What was once a barrier will bring communities together

Antonine Wall in New Kilpatrick Cemetery. Picture: Emma Mitchell
Antonine Wall in New Kilpatrick Cemetery. Picture: Emma Mitchell

An ambitious project to bring the Antonine Wall to life has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Rediscovering the Antonine Wall aims to develop proposals for Roman-themed play spaces, replica stone slabs which mark distance, art events and a community-led video tour of the wall.

And, with the remit of engaging local communities along the wall’s entire length, the project also plans to recruit a 21st century legion to act as a promotional army.

Led by West Dunbartonshire Council, the strategy sees five local authorities – East and West Dunbartonshire, Glasgow City, Falkirk, and North Lanarkshire – working together with help from Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

Development funding of £97,000 has recently been awarded to help progress the plans to allow the group to apply for a full grant – which could be in the region of £1.5 million – to implement it.

Councillor Jim Gibbons, convener of the place, neighbourhood and corporate assets committee at East Dunbartonshire Council, said: “Support from the Heritage Lottery Fund will allow officers to develop this exciting project with local communities.

“Innovative proposals range from Roman-themed play spaces to a multimedia tour, aimed at bringing history and heritage to life.

“The Antonine Wall is a key part of East Dunbartonshire’s rich history with much to explore locally and I look forward to hearing more about this project as it develops.”

Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Stretching from one side of the country to the other, what was once built as a barrier will bring the communities along its length together to explore and celebrate their shared heritage thanks to funding from the National Lottery.

“It’s an opportunity to raise the profile of this incredible feat of construction while benefiting communities across five regions.”

Rediscovering the Antonine Wall aims to increase awareness and understanding of the landmark – a World Heritage Site since 2008.

Training, local content development and community-led events will underpin the delivery of the three-year project and ensure that what is delivered is unique to each area and curated to meet the needs of individual local communities.

A project manager has been appointed to deliver the development phase. Emma McMullen will work with communities and key stakeholders to develop the final designs.

These include five replica distance slabs, similar to that at Bridgeness in Bo’ness, and interpretive play spaces with themed equipment and digital content.

Artistic attractions, created and delivered by local communities, are also on the wishlist as is recruiting a legion to help promote the Antonine Wall.

Patricia Weeks, HES World Heritage co-ordinator, said: “We’re pleased to be collaborating with our five council partners to help both local communities and visitors rediscover the Antonine Wall.”

Over the past two years, communities have been consulted to discover what is needed to enhance the wall in different areas.

The initial funding will allow the group to explore initiatives and also gain an understanding of how much it will finally cost.

Patricia said: “The plans include distance slabs in the five local areas and Roman-themed play parks in those authorities.

“We’re hoping to have input from local children and communities about the design of these which will vary in scale in each area.

“We would also like to create a 21st century legion – people in each area who can promote the wall by doing tours, speaking to schools or being a spokesperson for the wall.

“Overarching it all will be the art events. We’d like communities to come to us with ideas for arts projects along the wall.

“We’ll be holding consultations over the next few months with some fun, engaging activities.”

Patricia added: “My hopes for this project are that we can create an attraction for families and communities which will see them explore the wall, walk lengths of it, drop in to the play park, or visit a local business.

“We’d like to see the wall being enjoyed not only as a historic site but also as a beautiful green space that runs through the heart of Central Scotland.”