The first bridge known to have crossed the Tyne (called the Tinea by the Romans) was built in the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian at the time of the Roman Wall which passed through what is now Newcastle. The bridge was called Pons Aelius or Bridge of Aelius after Hadrian's family name and the town which grew up here may also have been of that name. The fort built here guarded the crossing on the Tyne and the original eastern end of Hadrian's Wall, the bridge linking the fort of Congangis (at Chester-le-Street) to this fort.
The piers of the Roman bridge were used to support the medieval bridge or bridges which followed it. The Roman bridge would be manned and guarded against enemies of Rome and lasted until the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century. Roman ships used the Tyne and no doubt supplies and soldiers and civilians reached the Roman settlements in the north by sea, sailing to the important fort at South Shields called Arbeia, quite close to Wallsend at the wall's eastern end. Roman settlements further south would also be linked to the new base on the Tyne via the bridge. It may have been repaired at various times long after the Romans left and the site was at or near the present Swing Bridge.