And so it begins…..


      and we must say –  MANY SINCERE CONGRATULATIONS!

– to Norman Redhead for his tireless efforts to get this through!


…to the committee of Friends for not obstructing him too much! and for all their commitment and hard work of course!

here’s some of them………………IMG_0111


….to the members for their great support!  and here’s some of them….

………………….Castleshaw House  240514 (2)


and to the Centre for Applied Archaeology at Salford for actually doing it!!

here’s two of them…………pegging 009


A great day indeed!

Your Bloggeria


A new generation…. 1957 to 1997

Stepping through three episodes and forty years of archaeology…

First: 1957 – 1964

After the Castleshaw Forts were scheduled as an Ancient Monument in 1935 there are no obvious traces of any archaeology, or anything at all, taking place at the site until 1957. However in this year a dig was begun by C. Rosser of the History Department at the University of Manchester and continued as student training excavations until his death in 1961. In 1963 the University took up the project again under F.H Thompson. In 1967 he published a summary of the work of the entire period. There were some small finds: 2 denari, one from Nero AD 63-68; small bronze pieces; glass beads; bottles; pottery, although only one fragment of Samian ware; and various pieces of iron including nails.

But the most striking find – from the 63-4 series – was not Roman at all. It was the Beaker pottery sherds, dated c.1550 BC (Bronze Age) and mentioned already in the second post of this blog. There were 122 sherds, packed into a pit 21 ins in diameter and 15 ins deep, representing 5 pots (at least).  Here’s a fabulous photo of one of the reconstructions from the actual pottery sherds!  (Photo appears courtesy of Norman Redhead.)

……………………………Castleshaw Beaker pot2



Second: 1984 – 1988

In this next period the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit (GMAU) were granted permission for excavations at the forts. The overall purpose was restricted to one of returning the site to the way it was prior to the Bruton, Andrew and Lees work of 1907/8. Here’s a picture, copied here by kind permission of Eddie Lyons, a member of the team at the time.  Eddie says “It shows the western part of the site after trowelling back the area of the NW quarter of the fortlet. At the bottom of the photo is the road that ran just inside the north rampart, with the area of the courtyard building in between that and the ladder. Also visible in the ground around the ladder and to the right of it are the early 20th C stakes marking the positions of the postholes of the granary building, before any of them were excavated by the 1988 crew.”  And about to take a photo up the ladder is Norman Redhead….

…………………………image eddie lyons


Given the limitations of the purpose of the dig there was quite a range of finds, including many sherds of Samian ware, coarse ware, and the usual bronze and iron pieces.  But I’ve picked out for special attention the beautiful ‘Intaglio’ – found in the 1986 season:



The image is of the goddess Minerva, denoting music, poetry, medicine and wisdom, and it’s carved into carnelian, a semi-precious gemstone. Carnelian was used widely during Roman times to make rings for sealing with wax on correspondence or other important documents, probably because it’s easy to carve and hot wax does not stick to the stone. An important possession then, lost and left for us to wonder over!

(Photo and information courtesy of Sue Smith.)

And the other find I’ve picked out is one of more than a dozen gaming counters, to show you what the soldiers did to relax after their day’s work. I can’t show you the actual counters found but the game is said to be ludus latrunculorum – ‘the soldiers’ game’ or the ‘brigands game’ – any translation of it will give you the meaning that, like chess, it’s about military strategy. The game was played widely in Ancient Rome and probably dates back in similar form to Ancient Greece.  Here’s a picture from Verulanium of a ludus gameboard and counters:


and here’s a very fine ludus board from Rome:




Third: 1994 – 1996

The areas of Daycroft and Tangs Field, outside of the forts, were excavated by the GMAU in this period and reported on by 1997. Among the usual finds of glass, metal and pottery, were sherds of Samian Ware. Together the structural finds and the dating of the Samian Ware led to the understanding that there had been the development of a substantial settlement area probably during the 2nd Century AD, i.e. at the phase of the second smaller fort. The area had not been well defended and possibly not even enclosed. The GMAU report says that it is likely to have been a military vicus, usually attached to forts, but on a small scale due to the short time of occupation at Castleshaw. Attracted to live in the vicus would have been, for example, “dependents, veterans, merchants, craftsmen…” (GMAU 1997). The 1996 and 1997 reports can be read in detail by those with access to the members’ area of the website and there’s a good sketch-map of the area of the excavation (1997, Fig 4). Sorry it can’t be copied here. Overall the dig left the team with some very interesting questions – especially in relation to the pathway of the road, and the locations of the cemetery and the bath house.

And, yes, the questions lead directly to this century’s archaeology at Castleshaw Roman Forts!

Scribi primum trabem postmodo…..

Yours, Bloggeria


GMAU. 1997. Castleshaw Evaluation Stage 2. GMAU. / Thompson. F.H. 1967. The Roman Fort at Castleshaw, Yorkshire (W.R.): Excavations 1957-64. The Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 77.


from 1908 to 1933…

If you’d been at the site at the beginning of June 1908 you’d have found Francis Archibald Bruton (FAB) in charge of excavations at the site – Samuel Andrew and Major Lees taking over in mid June until mid August. The main task in this season was the investigation of the inner fort. In this year also Bruton published the main findings from 1907, which you’ll see in the previous post here, then the findings from 1908 were eventually published in 1911.  Bruton says that in 1908 they examined all the structural details again but did not add to their knowledge of the outline of the forts, see original plan in previous post and artist’s impression here….


Here’s the list of their finds: coins – from 83 BC/ Vespasian/ Trajan/ Hadrian; a fragment of gold; part of a bronze bell; lead lampstand; spindle whorls; seal; a number of beads; window glass; bottle glass; pieces of shoes; fragments of oak; two pointed stakes; several millstones. Also there were 8 fragments of Samian Ware pottery and 36 sherds of unglazed ware, and red or buff coloured tiles were found all over the site.

The next academic landmark is in 1922, when Ian Richmond published a paper on the dates, sequencing and purpose of the forts, based on the information given in Bruton and on the pottery found in the 1907/8 excavations.

I haven’t been able to get original photos of any of finds or of the antiquarians mentioned, but here’s a picture of two men from same era, looking the part ….

…………………………………………….. 56b9c2c0444020a6007cc01366ea1099

does anyone know who they are?


Without resorting to photographing images of finds in Bruton’s book, I can tell you that the best way to find good illustrations, photos and information is in Booth (2001). On page 32 there’s even a picture of five of the team standing by the hypocaust.

I can’t tell you who is whom on that photo either, (and will still try to get a copy for blogging), but I thought you might like to know that Samuel Andrew died in 1916, Major Lees in 1926 and FAB in 1929.  After the death of Major Lees there was an issue about the land of Castleshaw and the poor rate of taxation due on it, as well as its accession. The site must have eventually acceded to a farmer…

as here’s the headline in the Manchester Guardian just a few years later – 21.7.33 –


“Castleshaw, the Roman camp near Saddleworth, just over the Yorkshire border, is in danger of being buried for good under a mountain of refuse.  The site has been offered by its owner, a local farmer, to the Saddleworth Urban District Council as a refuse tip.”

The report says “the chairman of the Health Committee appeared to be in favour of the proposal.”

Devastating thought……


to this…………………dump1


becoming this……………………..dump2


But the work of our antiquarians hadn’t been in vain – for they had ensured that the site was known and valued, and archaeologists in Manchester plus John Swarbrick, the secretary of the Ancient Monuments Society, took up arms against the threat. They had all the information about the forts at their fingertips, courtesy of Bruton’s careful recording and writing, and were able to argue for the saving of the site.

Eighteen months later – in January 1935 – the site became a Scheduled Monument.

It’s quite possible that without the dedicated work of particularly Andrew, Lees and Bruton, but also mentioning Wrigley, Buckley and Richmond, the site could well have become a scenic dump.  Forget that they didn’t fill in the trenches properly, we owe them our very grateful thanks.

As ever, your Bloggeria


Booth, K. 2001. Roman Saddleworth. Saddleworth Archaeological Trust./ Bruton, F.A. 1911. The Roman Forts at Castleshaw Second Interim Report. Manchester: The University Press./ Richmond, I. 1922. The Sequence and purpose of the Roman Forts at Castleshaw. The Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society./ Roman Camp as Refuse Tip, The Manchester Guardian, July 21 1933. From ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

The beginning of archaeology at Castleshaw – part one… 1897 to 1908

After Percival’s work was published by the Royal Society in 1752 there must have been some interest in the Fort, but nothing of significance takes place (that we know much about) – apart from one recorded find of a glass bead.  Then, in 1898, Ammon Wrigley reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post on ‘trial holes’ that he had been involved in digging in 1897, and with G F Buckley in a more sustained way since then…  some interesting comments and finds, particularly sherds of Samian pottery, flint, 2 small circular stones -possibly gaming pieces, more glass beads and much in the way of ‘well-worn’ cobble pavement ‘running in various directions’. Wrigley’s article appears in Antiquary 1899, members can find it on the website.

Here’s an image of the man himself..OS_Ammon-WRIGLEY_Wind-Among-Heather_Pg00

Lending a hand with the excavations was Samuel Andrew, a member of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, and in writing for them in 1908 says that since the trenches of the late 19th Century there was a ‘declining interest taken in the camps’. Samuel Andrew appears to have been a decisive sort, and a man of some means, for, on finding that an offer could be made to buy the land on which the Forts stand, he and Major William Lees took possession of it in July 1907.  He says that their first duty before excavation was to survey, and this was undertaken by the ‘worthy’ Mr A H Mountain of the Society.  The team also then included F A Bruton (a Classics Master at Manchester Grammar), Canon Hicks, and Mr Fletcher taking the photographs.

Samuel, as I feel I can call him because of some probable shared genaeological connection, also takes some time to tell us about the greenstone and chert celts, flint flakes and implements, found along the sky-line, on the hills and in the brook – linking us nicely with the Mesolithic and Neolithic past of Castleshaw and surroundings – and he did present papers on some of these finds to the Society.  But if you want fuller details of prehistoric finds in Saddleworth please do look at Booth (2001) and/or Chadderton (ed) (2001), you’ll be well rewarded.

Efforts are being made to get you some photos of the men and the site – but for now here’s something from the Manchester Guardian, 14.9.07 –  a spectacular plan of the structure and find-spots made by this antiquarian team, and it’s been overlain on to the aerial photo that we know so well, courtesy of Phil Barrett, Friends of CRF.


It’s worth clicking on this to enlarge to its full glory.

The team found a variety of things… if we find half this amount in July we’ll be very pleased!  Structurally there was a wonderful hypocaust and several post-holes, plus glass/lead/iron; spindle whorls; coins; Trajan brasses; Samian sherds; and some tiles stamped with these marks – COH III BR’.  At the time they interpreted this to mean ‘Cohors Tertia Bracaraugustanorum’.   And of the road Samuel Andrew says: “Beyond the east gateway, for twenty or thirty yards outside the camp extending almost to the end of the barn, the road was fifteen to sixteen feet wide, and is said to continue up the hill in an eastern direction..”  Then: “On the north side of the camp there is a road eighteen feet wide, which extends sixty to seventy yards beyond the gateway in the direction of Rochdale;…”   I’m not sure that there were any pictures taken of these roads.  But to give you an appetite for the dig this is what the Via Appia in Rome looks like!…………



Eroque tecum propediem …. Your Bloggeria


Andrew, S. 1908. Recent Finds at Castleshaw, Manchester: Gill./ Booth, K. 2001. Roman Saddleworth. Saddleworth Archaeological Trust./ Bruton, F.A. 1907. The Roman Forts at Castleshaw. The Manchester Guardian, 14.9.1907. / Stonehouse, W.P.B. 2001. D.Chadderton (ed). The Prehistory of Saddleworth & Adjacent Areas. Saddleworth Archaeological Trust. / Wrigley, A. 1899. Containing Wrigley’s article in the Yorkshire Evening Post. The Antiquary.