Introducing The Mansio: A Roman Travel Lodge

Introducing The Mansio: A Roman Travel Lodge

Throughout the summer, visitors to some of Britain’s most historic locations will be able to explore a “new ruin”: the Mansio.

Imagine a travelling Roman ruin made from a semi-translucent material: a reception area, a tower, a small viewing space, and when the weather is good, an outdoor courtyard. This is the Mansio. A travelling, specially designed, venue where commissioned pieces of work by leading contemporary poets and authors will be staged and shared with the public. It is the 21st century version of a Roman travel lodge, where officials would stop for rest and refreshment while travelling the Empire's roads.

But today's Mansio will let visitors explore and contemplate new pieces of written work through listening booths and audio visual display. Commissioned artists and writers have already created new pieces of work about borders and frontiers (the very reason Hadrian’s Wall was built) which will be shared during the Mansio tour.

Ten writers, including Lemn Sissay, Colette Bryce, David Almond and Daljit Nagra, have been signed up and will be creating new work to be performed, or shown, during the tour, as well as made into a book which will be available for sale in the Mansio. Launching at Hexham Book Festival on 23rd April 2016, the Mansio will tour to chosen locations along Hadrian’s Wall for several days at a time, from April to September 2016.

Looking like a translucent ghost of a Roman ruin, the Mansio will be positioned amongst the traces of the past armies and inhabitants from all over the world who lived, worked and died in the wall's forts and settlements.

Arts & Heritage associate Peter Sharpe, who is leading on the architectural commission, said:

“We invited national and international architects and artists to respond to the Mansio brief and received some fantastic proposals; this will be a really unusual structure that functions as a listening booth, gallery and teahouse. The winning design by architect Matthew Butcher also allows for projection and an outdoor seating area and we are really looking forward to realising his idea in the completed Mansio.”

Visiting the Roman Forts of Arbeia, Senhouse, Vindolanda, Birdoswald Carlisle Castle (Cumbria) and Walltown Crags in Northumberland National Park, the Mansio project also involves Northumbria University, Northumberland County Council, Tullie House Museum and schools and libraries across the country who will run related activities, talks and workshops throughout the tour.

Susie Troup, Director of Hexham Book Festival, says:

"The rich history of Hadrian’s Wall and its migrating peoples provide a creative foundation for the authors involved in the Mansio project, writing new responses to the ever-present issue of borders and colonisation and the unique history of this ancient Roman landscape. The public will have the opportunity to meet the authors who will be appearing at the locations of the tour over the course of next year when the Mansio is in situ."

A full programme and more information about the Mansio is available at


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