The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Uncra Roman Fort, near Keighley, West Yorkshire

Old Map of Uncra Farm, near Keighley.

The site of Uncra Farm (today).

NGR:- SE 0858 4142. The lost (forgotten) Roman fort of Uncra was located where the farmstead of that name used to be – close to the bank of the River Aire, and roughly halfway between East Riddlesden Hall and Marley – at the northeastern side of Keighley, West Yorkshire. Uncra farm was said to have been built on the site of the Roman fort or camp. The location of this “lost fort” was in the field at the north side of the present A650, which used to be called Marley Road. However, on the site ‘today’ there is the Marley Sewerage Works, which seems a great shame to me, though the field at the north side might still have slight traces; other than that there are no visible remains. Sadly, it is lost to the Mists of Time. The Roman road from Manchester to Ilkley, or maybe a medieval track, ran through this area and crossed the River Aire by way of a wooden bridge. Fragmentary sections of this, or a later bridge, were excavated in 1929, and a number of Roman coins and, some fragments of a Saxon cross, were found close to East Riddlesden Hall. There is a display of Roman coins in the hall.

Marie Campbell (1999) tells us about this site, saying that: “Long before the River Aire changed its course in about AD 78, a Roman fort is believed to have existed between East Riddlesden and Marley Hall, near Keighley. The road to the fort is thought to have stretched along Hog Holes Lane, Long Lee, cutting along Parkwood Top before its decent to Uncra and Marley. Here it passed over the ford at the River Aire to climb the steep slopes of Morton Banks and beyond. The farmstead of Uncra was supposed to have been erected over the fort’s foundations. From the August pages of the Keighley News 1883 a clue to the site of Uncra Farmstad may be gleaned. Mr F. Morgan, a tenant of Uncra farm, reported smoke rising from a haystack, the property of Mr Wallbank of High Shann Farm. The haystack was in a field by the River Aire, close to his farmstead and bordered by Keighley Corporation tip and local gasworks.”

Campbell goes on to say: “A severe drought in the 1850s at Uncra near Marley revealed an ancient oak and sycamore bridge, 120cms wide and 18 metres across. It rested ‘upon uprights fixed into three blocks of masonry with large-headed nails and wood pegs’. During the 1920s antiquarians digging at the site recovered a large block of stone with a hole in the centre. Masonry dispersed on the water’s edge was thought to be ‘the central pier, the river having changed its course since the bridge was erected’. Horsfall Turner in his History of Ancient Bingley said of Marloe/Marley Bridge. ‘”I have no memo-randum to show this bridge was destroyed”‘. The Sessions Rolls of 1650 to 1700 reveal that, ‘the ford through the water where carts and carriages with wyne and oil and iron pass from the city of York to the market town of Keighley is worn with pitts so as to be very dangerous to passengers’. In January 1687 the wooden bridge was restored at a cost of £230. In 1929 Mr C. Bailey of East Riddlesden Hall granted permission to dig part of the Aire and its banks in this location during a drought. A number of faced stones were found in the mud, about 60cms higher than the course of the river running between Marley and Riddlesden Hall. This was close by the present course of the river near How Beck. Excavations on the North bank uncovered the sycamore central trestle sighted by antiquarians way back in the 1850s. The trestle was removed from the site and presented to Keighley Museum by its finders. It was transferred to Cliffe Castle but has since disappeared, perhaps disintegrating after being dredged from the riverbed. With only obscure references to the existence of the ancient cart ways and bridge to Uncra, had it not been for two very dry spells all may have lain hidden forever from sight.”     

Marie Campbell (1999) adds that: “The dreaded Ninth Roman Legion, a body of 5000 men, was stationed somewhere near Uncra in AD117 according to two local amateur archaeologists in the 1980s. They said they believed the whole legion to have been massacred within a two-mile radius of Crossflatts. Two coffers, one containing gold and the other bronze coins, are supposed to have been hurriedly secreted near the banks of the River Aire by Roman paymasters. The Yorkshire Archaeological Society is sceptical about this theory although the archeologists have found, with the aid of a metal detector, several fragments of metal which had once been part of a spear, a metal skirt tailpiece and a medallion. They were dug from the ground close to Druid’s Altar, a plateau high above Uncra and Marley.

“In the summer of 1917, a Mr Bennet discovered a small bronze eagle in almost perfect condition in a newly ploughed field to the north of Parkwood Top Farm, Keighley. The area is identified on the 1919 OS map as enclosure 528. This spot is only a mile or so distant from where the old Roman road from Manchester to Ilkley once ran. Bennet handed the Bronze figure over to Keighley Museum. Expert Alex Curle from the Museum of Antiquities had no doubts as to its Roman authenticity. He thought it might have been a finial for a staff. Again at Parkwood, a hoard of Roman coins was found by a man named Robert Lister in Edwardian times.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:

Campbell, Marie, Curious Tales of Old West Yorkshire, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1999.

Ordnance Survey, Historical map and guide — Roman Britain, South Sheet, Fifth Edition, Scale: 1:625 000, Ordnance Survey, Southampton, United Kingdom, 2001. 

http://roadsofromanbritain.org/gazetteer/yorkshire/rr720a.html

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/east-riddlesden-hall

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Riddlesden_Hall

https://library.thehumanjourney.net/1580/1/L9970_CompleteRep.pdf

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 


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Southfield Lane Cup-And-Ring Stone, Near Nelson, Lancashire

Southfield Lane Walling Cup-And-Ring Carving.

OS Grid Reference: SD 8847 3798. This is a “new” and “unrecorded carving”. The carving is to be found in the walling beside Southfield Lane above Marsden Park golf-course and the town of Nelson, in Lancashire. It is 1½ miles northeast of the town centre. The little carving is very faint, in particular the ring is very worn, and looks as if it might be unfinished, and so it is very easily missed, but it is a nice cup-and-ring carving and, a very unexpected and rare find for this area. But where did this stone come from? Did it perhaps originate on the moorland above Thursden Valley, or Boulsworth Hill (where there are tumuli) and, was it perhaps hewn from a larger block of stone? And about ¾ of a mile further south on Southfield Lane we have the hamlet of Catlow and some, now, destroyed Bronze-Age burial sites, and also the site of a former stone circle at Ring Stones Hill, near Crawshaw Lane.  

Southfield Lane carving, near Nelson, (close-up)

Southfield Lane carving (very close-up and b/w).

The walling running along the side of Southfield Lane where our single carving is could be a hundred years old or so, but there does not appear to be any other similar carvings hereabouts. However, there is a “possible” cup-marked stone (which forms the wall stile) beside Southfield Lane to the north of Castercliff Hillfort (NGR SD 88673880) in the direction of Colne. These cup-and-ring carvings called petroglyphs are usually, but not always, ascribed to the late Neolithic and early Bronze-Age periods of pre-history. But we don’t know why these circular depresssions and concentric rings were carved, and neither do we know, as yet, what they are meant to signify; though they obviously meant something quite personal to those Bronze-Age stone carvers. Archaeologists nowadays refer to these ancient carvings as ‘Rock Art’.

Related web pages:-

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2016/03/02/castercliff-hillfort-colne-and-nelson-lancashire/

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2018/06/14/the-pre-history-of-catlow-near-nelson-lancashire/

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2014/03/12/ring-stones-hill-catlow-nelson-lancashire/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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Barrow Hill Tumulus (West Mersea), Mersea Island, Essex

Glass Burial Urn

Roman Glass Funery Urn & Lead Cist from West Mersea Burial Mound (tumulus).

OS Grid Reference: TM 02257 14341. At the southeastern side of Barrow Hill at West Mersea on Mersea Island, overlooking Pyfleet Channel, in Essex, there is a large tree-covered mound which is a round barrow (tumulus). In this burial mound a Romano-British king was probably buried   at the end of the 1st Century AD, or in the early 2nd Century, so the story goes. However, there seems ‘now’ to be some uncertainty about the age of the monument. When the barrow was ex-cavated in 1912 a glass cinery urn was found in a lead container. This contained a child’s remains. Locally the barrow is called ‘The Mount’. The burial mound is 1½ miles north-east of St Peter & St Paul’s Church, West Mersea, and 9 miles south of Colchester. The island, which is 5 miles long, is reached by a causeway (southeast of Peldon) called ‘The Strood’ which crosses over the creek; then follow the East Mersea road for a ¼ of a mile, keeping to the left, until you reach Barrow Hill. The tumulus is to be found beneath the tall trees close by Barrow Hill farm.

The Historic England website says that: “The monument includes the known extent and buried remains of a Roman barrow situated on relatively high ground at the north-west edge of the central plateau of Mersea Island overlooking the Pyfleet Channel. The flat-topped conical mound mound is some 35m in diameter and 7m high. The top has a diameter of some 5m. There is no enclosing ditch. Excavations carried out by the Morant Club in 1912 found that the mound contained a burial dating from the late first to early second century AD. The burial chamber, sited slightly off-center, was dug into the original ground surface so that its floor was some 38cm beneath this level. The chamber measured some 45cm wide by 54cm high. A foundation of boulders and broken tile supported a floor of two roof tiles; seven courses of flanged roofing tiles formed the walls, with the two upper courses slightly corbelled to support the roof, which was made of a single tile some 54cm square. Within the burial chamber, the cremated remains of a child were found in a glass flask placed within a small lead casket with a wooden lid. The structure of the mound comprised a consolidated central core of impure quartz sand, above which was mixed gravel and sand. Following the 1912 excavations, a passage was constructed through the excavation trench to the burial chamber; this is extant and facilitates viewing of the inner chamber. All modern fence lines, railings, walls, made-up surfaces and the wooden Wendy house are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included,” according to Historic England. See their website, below.

Benham’s (1946) says of the West Mersea Sepulchral Deposit, that: “A glass urn (containing bones) and the cist in which it was discovered. Exhumed from a large tumulus at Mersea, the deposit is supposed to have been in honour of a British chieftain (1st Century).” These antiquities were to be found in Colchester Castle Museum, but they are now in the Mersea Museum. Benham’s then adds, saying: “Roman Glass: Included in this collection is the magnificent glass urn, containing burnt human bones, found in a large barrow or tumulus at West Mersea.”   

Richmond (1963) tells of: “……….Another very large tomb was the circular mausoleum at West Mersea (Essex), a stone-revetted structure with earth fill, sixty-five feet in diameter, braced by radiating walls and marginal buttresses.”

Benham’s (1946) tells of other Roman remains on Mersea Island, saying that: “When some alterations were being made in West Mersea Hall, which stands near the church, about the year 1730, a fine Roman tessellated pavement was discovered. In the chancel of the church was found a pavement of red tesserae an inch-and-a-half square, forming rays of stars. From the diversity and continuity of these tesserae, extending nearly 100 feet from east to west, by about fifty from north to south, it has been conjectured that this grand mosaic pavement was not merely the groundwork of a general’s tent, but rather that the whole belonged to the villa of some Roman officer, who might have been invited by the delightfulness of the situation to make this his summer abode. In 1920 a Roman pavement was found in fixing a telegraph pole forty feet south of Yew Tree House, and a further portion of the same pavement was uncovered in 1931 in the garden of the house.

“West Mersea Church (St. Peter and St. Paul)…….The stone upon which the church font (which has a 13th century bowl) rests has been supposed to be the cupola of a Roman column. In December, 1896, not far from the church, the foundations of a circular building were unearthed. The ground plan of this building was that of a 65-ft. diameter wheel, with six spokes, and a central hexagon “axis” five feet across. The structure is Roman and is obviously the base of a large tomb, though it has been thought by some to have been a Roman lighthouse.”

The Historic England List Entry No. is 1019019.

Sources / References and related websites:-

Benham’s, Colchester — a history and guide, Benham And Company Limited, Colchester, 1946. 

Richmond, I. A., The Pelican History Of England — 1 Roman Britain, Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1963.

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1019019

https://www.merseamuseum.org.uk/mmbarrow.php

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/mersea-mystery-of-the-island-bones-is-finally-solved-1-2246793

https://colchesterheritage.co.uk/monument/mcc6928

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Mersea

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Hare Hill Ring Cairn, Near Thornton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire

The Hare Hill ring cairn, near Thornton-in-Craven (closer-up).

The Hare Hill Ring Cairn, near Thornton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire.

OS Grid Reference: SD 92955 47705.  About ½ a mile to the south-east of Thornton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire,  is Hare Hill and  an early Bronze Age ring cairn or round barrow (tumulus). This ancient monument is on Hare Hill, close to footpaths which head northwest from Clogger Lane near Elslack. However, the burial cairn is now without its mound of earth and stones. At the south-east side is Low Hill, which might be a significant place-name here, and over at the northwest side, Stone Pit Hill. It was excavated back in the 1930s and 40s and many of the finds, including a large funerary urn, were deposited in the Craven Museum at Skipton. From the A56 Skipton Road near Thornton-in-Craven, turn (right) towards Elslack passing the hall, then right again onto Clogger Lane for ¾ of a mile and, after the woodland, take any of three paths (Pennine Way) on your right in a northwesterly direction onto the moor. Hare Hill being the second of the three lows hills in front of you.

Hare Hill Ring Cairn, Thornton-in-Craven. (Close-up of the cist).

Hare Hill Ring Cairn. Strange round-shaped stone within the barrow

The round barrow monument atop Hare Hill on Thornton Moor     is an early Bronze Age ring cairn or cairn circle that has lost its covering mound of earth and stones, but its outer ditch just about survives at the NW and SW sides, and there is possibly an inner ditch. Its raised bank is about 0.7m (2.3 ft) high, while the whole monument has a diameter of roughly 24m (78.7ft) and a radius across of 13m (42.6 ft) x 12m (39.3 ft). However, considering how long ago that this burial mound was constructed it is in a reasona-bly well preserved state,  just a bit messed-around with in the middle! There are several stones towards the central part of the circle but as to whether these came from the burial cist or from the bank is not certain, and the stones may not be in their original positions? The signs of excavations here are all to clear to see with a small hollow and a large shaped stone above, and smaller ones inside it, which might have been the cist burial, while other small piles of stones can still be seen embedded into the grassy bank. There may have been a settlement in the vicinity of the ring cairn though there are no visible earthworks here.

The remains of the bank, ditch and barrow

Hare Hill urn in Craven Museum at Skipton.

The ring cairn was excavated back in the 1930s and 1940s by Mr Welbury Holgate (who was accompanied by his sisters) and, over a number of years, there were many interesting finds including a very large collared funery urn with patternation, which broke into many pieces on being unearthed from the stone cist, but it was eventually (partly) restored and deposited in The Craven Museum, Skipton. It’s thought that up to 21, mainly young people, were buried in the cairn between the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods of pre-history. There were other finds including charcoal deposits, flints, an axehead and bone pins or needles. There is more information on the Hare Hill site on the ‘OneGuyFromBarlick’ website: https://oneguyfrombarlick.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=59&t=14401     

John & Phillip Dixon (1990) tells us that: “A Bronze Age collared urn displaying cord and jabbed impressions was found in a barrow on Hare Hill, Thornton-in-Craven. This is now on display in the Craven Museum, Skipton.” They also say: “A fine Bronze Age dagger was found in a field below the Manor House Residential Home, just up the road, in the 1960’s (SD 909484).”  

Sources / References & related websites:-

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia Volume One: Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

https://oneguyfrombarlick.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=59&t=14401

https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=35748

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craven

©Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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Gilbeber Hill Earthwork, Near Greenberfield, Lancashire

Gilbeber Hill, near Greenberfield, viewed from the south.

Gilbeber Hill Earthwork near Greenberfield, Lancashire.

OS Grid Reference: SD 87627 48284. About halfway between Greenberfield and Bracewell, in Lancashire, is Gilbeber Hill (sometimes spelt as Gilleber), and an almost square-shaped earthwork consisting of a raised outer bank and, near the centre,   a small raised platform with a little stone. The rough, grassy earth-work has been considered to be a Roman camp, a Medieval enclo-sure, or perhaps a Civil War encampment from the 17th century! Bracewell was originally part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Roman road linking Ilkley in the east with Ribchester in the west runs close to Gilbeber Hill, the course of which is still to be found at Brogden Lane to the southwest. From the footpath (at east-side of Sewarage works) on Greenberfield Lane: head across the field to a second wooden gate, then continue on this footpath to the foot-bridge over Stocks Beck. Gilbeber Hill is the low, grassy hill on your left; the footpath runs around the base of the hill towards a third gate and then onto Gisburn Road. A similar earthwork is to be found on Hawber Hill ½ a mile to the northwest.

Gilbeber Hill Earthwork near Greenberfield. The Western side.

Gilbeber Hill Earthwork. The small raised feature at the SW side.

The rectangular-shaped earthwork atop Gilbeber Hill (drumlin) is a raised, grassy area with a visible bank around its edges which measures between 1-2 feet in height, and there are slight traces of an outer ditch. Nearer the centre at the W side is a small, raised square feature (platform) with a little stone standing upon it, but whether this ‘white stone’ was part of the earthwork structure is not known; it may have come from somewhere close by. At the E side is what might be an entrance? The earthwork is roughly 24m x 26m and 632-756 square yards with a parameter length of 101m covering 0.156 acres of the flat hilltop site. But was this a temporary camp from the late Roman period, or perhaps a Romano-British farmstead (similar to Bomber Camp near Coal Pit Lane)? or was it a medieval settlement/enclosure? or could it have been a Civil War encampment from the 1640s? – this we don’t know with any certainty. There don’t appear, however, to have been any Civil War camps in this part of west Craven, and so that theory must be dismissed.

John & Phillip Dixon (1990) say of the earthworks: “Near the settlement of Stock are two hill-top earthworks; one is sited above Stock upon Hawber Hill, the other is sited upon Gilbeber Hill, roughly 30 yards square and 27 yards square respectively. The Gilbeber earthwork displays signs of an outer ditch, and…….commands a view of the surrounding area that is bisected by the Roman road. There are over a dozen such hill enclosure sites in the western central Pennine area and none, other than the Bomber Camp/Primrose Hill sites, have been subject to archaeological study. At this stage it may be reasonable to view the Hawber and Gilbeber site as having their possible origins in the late Roman period. And, in the case of Hawber, may be related to some of the earthwork features around Stock Green that we consider may be a Romano-British settlement similar to that of Bomber Camp.”

John Dixon goes on to add: “Whitaker in his “History of Craven”, states that “tradition holds that they (the Hawber and Gilbeber earthworks) were constructed by the Royalist forces of Prince Rupert during their march through Craven in 1644. They consist of small square encampments and are strengthened by long rectilinear fosses, which descend along the slope of the hills on each side to the plane beneath.”

The PastScape / Historic England Monument No. is: 45403.

Sources / References and related websites:-

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia Volume One: Walks in Craven Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45403

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?a=0&hob_id=45398

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019

 


Altar Stone in Craigagh Woods, near Cushendun, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

Carved altar-stone in Craigagh Woods drawn by Rosemary Garrett.

Irish Grid Reference: D 2308 3219. At the far south-eastern side of Craigagh Woods, Knockna-carry, near Cushendun, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, is the mysterious ‘Altar in the Woods’ which has a carved, oval-shaped stone with Christ crucified and an angel; there is also a faint inscription. This was probably brought to Ireland from a Scottish Island, possibly from Iona Abbey? Local Roman Catholics secretly held masses in Craigagh Woods during the troubled Penal Laws of the 17th and 18th centuries; these masses being held on a monthly basis, rather than every Sunday. But for Catholics the woods were a sacred meeting place much further back into time. About ¼ of a mile to the east is another religious site: St Patrick’s Church and the Gloonan Stone. From Cushendun for 2 miles take the Knocknacarry road over the river, then shortly after turn right, then left onto Glendun Road until you see Craigagh Wood on your right. Go through iron gate by the cottage and follow footpath north at the edge of the wood to the Altar Stone.

Cushendun, and the Glens of Antrim by Rosemary Garrett (1956)

Rosemary Garrett (1956) writes that: “If you go through this gate and up the little path towards the trees and stone walled enclosure, at the end of Craigagh Wood, you will see the well-known “Altar in the Woods”. This is a very ancient stone, the carving on it is now weather worn, but it is said to represent a Crucifix with a winged cherub above, there is also an inscription which is now almost illegible. This stone was brought from Scotland to be used as an altar, for worship by the Catholics in the days of the Penal Laws. So much is certain, but there is also a story, which appears to be correct, that the place was used for worship for many years before the stone was brought to it, because it was well hidden and easy for a number of Glensfolk to reach. They had no Altar, and simply worshipped among the trees using the old oak behind the present Altar, as a meeting place. There was a great wish for some-thing to mark the place as sacred, and the people had heard of a “good stone” in one of the islands — some say Iona — but the risk in obtaining this stone must have been great, for it was doubtless greatly treasured by its owners. Nevertheless, some men of the glens set off in a boat to get it, probably fearful too of the power that such a Holy thing might have. They got it, and it stands there now with its simple stone altar, a monument to their courage as well as to the persistence of the faith of the people. There is a lovely little Chapel near by now, built on the site of an ancient one, but still, every year in June crowds of people come to pray at the old Altar.”

Sources / References and related websites:

Garrett, Rosemary, Cushendun, and the Glens of Antrim, J. S. Scarlett & Son, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, April 1956.

https://antrimhistory.net/penal-mass-sites-in-the-glens-rev-patrick-mckavanagh/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knocknacarry

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2013/06/08/the-gloonan-stone-cushendun-co-antrim-northern-ireland/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.


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Roman Bath-House at Ribchester, Lancashire

Roman bath-house at Ribchester, Lancashire.

Roman bath-house remains, Ribchester.

OS Grid Reference: SD 65090 35206. In the village of Ribchester, Lancashire, are the excavated foundations of Roman bath-houses, dating from around 100 AD, though there may have been an earlier Flavian structure here. The ruins are to be found in a secluded area at the back of the White Bull Inn and Water Street – at the north-western side of the River Ribble, and in an area of the village that is called Greenside. It would seem that the bath-house only survived for a few hundred years, if that, being built outside of the Roman fort of (BREMETENNACVM’s) ramparts. Excavations took place in 1978. The foundations of the bath-house are now well-looked after, with green lawns in between, and excellent information boards to boot! The White Bull Inn has four Doric or Tuscan columns supporting its front porch – two of which could have come from the bath-house, the fort or a temple? In the village from Church Street (south-side) follow the footpath (east) beside the river, and then northwest through the wooded area to the bath-house site.

John & Phillip Dixon (1993) give some good information regarding the bath-house remains. They tell that: “Another Roman feature to be viewed is the excavated Bath House, located at the rear of the White Bull. Recently erected explanation boards help one to pick out the outline of the bath house amid the crumbling piles of stones (the excavation was a costly disaster and much damage was done to floor tiles, walling etc.). 

“It consisted of a furnace room with three flues, the two southerly ones leading to the Caldarium (hot room) and the Tepidarium (warm room) respectively. The third leads to the Sudatorium (sweating room), this being round in shape. A fourth room on the south east of the building was the Frigidarium (cold room) with an apodyterium (changing room) adjacent to it. A stone-lined well stands on the south west corner of the site.”

Roman Bath House ruin

Roman Bath House foundations and Well.

The authors go on to say: “The building was erected in the 2nd century, with rebuilding work in later years. The whole structure was in use well into the late 4th century. On display inside the White Bull is a conjectured reconstruction in model form of what the bath house may have looked like in its heyday, along with a good example of a Samian ware bowl that was found hereabouts: Samian ware was first identified on the Greek island of Samos, hence its name. It is a fine hard red ware, burn-ished, with moulded designs, produced and exported throughout the Empire from the potteries of Gaul. This ‘terra sigillata’ was mass produced tableware, developed in slightly simplified versions of originally Italian prototypes. This type of pottery predominated until the Gaulish factories were forced to close during the revolts of around 250.” 

Richard Peace (1997) tells us more, saying that: “An explanatory board explains the complex system of underground heating. The baths were basically a version of the modern sauna, involving heating and cooling the skin then scraping off the exposed dirt with an instrument known as a stirgil. In the museum a small model reconstructs a cross section of the bath houses. The baths were situated some way away from the main fort so as not to constitute a fire hazard and a timetable existed to segregate female from military and male use.”

D. C. A. Shotter (1973) says of the site that: “Excavation has also revealed to the North of the fort the presence of a large vicus, which apparently grew around the road outwards to the North. This seems to have been occupied from the 1st to the 4th Centuries A.D. and in the early stages at least to have consisted largely of timber buildings. Buildings known to have been included in the vicus are a temple (known from an inscription) and a large bath-house, which was shown by excavation to belong to the 2nd Century and to overlie a Flavian predecessor.”

Jessica Lofthouse, writing in 1974, has nice things to say about Ribchester: “I like it for what it is, an honest to goodness community without any frills or attempt to exploit its undoubtedly rich past. No Ye Olde Praetorium Guest Home, or Minerva Café, or Agricola Gift Shoppe about Ribchester, but it has a good, compact Museum of Roman Antiquities, an hour in which is most rewarding.

The Information board at the bath-house.

“Tracking down the Romans is fun. Their mark is found in pillars intended for temples but now holding up the porch of the White Bull Inn, the quaint façade of the Stydd Almshouses and the church gallery. You can walk the fort earthworks west of the churchyard, gaze down on granary floor and hypocaust in the Museum gardens, and trace the foundations of a gateway through which the legionaries passed. The pleasant house at the church gates is on the site of the fort commandant’s H.Q. Within the churchyard, so green and immaculate, a gem among country graveyards, you may ponder on what lies beneath, on the forms of ritual practiced by the Romans within the fort………”

Lofthouse goes on to say: “For three centuries Bremetanacum was an active cavalry fort on Julius Agricola’s military highway linking Chester and Manchester  with the Wall. The Ribble fort was at the hub of five great roads. The camp contained within five and three-quarter acres.” 

For information on the Roman fort and museum at Ribchester see the following link:  https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2012/08/02/roman-ribchester-photos/

Sources / references and related websites:-

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia — Volume Nine — The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.

Lofthouse, Jessica, Lancashire Countrygoer, Robert Hale And Company, London, 1974.

Peace, Richard, Lancashire Curiosities, The Dovecote Press Ltd., Stanbridge, Wimborne, Dorset, 1997.

Shotter, D. C. A., Romans in Lancashire, The Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, Lancashire, 1973. 

https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=43639

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/lancashire/hi/people_and_places/religion_and_ethics/newsid_8973000/8973921.stm

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1005110

https://www.visitlancashire.com/things-to-do/ribchester-roman-bath-house-p782220

Ribchester’s Roman Bath House

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.