2 Castleshaw Diaries, 118 years apart…

Hello again from your friendly neighbourhood modern antiquarian!  I have 2 diaries to tell you about today.  First – I left you in August saying I’d keep you up to date – so here’s a little diary of things that have gone on since then:

14.8.14 Workshop at the Museum – Archiving and Cataloguing with Sean and Joanne from Gallery Oldham.  Joanne talked first about creating and storing a paper archive, then Sean presented a session on material culture archives, showing us some of the Castleshaw material that they hold at Oldham.

15.8.14  First finds processing day at Uppermill Museum – some of the committee members undertook an initial sorting out the boxes of finds from the trenches.

Also in August Kirsty sent the paleoenvironmental samples to Durham University for analysis.  I’m guessing that this included the wood/post fragment from the post hole at the East Gate?….looking as wonderful as ever…….


17.9.14  ‘AGM’ at the Civic Hall – Followed by presentation by Norman on the summer dig – findings, interpretations and future strategy.

22.9.14  Second finds processing day at Uppermill Museum.

29.9.14  Third finds processing day at Uppermill Museum. On this day the finds to be analysed by experts were prepared, marked up, and subsequently sent away or delivered as appropriate.  From left to right – Sue, me, Vivien, Audrey, Kirsty.

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1.10.14  The last training sessions related to the dig – In the morning was ‘Understanding the Archaeology of the Roman Fort’ with Norman.  In the afternoon – ‘Roman Ceramic Building Material’ with Phil Mills.


The Second Diary extracts come from another antiquarian, this time one of poetic renown, the world famous Ammon Wrigley.  All finds shown in this section are from the Wrigley collection, photos taken by Phil Barrett, but if you want to reproduce one or more of them for any purpose whatsoever you must obtain permission in writing from Sean Baggaley at Gallery Oldham.  All diary extracts are from Wrigley (1912).

Here’s the picture of the redoubtable Mr Wrigley, who, in 1897, was reading the work of Percival from 1752 that I included in these pages (post # 2).


15.8.1897  Mr W says he was lazing about in one of the high fields above Broadhead and looking down across the valley, and suddenly saw the outlines of the ‘Roman Station’.  It seems that local historians knew of the camp, but none had been sufficiently interested to explore further, as he could find no record of any kind.  He measured it up and he says ‘to my great satisfaction’ it aligned with Percival’s (1752) plan … relevant segment shown here.

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(Percival 1752)

That afternoon he went with two chums and they confirmed it by re-measuring the area with a chain.  To those of you who doubted the importance of that (my) piece of chain – still heavily stuck in Castleshaw soil and sitting in a finds tray  – could it be this very chain ?!

Anyhow Ammon Wrigley went about gaining permission to dig from the owners, the Messrs Schofield, and he was allowed to dig on condition that the ground was ‘made good for the spring of 1898.’   He notes that in early October – ‘We sank trial holes in various parts of the camp area, and were rewarded by finding fragments of Roman tile and pottery. ….. It was decided that the work should be continued every Saturday afternoon if the weather permitted.’

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9.10.1897  ‘Begin explorations under the distinguished patronage of several immortal “roughyeds” from Oldham.’ They send an ‘envoy’ to the “Horse and Jockey” and he returns ‘with a large brown bottle on his shoulder…’ ‘I appoint myself Chief Controller of all liquids (water excepted) hereafter to be consumed on the Roman Station.’

‘Mallalieu finds a piece of red tile near the inner rampart, and creates a profound sensation; Oldhamer wants to fight him for it, – heated discussions and hostile demonstrations.’

Not sure if it was one of these, but it’s possible!

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‘I find a piece of tile and am forcibly deprived of it by Winterbottom.’

‘Winterbottom finds a piece of grey pottery,’…………………………….

DSC_0045 (2)  ….’and goes about with the dignity of a Co-op committee man who has just finished testing a new consignment of cheese. Another squabble, I am charged with attempting to “pinch” Winterbottom’s pottery and am warned off the field.’

It seems that they easily get back into high spirits with the aid of the ‘brown bottle’ and repair to an ale-house called the “Mop” (?) where plans are made for the next day.

10.10.1897  ‘Winterbottom and self arrive on the ground at 9.30 a.m. Find Schofield and Mallalieu performing hurricane work in the greater fort.  They ignore us, – look as if they owned the “blanking” Roman station.’

After trouble with Winterbottom – ‘The law of self-preservation demands that I should open a trench in another part of the field.  We work in silence…’  ‘I hear “cusswords” coming from a distant trench, Mallalieu and Schofield are holding an excited discussion over the possession of an old button – believed to be Roman; hope they are going to fight.  Winterbottom finds a piece of grey-ware bearing incised ornamentation, and we retire to the “Horse and Jockey” for lunch.  ……

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Lunch was cheese and dry bread with raw onion, clay pipes and twist for dessert, and fourpenny liquor to close.

Later that day – Under observation by a group of ‘Owdhamers’ bearing ‘ponderous volumes’ on Roman antiquities – ‘We dig for the next ten minutes in the most approved scientific manner; we are rewarded by finding a beautiful frog and several fine, healthy-looking worms,…’  ‘Work is continued, and we suddenly lay a piece of pavement bare, – trumpets, balloons, fireworks, and circus elephants!’  Mayhem does ensue and after clay being thrown about, Wrigley ‘roars his appreciation’ when Winterbottom falls over in the attempt to throw clay over Heights Chapel…. ‘am promptly stoned from the field;’  ….. ‘I am forgiven on condition that I carry all the spades, picks, etc., down to Castlehill.  We knock off for the day, the finds include the pavement and fragments of tile, pottery, and corroded iron.’

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16.10.1897   ‘Stormy meeting of directors…. breaks up in disorder.  We dig anywhere.  “Owdham Roughyeds” arrive.  Schofield behaves in an extraordinary manner; I gather he has discovered a large piece of amphora, probably part of a wine vessel; he believes

DSC_0047 (2)  that the wine cellar is not more than a yard away to the left.’ ……. ‘He claims an exclusive right to the trench.’

‘Oldhamers are permitted to watch the excavations on condition that they keep their hands off the finds. Winterbottom is going savagely round the field armed with a long, sharp-pointed iron probe; I keep out of his way, and wonder if he is fit to be at large.’

17.10.1897  ‘Tempestuous work in the inner fort by Schofield,…’  ‘Party of ladies arrive.’  ‘I hold a grand reception on the northern rampart….I explain its constructive values…and so forth. I make a great show of Latin terms used in connection with Roman stations: ….. all of which I had seen in books. I have not the faintest idea what the terms mean, but notice that my hearers are greatly impressed.’

21.10.1897  ‘I discover that the Roman relics which I had placed carefully away in a cupboard, at home, are missing.’  Wrigley asks his mother where they are and she says she’s thrown them on the midden.  ‘ “But they are Roman relics,” I say. “They look like Irish!” she answers. ‘Did you throw the Samian ware on the midden?” I ask.  “All the dirty lot!” she answers.’   ‘I spend a miserable half hour on the midden with the lantern.  At last I discover the best fragments almost buried under objectionable malodorous refuse.  I resort to strategy, and finally hide them upstairs.’

Here’s some of his very fine Samian.

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25.10.1897   Mr G F Buckley leases the field for a year, thus allowing Wrigley to continue with the dig.

Summer 1898  A number of diagonal trenches were opened near the inner fort, resulting in a visit by the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society.

May 1899   Wrigley contributes an article on Castleshaw to the Yorkshire Weekly Post, this subsequently appears in the ‘Antiquary’. Wrigley says ‘it was written with the object of calling attention to the Yorkshire Archaeological Society to the station in the hope that the Society would undertake further explorations…’   Here’s an extract from it –

“Many patches of well-worn cobble pavement may be seen running in various directions, and in some parts well crowned.  The pottery fragments include the red Samian ware, decorated with figures, etc., the border decoration being that generally called “cup and spear”; also pieces of amphora, with varieties of the black and grey wares.  A few of the latter fragments bear the well-known incised decoration of interlacing lines, while other pieces show a curious zigzag work in relief.  Four or five varieties of tile have been turned up – from a bright red to a white, some examples bearing a kind of geometrical design.” (Re-printed in Wrigley’s book referenced below, the reference of the article itself is not available at this point.)

From 1898 to 1907 Wrigley and co did ‘occasional digging on the site’.  At that point Samuel Andrew and Major Lees bought the land and quickly began comprehensive excavations, with Francis A Bruton. Of this Wrigley says ‘By doing this they earned, I hope, the thanks of every Saddleworthian who has any respect for the historical values of his homeland.’  Of his own work he says ‘A beginning is a beginning, if it is nothing else.’

I’ll leave you with a few more images of finds from the Wrigley collection.  And grateful thanks to Sean Baggaley, Director, Gallery Oldham, for allowing us to photograph the collection and to post a selection of images here.

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Catch you later blog-followers, fond regards, Bloggerina


Percival, T. 1752. Observations on the Roman colonies and stations in Cheshire and Lancashire. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 47: 216-230.

Wrigley, A. 1912. The First Excavations of the Roman Camp at Castleshaw. In Ammon Wrigley, Songs of a Moorland Parish, 298 – 314. Saddleworth: Wrigley.