Roman centurion goes on ‘duty’ at Hadrian’s Wall

The Sentius Tectonicus now in place at Segedunum Roman Fort, in Wallsend.
The Sentius Tectonicus now in place at Segedunum Roman Fort, in Wallsend.
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A Roman centurion has gone on duty at a section of Hadrian’s Wall.

The spectacular piece of public artwork is on display at Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend, for thousands of walkers and visitors to enjoy.

Eight-and-a-half foot Sentius Tectonicus – the name taken from an inscription close to the museum – was constructed from weathering steel by North Tyneside engineering firm WD Close and trainees from AIS Connect.

Artist John O’Rourke was commissioned by North Tyneside Council to create the centurion to provide an iconic landmark which celebrates the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall.

The sculpture contains 575 components and more than three tonnes of Corten steel – the same material used to construct the Angel of the North – while the statue’s foundation and plinth was designed by Capita’s Structures team.

Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “This really is a spectacular addition to the World Heritage site at Segedunum, and a fitting marker for the end of Hadrian’s Wall.

“In creating the statue, John has managed to capture the sheer power and authority of a Roman centurion, and also a sense of this community’s industrial past through his choice of materials.

“The piece will welcome thousands of visitors every year and will become a tourist attraction in its own right.

“It was always going to take something very special to enhance the experience of visiting Segedunum, and I feel that John has achieved it.”

John said: “From the outset, my concept for this sculpture was to create a soldier on the one hand, but also a spiritual warrior.

“I also wanted to construct a form which acted as a broader symbolic statement; alluding somehow to the region’s past, present and future. Wallsend’s more recent history revolved around the shipbuilding industry.”

“Making a figure which adopted industrial materials and fabrication methods ensures that the work’s structural and material substance forges those links.”

Kelly Scott, from WD Close, said: “This project embodied the ethos of WD Close.

“It was all about putting something back into the local community, teaching valuable skills to young people and celebrating our rich heritage on the world stage.

“The Centurion has been handcrafted using traditional engineering and welding skills honed over centuries for which the North East is famous, along with the very latest advances in engineering technology.

“Every weld had to be invisible so it was a painstaking process and the techniques we used meant the finished structure will no doubt last as long as the Wall itself has.

“We have a long-standing partnership with industrial training provider, AIS and have several high-quality apprentices in place thanks to them.”

Kate Lovelock, head of partnerships and strategic development at AIS, said: “AIS Connect’s trainees have really enjoyed building this unique and stunning sculpture.

“Our aim is to inspire and motivate young people – preparing them for the world of work.

“This project has been perfect for that.

“It’s given our trainees invaluable experience and a real sense of achievement.

“Imagine our trainees visiting Sentius Tectonicus with their children and grandchildren and knowing they’ve helped to create it – it really doesn’t get more inspirational than that!”