Game of Thrones star launches Wall Face - the faces who saved and preserved Hadrian's Wall

By Richard Moss | 18 August 2014

Hadrian's Wall which inspired the Wall in Game of Thrones is enlisting the help of Dolorous Edd, played by Ben Crompton, to launch an exhibition about the people who have protected it

a photograph of a smiling man with swept back wavy hair and a moustache
Sir Mortimer Wheeler - one of the men who saved Hadrian's Wall - by Godfrey Argent.© National Portrait Gallery
Most self-respecting fans of the HBO TV-hit series, Game of Thrones, know that its creator George RR Martin’s inspiration for ‘the Wall’- the icy barrier keeping out the wildlings and whitewalkers of the North – was Hadrian’s Wall.

They might even know that Martin’s version of the Wall was built by the First Men, thousands of years ago. But how many of them know the story of the real wall built to defend Roman Britain against the incursions of the Picts and Scots - and the real men who helped preserve it?

Now one of the stars of the series, Ben Crompton - who plays Eddison Tollett (also known as Dolorous Edd) a member of the Night’s Watch which guards ‘the Wall’, is about to help launch an exhibition that celebrates 10 of the people who saved and preserved Hadrian’s Wall.

Wall Face features the ten pioneering archaeologists and antiquarians who recorded, protected and revealed the stories of the Hadrian's Wall frontier

Starring  11 prints and photographs from the National Portrait Gallery Collection, each alongside the life story and achievements of the individual at a site associated with their important work, the exhibition is the first to unite all the sites of Hadrian’s Wall.

Visitors who make the pilgrimage to all eleven sites will discover names like Sir Mortimer Wheeler (1890 – 1976) who visited Vindolanda and developed the ‘Wheeler method’ of excavation – a grid system technique that helped archaeologists to record and understand stratigraphy on an archaeological site.

At Birdoswald Roman Fort the face of William Stukeley (1687 – 1765) introduces the archaeologist who was “outraged” when stone from Hadrian’s Wall was used to build the Military Way in the 1750s. And at Senhouse Roman Museum in Maryport, visitors can acquaint themselves with William Hutton who, aged 78 in the summer of 1801, set out from Birmingham to walk Hadrian’s Wall. His later book described the Wall, its forts and his experiences along the way.

Nigel Mills, programme manager for the Wall Face project said: "Each of these pioneering archaeologists and antiquarians has a place in the archaeology 'hall of fame'.

“If it wasn’t for these people and the work they did, Hadrian’s Wall would not have survived for us to admire and wonder at today and we would not appreciate the fascination of the past.

“These people were famous in their own time and each is a fascinating character in their own right.”

Other characters from the impressive list of ten include (1551 – 1623) William Camden who wrote Britannia, the first county-by-county description of Great Britain and Ireland and Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge, (1857 – 1934) who was the Keeper of Egyptology at the British Museum when he compiled the 432-page catalogue of the Clayton Collection’s Roman finds at Chesters.

They are possibly not as famous as the characters in Game of Thrones, but HBO’s current crop of stars have ten pioneering archaeologists to thank for their current brush with TV stardom. 
'Wall Face: Portraits of people who revealed Hadrian's Wall' opens across 11 Hadrian’s Wall Country sites on Thursday August 21 and continues to Sunday November 9.

Ben Crompton will  launch the exhibition at three venues on Thursday August 21.
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