New exhibition to display Hadrian’s Wall’s oldest souvenirs

A new exhibition featuring a collection of Hadrian’s Wall’s oldest souvenirs has gone on display in Northumberland.

The collection, which features keepsakes from almost 2,000 years, includes one of the wall’s earliest souvenirs – the Rudge Cup.

The exhibition, announced by English Heritage, is being put on to mark 1,900 years since the start of the wall’s construction in 122 AD.

Made in around 130 AD, the Rudge Cup is a small bronze bowl with the names of Hadrian’s Wall forts inscribed on it, as well as an illustration of the historical wall.

The piece is thought to have been made for a high ranking soldier or civil official who was stationed on the wall and would have been a one-off commission.

A tin containing a rim from a glass bottle and a ceramic vessel
A tin containing a rim from a glass bottle and a ceramic vessel dating back to 1891 (Jason Friend/English Heritage/PA)

It will sit alongside other historic souvenirs spanning nearly two millennia, including a replica of the Staffordshire Moorlands Pan, the Winterton Pan and the Brougham Patera.

Other highlights include a large replica bust of Hadrian and a piece of a wooden fort at Carlisle.

The collection also features a tin, recently acquired by English Heritage, filled with scavenged fragments discovered on a visit to Chesters in 1891, according to a handwritten note attached to its lid.

Frances McIntosh, English heritage curator at Hadrian’s Wall, said: “Many of us will have returned from our holidays this summer with a memento of our trip but the idea of collecting objects as a way of safekeeping memories is extremely old.

A ceramic replica of the Rudge Cup
A ceramic replica of the Rudge Cup (Jason Friend/English Heritage/PA)

“In the second century, visitors went to the trouble of commissioning their own souvenirs, like the Rudge Cup.

“We wanted to show how souvenirs have changed and, perhaps more importantly, how they haven’t.

“Some souvenirs can be wacky, or even tacky, whilst some are beautiful works of art, but all of them carry memories of a visit, and that is what makes them important to their owners, whether modern or Roman.”

The exhibition is open at Chesters Roman Fort and runs until October 30, with entry included in site admission price.