(The), from the Tyne to Boulness, on the Solway Firth, a distance of eighty miles. Called— The Roman Wall, because it was the work of the Romans. Agricola's Wall, because Agricola made the south bank and ditch. Hadrian's Wall, because Hadrian added another vallum and mound parallel to Agricola's. The Wall of Severus, because Severus followed in the same line with a stone wall, having castles and turrets. The Picts' Wall, because its object was to prevent the incursions of the Picts. The wall of Antoninus, now called Graeme's Dyke, from Dunglass Castle on the Clyde to Blackness Castle on the Forth, was made by Lollius Urbicus, legate of Antoninus Pius, A.D. 140. It was a turf wall.
To give the wall. Nathaniel Bailey's explanation of this phrase is worth perpetuating. He says it is “a compliment paid to the female sex, or those to whom one would show respect, by letting them go nearest the wall or houses, upon a supposition of its being the cleanest. This custom,” he adds, “is chiefly peculiar to England, for in most parts abroad they will give them the right hand, though at the same time they thrust them into the kennel.” To take the wall. To take the place of honour, the same as to choose “the uppermost rooms at feasts.” (Matt. xxiii. 6.) At one time pedestrians gave the wall to persons of a higher grade in society than themselves.
“I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's.” —Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, i. l.
To go to the wall. To be put on one side; to be shelved. This is in allusion to another phrase, “Laid by the wall” —i.e. dead but not buried; put out of the way. To hang by the wall. To hang up neglected; hence, not to be made use of. (Shakespeare: Cymbeline, iii. 4.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894