Published 08 November 2021

Roman sculpture praised for engaging the local community with history

An innovative West Dunbartonshire Council-led project that brings to life the ancient Roman Antonine Wall has been honoured with a prestigious national award.

The Rediscovering the Antonine Wall Project was voted the top Outdoors attraction at the Association for Heritage Interpretation’s Engaging People Awards.

An expert panel hailed the Arniebog distance stone and the Silvanus sculpture – a towering metal depiction of a Roman soldier’s head - at Nethercroy in North Lanarkshire for capturing the imagination of local residents.

It’s the latest success for the £2.1 million project, led by West Dunbartonshire Council on behalf of four other local authorities and Historic Environment Scotland, that aims to raise awareness of the Roman UNESCO World Heritage Site and attract local community and visitors to understand its significance.

The project was previously held up as an example of best practice in cultural heritage throughout Europe by being included in the European Guide for Cultural Heritage in Action.

Emma McMullen, Antonine Wall Project Manager at West Dunbartonshire Council, said: “We are thrilled to win this award which recognises the amazing work going on through the Rediscovering the Antonine Wall Project to bring local Roman heritage back to life.

“We were delighted to launch the replica distance stone and sculpture to raise awareness of the area’s heritage among the local community and visitors to Croy Hill at the start of May, and it is already providing to be a big draw to the local area.”

Speaking on behalf of the judges, Bill Bevan from the AHI, explained: “The award was given because the judges loved the way the installation encouraged visitors to engage and discuss the area’s Roman heritage with each other.

“Silvanus provides the drama while the distance stone brings the community involvement, relevance to people today and demonstrates the reason for its location.

“It has gone beyond raising the profile of the Wall locally to encouraging local people to consider it as part of their heritage - and to share this with others. That must be regarded as a significant success.”

Distance stones are highly decorated stone sculptures offering a dedication to a Roman Emperor and marking the distance of the Wall completed. The original distance stone was found at nearby Arniebog, by Westerwood Fort in 1868, and is now in the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow.

The replica was produced in partnership with City of Glasgow College which gave stonemasonry students the opportunity to carve a replica based on the original.

The site at Nethercroy was designed by Martin Tabor of Land Use Consultants who came up with the concept for the sculpture. The metal Roman soldier’s head sculpture was created by artist Svetlana Kondakova and Big Red Blacksmiths and it looks out from the line of the Antonine Wall across the Kelvin Valley towards what the Romans considered ‘barbarian’ territory, beyond the edge of the Roman Empire.

The Antonine Wall marked the most northerly point of the Roman Empire and the Council areas it passes through – West Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and Falkirk – joined forces with Historic Environment Scotland to bring its fascinating story back to life.

The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Kelvin Valley & Falkirk LEADER, FCC Communities Foundation, Falkirk Environment Trust, and Falkirk Community Trust alongside the local authorities and Historic Environment Scotland.