Huddersfield Chronicle (03/Feb/1866) - The Rev. G. Lloyd on the Roman Discoveries at Slack

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


A miscellaneous entertainment, the proceeds of which are to be applied to the liquidation of the debt incurred in rebuilding the organ of St. Paul's Church, was given in the Philosophical Hall, on Thursday evening. There was a numerous attendance ; and the Rev. G.G. Lawrence, M.A, incumbent of St. Paul's, presided. Music, scientific experiments, and a paper by the Rev. Geo. Lloyd, of Thurstonland, on the recent discoveries at Slack, formed the chief features of the entertainment ; and the proceedings were of a most delectable and edifying description. The vocalists were Miss North, Miss Smith, Miss S. North, Mr. Duxbury, Mr. Eastwood, Mr. Robinson, and Mr. Lister, all of whom generously volunteered their services. Air. Marshall presided at the harmonium ; and Mr. Joe Wood acted as pianist and conductor. Chemical experiments were made with the metals, carbonic acid, and oxygen, by Mr. Jarmain and others ; but not the least instructive portion of the entertainment was the paper by the Rev. G. Lloyd. As the recent "finds" at Slack have become, and will be for some time to come, a popular theme for discussion, we give the paper of Mr. Lloyd, who may be regarded as an authority upon antiquarian subjects. The paper was as follows :—

I feel happy to have the pleasure of reading a short paper before you, on the excavations at Slack. You will please bear in mind that my subject is, as described in the programme, "On the recent discoveries at Slack." I name this, because I do not intend to combat the question whether Slack is the site of Cambodunum or not. I will leave the disinterred remains to speak for themselves. It is but right, however, that I should mention, as briefly as possible, the different theories which antiquarians have turned up about Cambodunum for many years, and around which they have clung with heroic obstinacy. Camden (Britannia) was the first to fix the site of Cambodunum. He placed it at Almondbury. His words are :— "Six miles from Halifax, not far from the right side of the river Calder, and near Almondbury, a little village, there is a very steep hill, only accessible by the way from the plain, where the marks of an old rampire, and some ruins of a wall, and of a castle, well guarded with a triple fortification, are plainly visible. Some would have it the remains of Olicana (Ilkley), but ’tis really the ruins of Cambodunum (which is by a mistake in Ptolemy called Camo-ladunum, and made two words by Bede, Campo-dunum), as appears by the distance which Antoninus makes between that and Mancunium (Manchester) on the one hand, and that and Calcaria, (Tadcaster) on the other." He repeats the story about the cathedral and Paulinus, from Bede, which I pass over as beside our subject. Camden was followed in this view by the antiquaries Gale and Burton ; and no doubt many of the excellent and amiable inhabitants of the Almondbury of the present day hold to the same. But Horsley, in his Roman antiquities of Britain, combats the statement. He says, "There is nothing Roman about the works at Almondbury. Nothing Roman has ever been found about them and further, "they belong to a class of earthworks to which belong the works at Mexborough, Langton, and other places near the southern border of Brigantia. Watson, in a paper read at the Society of Antiquaries, February 27th, 1766, and which forms No. 45 of the first volume of the Archaeologia, referring to the passage in Bede, which Camden quotes in his remarks on Almondbury, says, "It is far from clear that Castle-hill, near Almondbury, was the Cambodunum of the Romans, for the ground in its present appearance has nothing of the Roman taste about it ; there have been no coins, altars, or other Roman relics of that people found there ; and what is more, no Roman military way goes near it." So much for Almondbury.
And now taking up Horsley's principles, "that the discovery of fixed and heavy remains of the Roman times, such as all the altars are, affords a presumption that there had been a Roman population settled at or very near to the place at which they are found," I turn with pleasure to Slack. In 1750 the Rev. John Watson, in his antiquarian researches, discovered a Roman altar standing in a farmer's yard at Stainland. It had been dug up 14 years before, but never before attracted the eye of an antiquary. He traced it to the site from which it had been taken, and found that it was at Slack, in Longwood, in the parish of Huddersfield, and where he found other evidences of Roman occupation. Mr. John Whitaker, the historian, of Manchester, a contemporary and correspondent of Watson, concurred in making Slack the site of Cambodunum ; and subsequently Dr. Whittaker, in his Loides and Elniete, supports this opinion.
By the general concurrence of antiquaries, ancient and modern, Slack was named as the site Cambodunum of the Romans, until lately, when the Rev. Joseph Hunter in an article in the Archaeologia (vol. xxxii., p.p. 16-24) claimed it for Greetland, in a league of land where Roman remains have been found. He concludes an able article in these words, "Having all the evidence that prevailed in inducing Mr. Watson and the Whitakers to fix the site of Cambodunum at Slack, in equal force in favour of the site in Greetland, with the additional probability arising out of the infinitely superior suitability of the Greetland to the Slack site, that it is at Greetland that we ought hereafter to fix the site of the long lost station Cambo-dunum, and that the claim of Slack must henceforth be abandoned." Our worthy and indefatigable friend, Dr. Walker, would not "abandon" Slack ; and on his authority I state that Mr. Hunter changed his views on this point in later years. Indeed, I infer this from a paper of Mr. Hunter's in "the Clays" of Clay House, in Greetland, a copy of which now forms part of the MSS. collection of our Archaeological Association. He says in that paper, (the passage is too beautiful to curtail) :— "It is curious to observe the different fates which has attended the four Roman stations. York is still the northern metropolis, as it was when under its name Eboracum. It was the chief seat of Roman authority in the north of Britain, and though Roman York may be considered as superseded by Ecclesiastical York, yet relics of the Roman city have been found in great abundance, and are still for ever being disinterred from beneath the present surface. Calcaria is also still an inhabited place, and still, as in the times of the Romans, a passage town. Mancunium has had a fate different from both. It has become a centre of modern commerce, and has its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, very few of whom ever heard of Mancunium, or think that in the primitive times of British civilization this was one of the military towns. But how different from all has been the fate of Cambodunum! Instead of expanding and growing into a flourishing city or borough, the germ deposited by the Romans seems to have died in the earth ; and when they were withdrawn from the Island the primeval forest seems to have reassumed its rights, and to have excluded or buried out of sight all traces of the Italian nation which had dared to raise the axe against it. At least we have learned enough to show that the grass now grows where it must have stood, and the indications are slight by which we judge of its actual site ; a few coins, a few foundations of buildings, and a single altar, with certain probabilities and presumptions are all we have to guide us to the site. There is something more affecting in this than in the more ordinary cases where the Roman towns are still among the principal centres of population. At least there is more for the imagination, more perhaps to prompt reflection, and to introduce serious and solemn thought. Not man himself passes away, but the mightiest works of man may pass away and be no more seen."
It was with feelings akin to these that I have stood near the ruins at Slack. Cambodunum has been buried for ages. Rome herself is now mouldering in decay ; she has fallen from the high pinnacle of glory to which the energy of an ambitious people had carried her, but she sits amid the ruins of her greatness — noble in her decay ; and we may say of her, in the language of the Jews when weeping over the desolation of Jerusalem, "thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof."
We, as a nation, have followed in the footprints Rome has left behind her, and perhaps with a prouder foot. At all events we have outstripped her in our march of civil and religious liberty ; but we can never forget that she was the prince of civilisation. When our fathers painted their bodies, the Roman citizen was clothed in purple and fine linen, or dressed in all the panoply of war. When our fathers lived in huts and caves, and eked out a wretched existence, the Romans built palaces and castles.
It has fallen to the lot of the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association — and without being vain we are proud of it — to dig out Cambodunum from its hiding place of ages. I shall leave them to speak for themselves, or perhaps it would be better for them and less startling to you if I speak for them.