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Huddersfield in Roman Times
By Ian A. Richmond


In recent years active interest has been taken in the prosecution of Roman studies in Yorkshire, and the remains of this period in the Huddersfield district have received special attention.

In the neighbourhood of Slack, Outlane, Roman remains have been recorded at intervals ever since the middle of the eighteenth century; these include the Altar to Fortune, inscribed in tiles, bones, urns, glass, coins, &c. In 1824 was found the hypocaust now in the grounds of the Girls’ High School, Greenhead. In 1865-6 the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Society made a more systematic excavation of the Slack Fort, about which raged a long controversy as to the location of “Cambodunum,” mentioned in Iter II. of the Antonine Itinerary. The earlier excavations and finds were mainly outside the Fort, and conducted without the more scientific methods of present historical research. Early in 1913 the Roman Antiquities Committee of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society decided to make a more detailed excavation within the Fort, and on the 9th June, 1913, work was begun under the direction of Mr. P.W. Dodd, of the Classical Department of the University of Leeds, and continued until September 18th. Excavations were renewed on June 18th, 1914, but the outbreak of the war and the receipt of a commission by Mr. Dodd interrupted the work. This was eventually taken up by Mr. A.M. Woodward, who directed the digging until September the 29th, and also in 1915 from July 5th to September 18th. In November of the latter year Mr. Woodward proceeded on active service, and the excavations were closed. Much work remained to be done, especially on an adjoining property, which included the south-west corner of the Fort, but permission to excavate was refused by the owner.

A report by Messrs. P.W. Dodd and A.M. Woodward on the results obtained was published in the Journal of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Vol. XXVI., 1920, pp. 1-92, and readers are referred to this for technical details of the excavations and finds.

With the founding of the Tolson Memorial Museum, a suitable home was available for the preservation of the objects discovered, and the Roman Antiquities Committee of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society recommended that all objects from Slack should be collected together in this museum for the use of future students. Accordingly, the objects found during the excavations of 1865-6 belonging to the society and housed in the Bankfield Museum, Halifax, also the collections at the University of Leeds, were eventually transferred. Thanks are due to Mr. Ling Roth and the Halifax Corporation, also to the Council of the University for their ready assistance in the matter.

Since the manuscript of this Handbook was written a valuable collection of pottery, found at Slack during the excavations in 1865-6, was brought to light by Mr. And Miss Fennell, of Wakefield. These specimens had been preserved in the collection of the late Mr. Charles Fennell, and were handed over to the Wakefield Museum. By an arrangement and exchange, this collection has been transferred to Ravensknowle. We wish to thank Mr. And Miss Fennell and the authorities of the Wakefield authorities of the Wakefield Museum for making this transfer possible.

As further excavations of the fort at Slack seemed very remote, it was felt that the time was opportune for bringing together the scattered facts of Roman history previously brought to light in the neighbourhood of Huddersfield and publish them as a contribution to our scheme of Regional Survey. In this Mr. A.M. Woodward very willingly offered assistance, and the work was accordingly planned. Soon after, however, he was appointed Director of the British School at Athens, and he reluctantly abandoned the task.

Fortunately an enthusiastic Roman scholar, Mr. Ian A. Richmond, of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, undertook the work, and he has devoted to it much thought and energy. His results here given are not, however, a mere compilation of previous records. He has brought to bear on the problem a fresh and original mind, which has thrown much new light on Roman History and the Pennines. In addition, excavations have been made by him of the Fort at Meltham in 1923, and of the Roman Road at Blackstone Edge in July, 1923. For the first time Mr. Richmond has made a very probably and interesting suggestion as to the origin, purpose and date of the Forts at Meltham and at Kirklees, which had been shrouded in obscurity.

We wish here to record our thanks to the landowners, Messrs. J.E. & E. Hirst for so readily granting permission to excavate; to the tenant, Mr. J. Fielding Woodhead, for his interest and assistance; and to Alderman T. Canby for generously defraying the cost of the excavations at Meltham.

Thanks are due to Mr. Donald Atkinson, of the University of Manchester, for his help and advice in connection with the pottery found at Slack. The more important pieces have been restored at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and give a good idea of the types of vessels in common use during the Roman occupation.

Of other objects of this period we are indebted to Mr. Thomas Brooke for allowing the interesting “Honley Hoard” to be deposited in the Museum. The Yorkshire Archaeological Society has kindly allowed us free use of the illustrations from the Slack report; Major William Lees has kindly lent blocks from the Castleshaw reports, and we also thank Mrs. Mary A. Jagger for the loan of the block for fig. 2a. Most of the illustrations, however, have been specially prepared for this work, and for the photographs of these we are indebted to Mr. W.H. Sikes, who has spared no pains to secure the best results. To Mr. J.W. Cocking we are indebted to assistance in the preparation of the plans of the Forts and to Miss M.G. Edwards for help with the map, Fig.1.

In conclusion, the Committee desire to record their great appreciation of the unsparing labour and interest of the author, not only with the text but also in the preparation of the illustrations, and by the able way he has reconstructed this chapter of ancient local history from the excavated remains so as to make it a valuable and permanent contribution to our knowledge of Roman Britain. In this connection we owe our thanks to Mr. Robin G. Collingwood, Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, for much helpful advice during the preparation of the work in revising the proofs as well as for the drawing in Fig. 3, showing the use of the seal box. Also to Mr. A.M. Woodward, who has given generous assistance throughout, both with the excavations, the objects found and now in the Museum. Every effort has been made to render this Handbook a reliable record of the period, and we hope it will prove a further justification of the value of intensive local studies and of this mode of presentation.

Mr. Richmond has also done good service in arranging and labelling the Roman collections in the Museum, and we hope this will render them both interesting and helpful, not only to the student but also to the general visitor. Due appreciation and use of the collections will be the most fitting reward for his help in this direction.

This Handbook brings local history down to the final withdrawal of the Roman forces from Britain and the coming of the Angles, Danes and Norse, about whom Mr. W.G. Collingwood has written so ably in Handbook II., and which continues the story of Man in Huddersfield down to the Norman Conquest. We hope this work will arouse further interest in historical studies, and that its use in schools in the area will stimulate the young to care for these relics of the past and to see it that future local finds are transferred to the Museum for preservation.


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