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
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