providing an introductory commentary to Arbeia.   Large print guides to the new museum galleries called ‘Set in Stone’ and ‘Big Collection: Small Finds’, and reconstructed buildings are not yet available.   ‘Set in Stone’ looks at what the large stone objects such as tombstones and altars found on site tell us about the people who lived at Arbeia and the Roman Fort itself. In ‘Big Collection: Small Finds’ you will find on display a selection of many of the small Roman objects found on site. If you would like more information please ask at the Reception desk in the Museum   There is a Braille guide to TimeQuest. TimeQuest is a hands-on interactive gallery where you can try out your excavation skills and discover pieces of Roman pottery, bone and tile.   In the new Herb Garden you will, once the herbs become more established, be able to touch and smell herbs which were all used in Roman times for a variety of purposes.   Due to the preciousness and delicateness of many of the Roman artefacts found on site, many of them need to be displayed in display cases and cannot be touched. However the Museum does have a wide range of replica items which can be handled and touched. If you would like to find out more please ring the Museum on (0191) 456 1369.   

Films and Interactive Displays   TimeQuest is Arbeia’s main interactive gallery. Here you can find out more about the site and try out a mini-excavation where you’ll discover pieces of Roman pottery, bone and tile. There are additional low-tech interactive in the West Gate.   

Special Exhibitions and Events and Learning Family Activities   Throughout the summer months, Arbeia holds a number of events for all ages which might include living history re-enactments to musical and theatrical performances.   Craft activities for children are also arranged throughout the school holidays.   For further information please contact the Museum on (0191) 456 1369 or look at the website on       

Guided Tours for Groups   You can specifically pre-book a guided tour around the site for which there will be a charge. Three weeks notice should be given.  Occasionally free guided tours are provided. Please ring the Museum for more details.   

Accessible Toilets / Baby Changing areas   The male toilets are on the end of the museum building nearest to the reconstruction of the West Gate. The female toilets are at the other end, nearest to the shop and TimeQuest. The accessible toilet is also at this end. There is no baby changing facility on site.   

Shops and Cafés   The shop sells a wide range of souvenirs and is located between the Museum and TimeQuest buildings. At its entrance it has twin glass doors but there is a step up into it. If you require assistance please ask a member of staff. The shop also has a hot drinks machine and sells cold drinks and snacks.    

Pre-visit Information   Currently the site is undergoing some refurbishment, therefore the existing pre-visit pack information is out of date. When the programme has been completed the information will be revised.   If, in the meantime, you would like to find out more, or request that any of the venue’s guides or leaflets be in another format (eg. Braille, large print, audio) please contact the Museum on (0191) 456 1369      

Wheelchair Hire   A wheelchair is available from the Museum. Please ask at the Reception desk. There is no charge for this service.         

Fire Alarms   There are fire alarm sounders in the museum, shop, TimeQuest and reconstructed buildings which with the exception of the Museum are supported by visual flashing lights.   If you are likely to be unable to hear the alarms or will need assistance to exit the buildings in the event of a fire please tell a member of staff on your arrival.     

Staff Training   All Museum staff attend a programme of core training which includes customer care, diversity and disability awareness to ensure that all our visitors enjoy the time they spend in our venues.   If there is anything that we can do to make your visit more enjoyable please contact us, we will be happy to assist you.   As the site is closed to the public during the winter months ie: October 2011 – March 2012(incl) and you wish to make an enquiry or arrange a pre-booked guided tour please follow the contact details for South Shields Museum & Art Gallery.              

Access Statement   Although we make every attempt to make the venue as safe and as accessible as possible, the nature of the site makes it difficult to achieve.   Arbeia is essentially a historic and working archaeological site therefore surfaces along paths and advised routes will never be flat and even.  Within the fort perimeter there are large areas of grass but because of it being an archaeological site there will always be pits, troughs, and string courses of low lying walls to navigate around.   The modern-day rebuilding of some of the buildings which once stood on site were built to provide visitors with an impression of what these buildings might have looked like in Roman times . Unfortunately, some of them, just like then, are not accessible.    The site, first built in about AD160, is protected by law. Due to its association with Hadrian’s Wall, the site has been recognised as being part of the World Heritage Site. Permission or schedule monument consent is always required from English Heritage if changes are to be made to the appearance of the site or if changes are likely to impact on or destroy the archaeological remains.  This sometimes can have a negative impact on making the site accessible.

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