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No.56 September 2002

Monthly Newsletter

Searching for Romans


Last month’s trip to Kirby Lonsdale proved a great success, and I would like to thank Tony Burnett for the time and effort put in to produce a marvellous programme. Tony, a local historian has dedicated much time in finding out as much as possible about the Roman activity in the area. He has had several publications including a study of the Roman Fort at Over Burrow (Calacum).

Guided Tour

Robert HallBased mainly on the line of the Roman Road from Wroxeter to Carlisle, the tour covered a ten-mile section around Bentham and Middleton. (This major military route passed through Chester, Manchester and Ribchester on its way north.) After meeting Tony at Lower Benthem, we first picked up the line at Robert Hall. This 13th century manor house lies right on top of the Roman Road and Tony had kindly arranged with the farmer (Mr Hope) to let us look inside. Bill Dawber passed the comment that he looked like a farmer to which Mr Hope retorted he certainly smelled like one after the work he had been doing that morning.
Tony then took us to Bull Common to view the course of the Road as it crosses another Roman Road running from Bainbridge to Lancaster. A line of trees indicates the route leading northward across the fields here. As we passed through the small village of Wrayton and on to Thurland Castle, Tony explained the existence of two Roman crossings of the river Greta. The first on the line of the route we had just been on and the other on the line of the Roman Road from Lancaster to Over Burrow which follows the A683. Unfortunately this crossing has never been traced, however, at the first there are bridge abutments but access is difficult.

Bronte Connection Middleton Hall

Tunstall Church is famous as the church where Charlotte Bronte and her schoolmates attended Sunday service. A room hidden above the porch and accessible only by ladder is where they had their lunches. Inside the church there is also a Roman stone inscribed with a message from Julius Saturnius (possibly a Roman surgeon) to the holy god Asclepius and to Hygia. This reused block only came to light after restoration work in 1907.

Lunch was taken in the Highwayman which was very agreeable (although a little slow). Tony then took us to the site of the auxiliary fort at Over Burrow. Very little can be seen of the remains which lie in the grounds of the privately owned Burrow Hall. Over the years small-scale excavations have revealed stonewalling and ramparts. In Camden's day apparently walls were quite high making this fort as significant as say Ribchester.

Re-joining the line of the Road at Overton near Cowan Bridge, we saw the stump of a Roman milestone at the side of a green lane which obviously overlies the Roman Road. At Cowan Bridge is the School where Charlotte Bronte and her sisters spent many unhappy hours, now private property with no public access.
From Cowan Bridge we took Wandles Lane, indisputably a fine stretch of Roman trunk road. This is where our convoy of four cars became a bit disjoined. But after negotiating a three-point-turn up a narrow farm road with traffic on all sides we managed to re-form ourselves for a visit to the enigmatic Middleton Hall. Originally built in the 14th century on the usual medieval plan with a hall and cross wings, it was extended in the 15th century to include a curtain wall for greater security. In the 16th century a central chimneystack was inserted making an unusual passageway at the back. Once again Tony had kindly arranged for the owners to allow us to view the interior which they have restored sympathetically to the period.
The success of this trip suggests a repeat visit sometime in the future.

Hindley Green Field Trip

Access has now been granted to the field where we suspect the line of the Roman Road runs from Manchester to Wigan. A field trip is proposed for next Sunday to do a resistivity survey. Please contact me if you are interested.

Next Meeting

Wednesday 4th September at the BP Centre (Scout HQ) in Greenough Street, at 7.30 pm as usual. This month’s speaker is Rachel Newman of Lancaster Archaeological field Unit who's subject is "A Future for the Past".

Hope to see you there, B.A.