Thursday, May 22, 2008

Roman Columns Discovered in Fleetwood!

This is an illustration of the White Bull in Ribchester:

Don’t ask me why I drew it up as an illustration, rather than use a photograph. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.
Anyhow, the White Bull was built in 1707, which is interesting its own right. Round the back of the pub are the remains of a Roman bathhouse, which, chronologically, is even more interesting. And those pillars supporting the portico, well, they’re Roman too, half inched as they allegedly were from the original Ribchester fort.
All of which is excellent, but you’re probably muttering to yourselves right now, “We know this stuff already. What’s it got to do with the supposed discovery of Roman columns in Fleetwood as suggested by the title of this posting?”
All right…calm down…we’re getting to that. (Strewth.)
Sometimes we receive interesting e-mails from the many millions of devoted fans of our local history books. Sometimes we receive not so interesting e-mails from them. Sometimes they’re downright insulting and, frankly, it beggars belief as to why such people bother to put pen to paper in the first place.
Just occasionally, however, other people receive e-mails about our books that are extremely fascinating, which they then pass onto us, such as was the case with Walter Scott Jr.
Walter’s e-mail was full of stuff that, on another occasion, we’ll no doubt be using. Stuff about Fleetwood history and personal experiences and, well, generally the sort of anecdotal evidences that we refer to as ‘personal source material’. A lot can be learned from this type of information.
For the purposes of this article, however, we’re just going to concentrate on the following extract from Walter’s e-mail, the reasons for which will soon become apparent:
“I'm probably teaching my Granny to suck eggs here, but you might like to take a look at the columns at the entrance to the Euston Hotel. Take a look at the two middle ones (if I remember). The very tops (plinths do they call them?)”
Close enough. Plinths, capitols, capitals, the bits at the top that the roof rests on…we knew what Walter was talking about, so we took his advice and had a quick stroll down to the aforementioned North Euston Hotel. And because we’re that way inclined we took our camera. Here’s what we managed to photograph just before the heavens opened with predictable inevitability.

They’re the two centre columns, carved from sandstone with simple flat capitals, patched up in places where they’ve been worn away by inclement weather. They’re not much different than the rest of the columns supporting the entrance to the North Euston Hotel, to be honest…except…well…they are a bit more worn than they ought to be around the edges, especially those that aren’t facing into the prevailing wind…which is odd…
Here…take a closer look:

We’ll let Walter explain:
“At the top they are different than the others, more worn, are they not? I was told by a past Landlord of the White Bull Inn in Ribchester (where we cycled regularly as kids with the Old fella) that they were a gift from the White Bull when the Euston opened. It is well known that the pillars stones at the White Bull Inn in Ribchester are from the nearby Roman fort. I subsequently read this in the dim and distant past, but cannot now recall the literary source.”

So…should we believe the landlord’s story? Well, yes, I don’t see why not. The North Euston Hotel was one of the earliest buildings in Fleetwood. It was opened in 1841 and in 1859 was sold off to the government to use as an ‘Officers School of Musketry’.
You want a photograph of that, don’t you? Thought you might:


There they all are, look, resplendent in their shiny uniforms in front of the columns themselves.
Before long hutments were erected opposite the Queens Hotel on Poulton Road with rifle ranges established at Rossall Point, whilst the North Euston itself became the officers’ quarters. By 1900 the army had packed up and left. The North Euston was sold, redecorated and returned to its original purpose. A War Department stone can still be seen in the wall.

Anyhow, before all that happened, in the eyes of Peter Hesketh (a trained classicist and devotee of ancient history) the North Euston was actually the embodiment of everything that Fleetwood represented to him. You see, the hotel was so called because, when it was originally built, it was meant to rival the Euston in London; the southern extremity of the railway line constituting the backbone of ‘modern’ Britain. It was also the first place in the World to have a train station buffet apparently…but that’s another story.
Hesketh himself collected antiquities, amongst them part of the Roman coin hoard discovered at Rossall Point. Most of these museum pieces were, we believe, sold off to private bidders when the great man became bankrupt. God only knows where they are nowadays.
The idea that Hesketh erected two genuine ancient pillars in the North Euston’s entrance, directly opposite the Roman Min End ford (which he would, of course, have known about) as the gateway to Fleetwood, framing the equally classically designed Pharoes lighthouse, then had the rest of the portico constructed around them to match, wouldn’t surprise us at all.
Of course, if you happen to know different, then please get in touch. For now, however, we’re happy to accept the anecdote as being more than feasible.

16 comments:

John said...

Now that's what I'm talking about... ancient history sitting there right under your noses! Course, now you have to put a plaque up, or the columns will come down with the rest of the building someday, if it ever came to that. I hope not, because if I ever visit, that's the hotel that I was looking at, perhaps by your recommendation?

Don't remember, but now there's another reason to visit.

Excellent post, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

"that's the hotel that I was looking at, perhaps by your recommendation?"

Might have recommended it. Might have been the only hotel in Fleetwood I could think of at the time, although, on reflection, I'd probably recommend the B&B owned by my mate's Mum opposite the pier, if only because she makes good bacon butties...which you wouldn't be allowed to eat, of course, being a vegetarian...unless you follow the maxim 'When in Rome'.

Jayne said...

Excellent article and history gathering with lesson, Brian! :)
I agree with John, unless you get a plaque slapped on the building those columns will be scavenged upon any demolition or tossed in a landfill.
Hmmmm bacon butties....

Ozfemme said...

I was just about to make a well thought out and reasoned statement about the pillars until someone mentioned..... bacon butties.

It's completely knocked me off wherever I was on my 12-step program at Bacon Anonymous....*sighs*

Ozfemme said...

"Most of these museum pieces were, we believe, sold off to private bidders when the great man became bankrupt. God only knows where they are nowadays."

We're having a little foray under the couch cushions this weekend and possibly even a raid on the vegetable crisper in the Kelvinator (fridge)... Will let you know if any items of interest show up there. It's quite likely....

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

We'd need to prove it outright before we'd get a blue plaque...so a bit more validation work is probably required.

Bella,

If you find any bacon butties on your search, let me know. I haven't had breakfast yet and I'm starving.

John said...

I made cheese and potato pasties this morning for breakfast, so your talk of butties is not affecting me. Nope. No way...

JOHN :0)

mmmm... bacon....

Brian Hughes said...

John,

Crisp, steaming bacon on a soft, freshly torn barmcake smothered in butter, and dressed with a trail of sweet pickle...mmm...

Damn it! Where's that frying pan?

Jayne said...

LOL Just spoke to my cousin who's off to make 30-odd egg and bacon rolls for the Venus Bay IRB Racing Team.
I'm sure she could cook a couple extra for you and John :P

Brian Hughes said...

Jayne,

Too late! I've had mine now...and damned fine it was too. As for John, he's a vegetarian, so he'll just have to make do with a bit of stale bread and some cheese.

Jayne said...

Oh well, all this talk of bacon, eggs , cheese and stale bread has me hankering for that exact thing for brekkie now, so I'll have John's share for him ;)

Brian Hughes said...

Don't forget the pickle...or, alternatively, a drop of HP sauce.

JahTeh said...

Looks like Fleetwood's liver is heading in the same direction as those columns. We should try and get a blue plaque slapped on him.

Brian Hughes said...

Mmm...liver and onions.

Ozfemme said...

I'd like to see that.

Brian Hughes said...

Bella,

You'd like to see Liver and Onions?