Pons Aelius was a fort and Roman settlement on the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall situated west of the forts of Segedunum (Wallsend) and Arbeia (South Shields), north of Concangis (Chester-le-Street), and east of Condercum (Benwell) and Corstopitum (Corbridge). The population of the town was estimated at around 2,000. The fort is estimated to be 1.53 acres (6,200 m2) in size, quite small by usual Roman standards. As Pons Aelius was a wall fort there is a high probability that a military road led from it and followed the Wall, linking all of its forts and milecastles together.
The name Pons Aelius means The Aelian Bridge in Latin, and can be traced back to when emperor Hadrian visited Britain in AD122 and first saw the need for a frontier wall to be built. This required a road to be built from Concangis to the Tyne, where the fort was built. Aelian was Hadrian's family name and eventually the fort become known as Pons Aelius. Although the fort was to be the eastern end of the wall, it was not long until it was extended to Segedunum (Wallsend). There is evidence to suggest the fort was rebuilt in stone probably during the reign of the emperor Severus (193-211AD). It is also suggested Pons Aelius may have been built to replace an earlier fort at the south of the Tyne at Gateshead. The fort is mentioned once in the Notitia Dignitatum in the fourth/fifth century and is the only literary reference we have. The bridge there was unique among other bridges outside Rome for being the only one with an imperial epithet, suggesting it may have been of enough importance to give it such status. Strategically, the fort was sited here to guard the important river-crossing, the first major encampment being nearby at Condercum (Benwell, Tyne & Wear). It would have given the Roman Army an excellent view of the surrounding areas and more importantly it commanded an excellent position at the northern bridgehead. It is also unusual among other forts in being placed at the promontory at Newcastle. This would only allow it to use the west gate for dispersion of troops, while normally all four gates would be used.