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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s