The Romans at Ribchester

Last November we had the opportunity to gatecrash a fascinating talk by the Archaeology Department of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) on their ongoing summer excavations at Ribchester.

For those of you who don’t know, Ribchester is a pretty village in the Ribble valley to the east of Preston, and as the name suggests, it has a lot of Roman history. Historians have know for some time that there was a fair-sized Roman fort there, and the UCLAN archaeologists have been digging trenches in and around the foundations for the last few years.

And the results are spectacular. Unlike most Roman forts, especially ones in the north of England that also acted as staging posts for supplies and manpower for Hadrian’s Wall, this one appears to have been abandoned relatively early. In its place, there seems to have been a massive amount of metal working, involving not just the usual iron and stuff but some more unusual metals too.

The experts are still scratching their heads over what all this means because it doesn’t follow the usual pattern of establishment, settlement and gradual decline of a Roman fort. My own best guess is that for some reason it fell out of favour (did the Ribble change course and flood the land too often for comfort? Was there a bigger and better fort nearby?) and rather than just abandon the site, the army turned it into some kind of giant workshop area for making and storing all the equipment they needed. But that’s only a working theory and I’ll be watching out for further updates after this year’s excavations.

I last visited the village myself with my parents when I was still young enough to be bored rigid by bits of stone in the ground (ie, not much more than a toddler) and don’t remember very much about it. We’re hoping to go again once the weather improves, so we can wander round the ruins and museum without sopping wet brollies, and hopefully stroll along the river as well. Roll on spring!

The photo isn’t mine but re-used (with thanks) from The Megalithic Portal.

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