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No.208 December 2017

Monthly Newsletter

Romans Green - Blackrod

This is the name given to a large housing development adjacent to Hill Lane on the southwest side of Blackrod. This is presumably because of its Roman connection, but what evidence is there for the Romans in Blackrod. Very little as it turns out, a few scattered coins found in the 19th century or perhaps Castle Croft in the town centre. Blackrod was certainly marked as a Roman station in the 1893 OS map but excavations at Castle Croft in the early 50's, failed to find anything Roman. Blackrod's Roman connection seems to be firmly rooted in John Whitaker's History of Manchester, which was published in 1773. In it Whitaker describes Blackrod as the location of the Roman station of Coccium. He even says he uncovered the Roman road to the east of Blackrod, describing it as being 3 yards wide and appearing 'to be a regular pavement, firmly jointed together and covered with heavy stones'.

He suggests, however, that the location of the Roman station itself lay somewhere to the northwest of Blackrod on the banks of the River Douglas. The 1840 tithe map for Blackrod does identify a Roman road, leading out of Blackrod to the northwest, through a farm called Goodmans Fold but on what evidence is unclear. This road seems to be the one referred to by Hampson in his History of Blackrod (1882). His preference, however, for the position of the Roman station is around the area known as Little Scotland - which happens to be right beside the new development on Hill Lane.

The possibility of a road leading this way out of Blackrod towards the Douglas has recently been picked up by local historian Alan Bury. He contacted us earlier this year with a view to helping him find evidence for it. It turns out that great swaths of this area were opencast in the late 50's. However one particular field to the west of Dark Lane seems to have escaped the destruction. Encouragingly, through field walking and LiDAR, Alan has been able to identify a linear feature running across the field in the right direct. As it happens, our recent searches for the Roman road between Wigan and Ribchester at Toddingtons, also suggest a line projected through this field (but running at an angle to Alan's projection, see below). It seemed though, a great opportunity for us maybe to kill two birds with one stone (two roads crossing in one field how could we fail). Well, unfortunately, we did. Last month we took both the GPR equipment and our resistivity meter there and despite covering large areas of the field, nothing suggesting a road came up. The linear feature turned out to be remains of a temporary path put in when the field boundary and path was removed from the adjacent field. Undeterred, however, Alan has been able to get permission from the landowner for limited excavations.

Geophysics can be misleading, especially resistivity and it maybe the spoil from an old coal mine in the corner of this field is masking the results. An excavation would certainly confirm this one way or another.

Roman Road found at Bryn

About this time last year, we visited Sparrow Field at Bryn (Newsletter No.199) where a huge housing and retail development was planned. Since then plans have drastically changed and only about a third of the area is currently scheduled for development. In view of this, a number of trial pits have been machine-cut in the presence of an archaeologist - and in Trial Pit 17 evidence for the Roman road was found. Described as a made ground of sandstone cobbles set in brown clay, it was found lying between 40 and 60 cm down beneath a more recent farm track. This is great news and Norman Read from GMAAS has been in touch to say that the area will be fully excavated and, even better, is making provisions for us to get involved.

Next Meeting

Wednesday 6th December. - This month it is our Christmas Meal and Quiz at the Brocket (if you intend coming please let us know so we can book you in). Please note also the starting time is 7.00pm. If you don't want the meal, you can still come to the quiz after the meal (it will be in the Standish Suite as usual but starting around 8.00pm). Being last year's winner, Graham Haneley has set this year's quiz (he's a Roman expert so be warned). Hope to see you then - BA