A brief history of the Arbeia Society
The South Shields Archaeological and Historical Society
The South Shields Archaeological and Historical Society was formed in 1949 and has had a long standing history with South Shields Roman Fort. Though the society had the duel purpose of promoting and engaging with both the history and the archaeology of South Shields its main interest has always been with the Roman heritage of the region.
The society actively took part in excavations at the fort throughout the 50s, 60s and early 70s, and in 1974 it was this society which safeguarded the future of Arbeia Roman Fort by petitioning the local government to protect the site from commercial development. When the management of the fort passed to Tyne and Wear Museums Service the South Shields Archaeological and Historical Society saw its active involvement at the site come to an end, with the last event the society undertook at Arbeia being guided tours of the site in 1974 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first excavations at Arbeia.
In 1987 South Tyneside Council helped establish a ‘Roman guard’ at the fort, providing both a start-up grant, and administrative assistance for the first few years.
In order to be relevant to the site and to be different from other Roman re-enactment groups in the country, it was decided the group should re-enact third century auxiliary soldiers and civilians. While civilians are now common amongst many other groups, Quinta is still the only group to represent third century auxiliaries.
The Arbeia Society
In the summer of 1991 it was suggested that a society should be established at South Shields Roman Fort to address the growing interest in the archaeological work that was taking place there, so on the 1st January 1992 the Arbeia Society was established, with Quinta absorbed into the society as its re-enactment wing.
Since its creation the society has held an annual conference which initially started at the University of Newcastle in the spring of 1992, but is now held annually in the autumn at the Customs House in South Shields.
One of the most popular aspects of the Arbeia Society is its magazine which has been described as being a ‘lively, interesting publication that captures the spirit of the Arbeia Society.’ But on a more serious and academic note the Arbeia Society is also responsible for producing the Arbeia Journal which to date has had 10 volumes published.
During 1996 the Arbeia Society merged with the South Shields Archaeological and Historical Society. With the amalgamation of all three groups the Arbeia Society has strengthened over the years and has become essential in the role of promoting the heritage of South Shields.
The above information was adapted from the articles ’10 years on – the first decade of the Arbeia Society’ by W. Griffiths and ‘Arbeia and the South Shields Archaeological and Historical Society’ by E. L. Thornborrow.
These can be found in the Arbeia magazine issues 25 and 20 respectively.