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Uncovering life with the Romans.

Byline: Gerrie Brown Local Archaeologist

THE current exhibition at Heritage Quay at Huddersfield University showcases some of Huddersfield's landmark historical buildings and sites.

One of those has been staged by Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society (HDAS) which looks in detail at the Roman Fort that was once in Outlane.

Its precise point was at the current Outlane Golf Club next to the M62 and this superimposed image shows just where the Romans were based.

Our Society is now publishing a new book called The Romans in Huddersfield - A New Assessment which has been written by Barry Hobson, Granville Clay and myself. It looks in detail into the excavations at Slack Roman Fort in Outlane in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

At its peak some 1,900 years ago the fort was garrisoned by about 500 men of the 4th Cohort of the Breuci who were recruited from near modern Croatia in the Balkans. When these auxiliaries retired after 25 years' service they were rewarded with full Roman citizenship and it seems that many of them settled down to family life in this part of Yorkshire. There were no free travel passes back to the Balkans and many would have married women of the local Celtic tribe, the Brigantes.

Recent work since 2007 by the HDAS concentrated on the civilian settlement area or vicus to the north of the fort and this has made discoveries that prove that Roman activity in the area went on until the 3rd century or later. All of this work is reported in our new academic publication. The site of the fort was known to 18th century antiquarians but the first serious excavations were in the 1860s when money was raised and a new society formed to promote the work. This was the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association which later evolved into the celebrated Yorkshire Archaeological Society. The first excavations uncovered the Roman bath house - an essential requirement for every permanent fort. This featured cold and hot baths, a warm room and rooms for the soldiers to chill out.

Artist's |Roman grounds HDAS was established in 1956 to bring hands-on archaeology back home to Huddersfield and district and it has interests in Prehistoric, Roman, post Roman and Medieval archaeology and there is much information on our website at For over 30 years the network of Roman roads to and from the fort at Slack have been explored and that work is reported in our 2008 book The Romans Came This Way.

The main body of the fort which now lies under the clubhouse and car park of the golf club was not fully excavated until 1913-15. Finds from this and earlier digs had no home until the Tolson Memorial Museum was gifted to the town of Hudders-field in the 1920s. Visitors to the museum can see a fine model of the fort and many of the special finds are displayed in a permanent exhibition.

When the Roman army was building a military road across the Pennines between the Legionary fortresses at Chester and York the fort at Slack was an important part of that defensive line. The Roman surveyors knew a thing or three about plotting the best route and it was no surprise to archaeologists that when the surveyors for the M62 at Outlane chose their site for the motorway it was right on top of the original Roman road.

Apart from keeping the Roman peace (Pax Romana) in these parts and enjoying the comforts of the bath house, the Fourth Cohort of the Breuci set up a pottery kiln in the Grimescar woods near Fixby. Here they made roof tiles, not only for Slack but for other Roman forts such as Castleshaw. These seriously large and sturdy tiles often carried their distinctive stamp COHIIIIBRE. A piece of roof tile with the stamp can be seen in the Gems exhibition at Heritage Quay.

Military occupation at Slack probably ended before AD 140 as many of the Roman army units were moved north to help in the construction of Hadrian's Wall between the Tyne and the Solway Firth.

By this time some of the troops would have retired and may have been allocated land to farm in the vicinity. Evidence of this can be found in hoards of Roman coins, probably buried at times of later unrest, such as at Honley and in the Elland Hall woods. The most positive evidence comes from Roman altars found at Greetland (dated as AD 208) and Longwood. Both were dedicated to the Emperor and to the Gods of the Brigantes and carried the family name of the founders - Aurelius. Professor Ian Richmond, who wrote Roman Britain in 1955, stated that the names of the Roman citizens who paid for the altars strongly suggested they were veteran settlers.

Roman tile at Grimescar by Fourth Cohort of the Breuci KIRKLEES IMAGE ARCHIVE HDAS work between 2007 and 2010 discovered part of the system of conduits that supplied fresh clean spring water to the vicus and fort area. These were stone built channels of military design, covered by stone slabs and sealed with a layer of clay to keep out polluted surface water.

Part of the conduit had a wooden floor which gave a radio carbon date of between AD 210 and AD 340. This matched with pottery finds that have been dated by experts to cover a period from the mid second until the early fourth centuries.

All of this evidence suggests that there were prosperous Romano-British landowners in the region and that the settlement alongside the Roman road serviced travellers and couriers on official business. There may even have been a Mansio - the Roman equivalent of a Travelodge - but HDAS have not found it, yet.

The book The Romans In Hudders-field - A New Assessment is on sale soon at PS26 with discounts for HDAS members. See the group's for more information.


| Artist's impression in 1865 of the bath house hot room and underfloor heating at Slack |Roman Fort in Outlane. This was dismantled and rebuilt at Greenhead and then in the grounds of the Tolson Museum KIRKLEES IMAGE ARCHIVE

Roman |roof tile made at Grimescar by the Fourth Cohort of the Breuci KIRKLEES IMAGE ARCHIVE

| Junction of conduits at Slack Roman |Fort in Outlane and, below, pottery found at Slack Roman fort on display at the Tolson Museum KIRKLEES IMAGE ARCHIVE

An accurate representation of the Roman fort at Slack, Outlane, as it may have looked |2,000 years ago superimposed on the landscape now so it puts it in context with the M62
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 19, 2015
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