Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Smorgasbord of Roman Artefacts: Part Three

Let’s get straight back into the thick of it. We’ve lots of ground to cover and it’s doubtful whether we’ll ever clear the whole lot.
In 2005 Brian Pinney brought a large chunk of soft chalky pottery into Wyre Archaeology that he’d discovered in his garden at Preesall. It was instantly recognisable as part of a Roman mortarium (which is basically a pestle and mortar) similar to the fragment we’d excavated from Bourne Hill earlier that same year (only bigger). Interestingly William Thornber speculated over a century and a half before that Preesall Hill might be the site of a Roman fort. Want to see our own (somewhat smaller than Brian Pinney’s I must admit, but I’m not proud) mortarium fragment? Tough, you’re going to anyway.

We shouldn’t forget at this point that, when the annexes were being built at Victoria Hospital, the upper half of a Roman beehive quern was unearthed. We’ve mentioned this artefact before, along with the fact that it’s now housed in the Grundy Art Gallery (at least it was last time we looked), and on that occasion we also supplied you with a drawing of it, so if you want to remind yourself of what it looked like you’ll just have to check back through the Roman postings on this board. (Check the right hand column…everything’s categorised for ease of use.)

We’ve even unearthed Romano-British religious iconography around these parts. In the eighteenth century two figurines of the little represented deity Mars Nodens were unearthed at Cockersands. Mars Nodens was a sea god connected with healing, the figures indicating that the remains of an associated temple might still be hanging around near by.

Then there are the “…two brass pans and an ancient measure” discovered in the peat not far from Fox Hall, as recorded in ‘Porter’s History of the Fylde’. These artefacts, as you’ve probably gathered, were Roman and were originally used for salt panning. Unfortunately nobody knows where they are nowadays, although we do have a drawing of a similar saltpan for you…one that we produced earlier, if you like.

Salt was used as a form of currency by the Romans (which is where the word salary originates) and exported all over the World.

Interestingly, in the same location where the pans were discovered, a 1786 drawing of Blackpool seafront shows what it purports to be an ‘Ancient Roman Building’. Exactly what this building was, and where it’s gone to nowadays, are no doubt the subjects of a lot of conjecture amongst various local historians.

Salt panning wasn’t the only alternative employment to the military, though. Farming was very popular. Have a look at this:

That’s an aerial view of a Romano-British farm over at Nateby, is that! How do we know? Because some boffin at London University or somewhere once told us it was, that’s how. There’s a lot of this sort of stuff around at Nateby. There are a couple more Roman farms at Curlew and Eskham as well by the looks of things.

It’s been estimated that around four thousand troops in the Fylde and Wyre needed constant supplies, so, coupled with foreign trade, large amounts of money could be made from these Romano-British farms most of which were owned and/or run by retired Roman soldiers from Ribchester.

Speaking of which…

That, in case you’re wondering, is a full-faced helmet discovered at Ribchester (now on display at the British Museum…I think). Strictly speaking Ribchester with its fort and its bathhouse and what have you, is outside the Wyre and Fylde (although only just), but they’re close enough (and so inextricably linked) to warrant a mention in this article I reckon.

As you’ve probably gathered by now we could go on like this all day. Fortunately, however, we’re not going to. As any treasure hunter knows the pinnacle (and possibly the rarest) of all roman artefacts, are, of course coins. And when it comes to the Fylde and Wyre the amount of Roman currency that’s been discovered here over the years goes into overdrive.

But we’ll save that for another article. (Quite a long one I suspect.) For now, suffice it to say, that whoever it was who was making claims about the Romans having bypassed out secluded corner of Blighty, really ought to conduct a bit more research into the subject.

Incidentally, if you have any more Roman artefacts to add to this list (and I suspect that I’ve missed out loads of them here) feel free to post them in the comments boxes below or over at the forum


Max said...

Fascinating stuff - just wondering if you have that 1786 drawing of the Roman building at Blackpool, or know where we can see it? Sounds extraordinary!

Brian Hughes said...


I have got a copy of that particular drawing/etching somewhere. Unfortunately it's not on this computer. It might even be in one of our books, but I can't remember which, off hand. If I get the chance I'll have a look round and see if I can find it for you.

Not sure if Phil Barker over at Rossall Beach has it on his website. (There's a link to his site in the right hand column.) Might be worth a check, although I can't promise anything.

Jayne said...

Great detail yet again.
Been enjoying these posts :)

Brian Hughes said...

Thanks Jayne.

Actually, it's Wednesday. I'm sure this thing should automatically updated by now. I'd better go and check what's happening.