Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Jun/1865) - Archaeological and Topographical Association

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors.


The first general meeting of the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association was held on Saturday in the rooms of the Literary and Scientific Society, Queen Street. The attendance was very fair considering it was the Saturday before Whitsuntide, when many persons take summer excursions for a few days. We noticed the Revs. E. Snowden, C.A. Hulbert, J. M'Cann, G. G. Lawrence, and Thomas Brooke, Esq., J.P., and lady ; John Whitacre, Esq., &c. Previous to the meeting several members of the Association and friends went to Greenhead to view the hypocaust. They were received by the honorary secretary (the Rev. George Lloyd), and by J.K. Walker, Esq., M.D., of Scammonden, who had the fortune to discover these Roman remains some forty years ago. They were also kindly and hospitably received by Mrs. and the Misses Beaumont, Mr. Beaumont being absent in London. A portion only of the hypocaust was re-erected on the lawn at Greenhead, the remains being too extensive to remove altogether ; but there is sufficient to give a very good idea of the usual constructions of such places by the Romans. Dr. Walker explained to the meeting all the particulars of the hypocaust, and Mr. Lloyd exhibited a perspective representation of it as it was found at Slack, drawn by the late Mr. T. Taylor, of Leeds, architect, who was then building Trinity Church for the late excellent and esteemed B.H. Allen, Esq. The sketch has been kindly lent by J.W. Allen, Esq., of Cheltenham, and we are glad to learn it is to be lithographed for the use of the Association. The general meeting was subsequently held, when William Turnbull, Esq., M.D., the president of the association, took the chair.

The Chairman remarked that the circular calling the meeting informed them that a paper was to be read by Dr. Walker, on some ancient relics found at Slack in this neighbourhood. Those relics were now preserved at Greenhead, and, by the kindness of Mr. Beaumont, he believed, all who wished, had had an opportunity of inspecting them. Besides this paper of Dr. Walker, a letter upon the antiquities of Clay House would be read ; and both the subjects would, in all probability, lead to some little discussion. Afterwards, the members of the Association would be called upon to revise the rules to make them ready for the press. Such was the programme of the day’s proceedings. It afforded him pleasure to have a tolerable attendance ; it told him that many took an interest in the Association, and it was well that it should be so. Our age was becoming intensely commercial, and we forgot that the mind no less than the body required a variety of food, when we run on month after month, and year after year, in the same routine. When the pursuit of wealth was made almost the sole object of life, we were apt to take a low, narrow, and selfish view of our fellow-men, and some of our noblest faculties remained uncultivated, lay dormant, and we know not their value. Whatever, therefore, turned our attention occasionally into fresh channels — whatever would store our minds with information respecting the past history of our race, whatever would add to our knowledge of man and his works, whatever, as had been beautifully said by one of our older writers, removed our attention from the present, and turned it upon the past, the distant, or the future, tended to elevate us in the scale of thinking beings. (Applause.) It placed us, as it were, upon a higher pinnacle; we saw further around us, and we took a more lofty view of the world we live in, and of man and his destiny. It made us, in short, better acquainted with the mighty stream of civilization upon which we were all floating onwards. By diversity of occupation for the mind we were refreshed and strengthened, and we returned to our calling or occupation, whatever that might be, with renewed energy— sharpened intellect, and in every way better fitted to sustain the wear and tear of life’s battle. (Applause.) He had now the pleasure of calling on his old friend and colleague, Dr. Walker, to read a paper on the "Roman hypocaust discovered at Slack."

J.K. Walker, Esq., M.D., Cantab, F.S.A., &c., said he was about to make a few observations on a discovery made by him some 40 years ago. Therefore, they would conceive that his memory would not serve him faithfully, and he should depend upon the notes which he took at the time. He would read to them what he collected on the spot:—

Ladies and Gentlemen, — Let me congratulate you that, amongst the first objects of your research, this far-famed Roman station has attracted your attention. You are aware that the site of Cambodunum for many ages formed the subject of the most celebrated antiquarian controversy of modern times. It is now acknowledged, by the consent of all competent judges, that on the site of the Eald-fields, at Slack, within the parish of Huddersfield, were once encamped the legionary soldiers of Agricola and Hadrian. So many centuries of ignorance had so entirely covered it with the mantle of oblivion that it became as one of the dead and extinct cities of former days. And even now the stranger that visits this memorable place can hardly reconcile himself to toe belief that on this spot there stood the Roman metropolis of this part of Yorkshire ; that within this peaceful valley the pomps of military life flaunted on its walls, and the bugle call of the Roman musters was heard, proclaiming to the surrounding district the presence of the Imperial conquerors.
Some future opportunity, however (should the society wish it), may occur in which the claims of this place to be recognised as toe true site of Cambodunum may be canvassed, and the various discoveries made at different times of Roman remains, not only here but elsewhere in this district, and especially at the station at Clayhouse, in Elland, which my late friend, the Rev. J. Hunter, contended was better entitled to the honour of being the ground plot of Cambodunum ; and, in short, the entire question may undergo a faithful and impartial investigation.
On the present occasion, however, in compliance with the wishes of the society, I propose restricting my observations to toe subject of the hypocaust, which it fell to my lot to discover many years ago.
The classical scholar is not ignorant that, in the days of Roman greatness, the use of baths in all their variety was resorted to by those in health as well as by invalids. This was the case not only in the seat of empire itself, in Italy, but subsequently in many of their distant provinces. The observations, however, I shall make on this occasion refer more especially to the hypocausts found in the Roman stations in Britain, and to the one discovered at Slack ; and lastly, to the remains of the hypocaust found at Grimscar, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
Whoever will consult the works of Vitruvius Pollis will find the plan of our British hypocausts generally in accordance with the principles laid down by that celebrated architect. Since the time of Augustus, when this architect lived, no material change seems to have taken place in their construction, so far at least as this island was concerned, the same general plan being adopted in all.
There are remains of hypocausts in the walls both of Hadrian and Antoninus ; and here, as in other Roman stations, very frequently along with the hypocaust, an altar to Fortune has been found.
It is not to be wondered at that so many of these hypocausts, with their adjacent appendages, like other monuments of Roman power in Britain, have come down to us in so dilapidated a condition, when we reflect that most of these Roman stations have been sacked and destroyed by one barbarous people after another. That such has been the case is sufficiently evident, inasmuch as almost all the remains found in these stations are in a more or less mutilated condition. We see it in the fragments of pediments, columns, and sometimes of urns and tiles, and other works of art, often mingled together in one confused mass, often with marks of fire upon them. Can we otherwise account for this than on the supposition that the place had been taken by storm and destroyed by some hostile force? One would have expected that the Roman Uriconium, where the ground which covers the town has fortunately been but very little disturbed, would have escaped all such reckless destruction. We are told, indeed, on exploring the remains of this station, that one hypocaust, attached apparently to some rich dwelling-house, was found in good preservation, but the floor was broken up. In another quarter we are told traces of burning are met with everywhere ; a quantity of burnt wheat was found in one of the rooms. Human bones were found scattered about in another quarter; all which would seem to speak of a massacre at the time Uriconium was taken and ruined by the invaders.
With regard to the hypocaust at Slack, it is difficult to form a correct judgment of its dimensions in its perfect form. It may not have been so large, or have communicated its warmth to so many apartments as some elsewhere. That it did, however, distribute heat through certain flues was clearly shown on examination, the heat from the hypocaust being first conveyed by upright tubes, then into funnels laid horizontally above the floors of the houses above. I believe one of the best examples of the manner in which the Roman architects contrived in their hypocausts to combine the twofold objects of conveying warmth to their baths and to the adjoining houses was found at a Roman villa about five miles from Gloucester (the Roman Glevum). According to this plan, several of the walls still exist to the height of from 4ft. to 5ft. 4in., and most of the doorways are preserved. They are said not to be on so large a scale as the baths in the Roman villa at Bignor, but of these, little remains above the level of the floors. In some remains of a hypocaust at Isunun (Aldbrugh) on the south end of the bath were discovered a large quantity of oyster shells and bones, and amongst them a bronze oyster knife. It seems there were eating rooms attached to the baths, as it was not unusual with the Romans to eat immediately after bathing.
It is sufficiently apparent from what yet remains of each of the various hypocausts which have from time to time been brought to light, that in some there are a greater variety of apartments, more decorations, and a greater supply of the means of luxury, yet in all of them the first object has been to convey warmth to the baths and neighbouring dwellings. Of a truth these conquerors of the world seemed to very sensible of the rigors of our climate, and did their best to compensate themselves for the loss of the sunny climes of the south.
We do not know what destruction may have taken place in the station at Slack in former ages. There is no doubt, however, from what was discovered here, that the hypocaust answered the same purposes as in other stations, as in most other cases the discovery was the result of accident. Some labourers in search of stone for the repair of the fences, after turning up a variety of fragments of stone and brick, laid open an extensive pavement, not less than ten feet wide, and the remains of a walk on either side, which might originally have been part of a room, intended for some purpose in connection with the hypocaust, as it was at a considerable depth. On this pavement were found many pieces of bone imbedded in a mass of charcoal and cinerious matter. One portion of bone more perfect than the rest was not unlike a Sphenoid bone, which, from its situation in the skull, might sustain less injury from the flames. Among other remains there were some of what seemed to be iron nails, coated with mortar. The remains of what had been a small key was also found. The Romans usually interred them dead at a distance from their station, therefore it is difficult to acquiesce in the conjecture that this had been a burying place. In the plan of the hypocaust in the villa near the Roman station at Gloucester (to which allusion has already been made) there is a room similarly situated, in which a number of bones were found, and the learned commentator,[1] who published an account of this Roman station, considers it a kind of chapel or place of worship, and the number of bones found there he considers to be those of victims. Might not the same be the case here? At the same time, seeing, in various parts of the fields, so many marks of his, some may rather be of opinion that the Roman station like many others has been sacked and destroyed by fire. Amongst other things which attracted my attention was the appearance of a flagstone of great thickness, through which there was a groove, possibly for the admission of air. After its removal with a large mass of Roman cement, we penetrated a cavity, which, on further examination, left no room for doubt what the true character of this structure was, for we found seven tiers of pilasters, of which there were seven to each tier. So far no disturbance had taken place. The roof of the furnace was composed of square stones, above which was a layer of Roman bricks, of a handsome appearance, each 21 inches square. But what seemed to attract the admiration of the spectators was the series of closely-cemented flues, which nearly surrounded this quadrangular structure, some of which being scored very regularly gave it an air of neatness and symmetry that was compared by the bystanders to the front of an organ. The tubes or flues still standing were about 12 inches long, and at the end 6⅜in. by 5in. The perfect state in which some of these parts were found was owing to their subterraneous situation. But the report of the workmen gives us further particulars, and states that one room in the building discovered by them was 4 yards long and about 2½ yards broad. The floor is described to have been between 3 and four yards below the present surface of the ground, and the pavement was nearly a yard in thickness, composed of lime and brick brayed together exceedingly hard. The report adds that in one corner of the room was a drain about 5 inches square, into which as much water was conveyed as would have turned an overfall mill, yet no vent could be discovered, nor did it raise a large spring about twenty yards below, and about four yards lower than the foundation of the building. The late Mr. Taylor, the architect, who at that time was superintending the building of Mr. Allen’s church, was kind to make a drawing of the entire structure for my use, before it was removed to Greenhead, the then residence of Mr. Allen, to whom the property belonged upon which the hypocaust was found. It now stands in the grounds adjoining the mansion, now the residence of Mr. Beaumont, under an arch composed of stone, tile, &c., found at Slack, over which ivy has grown, giving to the whole a venerable appearance.
As no inapt supplement to description of the Hypocaust at Slack, I beg leave to present to the association the particulars of the discovery of (what Camden considered to be) a Roman Hypocaust, found at Grimscar in the reign of Elizabeth.
The account of it was found amongst the manuscript of Roger Hodsworth, in the Bodleian library, by the Rev. J. Hunter.
On the dorse of folio 30 is the following — a Roman antiquity in Grimscar, in Fixby :—
"In the year of our Lord 1590 certain colliers working in Grimscar, in Fixby, in framing a pit to bum the charcoal, discovered a certain work in the earth of most fine brick. It resembled in one part a round well, four yards deep or not so much, most cunningly walled with brick, and having upon the top a very broad brick stone covering the same, with round ledges wrought upon it, and wherein were written diverse Roman characters, as namely these, COH IIII BRE. Next adjoining to it, had been an arch or cave, wherein great fires had been made, and there were four conduits going from the said place in the lower part of the ground, and coming forth some eight or nine yards of it, wherein had runned some kind of metal, for the stones were all as if congealed together. There were about it, found both red, blue, and yellow brick, very curious and good, and a kind of hard cinder, in many places with some ... of very thin earth in pots curiously wrought. What the work was it is not certainly known, but to be a Roman work most likely, and for the making of some kind of metal or glass. It was placed in the midst of the wood, in a descending place near unto a spring of water, and not far from a clough of greater waters. The name of the wood is called Grimscar. The colliers had defaced many of the letters before they perceived what it was. The characters remaining by others interpreted, COHORS QVARTA BRETANNORUM."
The writer subjoins the following note in Latin. Aug. 5, 1599 :—
"The learned antiquary William Camden, when he was visiting at the house of John Savile, the Baron of the Excheque, at Bradley, told me that this work was a bath, a luxury, in which the distinguished Romans, when they had possession of this island, greatly delighted. This he told me as I rode with him to Bradford. We had in our company another eminent and very learned antiquary, named Robert (it should be Edmund) Bolton, who resolved for me many difficulties relating to Earls of Warren."

He (Dr. Walker) could have extracted another page or two, but he thought he should exhaust the patience of the meeting. The subject was as interesting as Slack itself.

The Chairman said if any gentleman had a remark to make upon the paper he should be glad to hear it.

Mr. Hastings said he had to offer an apology respecting the paper on the "Antiquities of Clay House," which he had proposed to read before the meeting, and to the honorary secretary for misleading him as to its being an unpublished paper. He was not aware, until he had seen Dr. Walker that day, that the paper he had intended to read had been printed by Mr. Hunter. There were, however, some additional matters interspered through the original MSS. which had not been printed, and he would at some future time extract them for the Association.

Dr. Walker replied that his friend Mr. Hunter read that paper before the Antiquarian Society of London, and endeavoured to show that the site of Cambodunum was at or near Clay House. He had before that time inserted some remarks in the Gentlemans Magazine to prove that Slack was the site of that station. In consequence of that Mr. Hunter did him the favour to send a private copy of his paper on the subject, and that was the paper now in Mr. Hastings' possession. It was in Mr. Hunter’s own handwriting. Afterwards he received some lengthened remarks of Mr. Hunter on the later antiquities of Clay House, and those would be an acquisition to the society, if Mr. Hastings would be good enough to cull them out of his manuscripts. The last evidence found in behalf of Slack as the Cambodunum, was a fine medal of Hadrian, which had been brought to him. He had given an impression of it to some persons in Halifax. He (Dr. Walker) had many things to say about Slack, when the Association favoured him with a visit. He understood the respected Secretary said the society intended visiting Slack some time.

The Rev. George Lloyd remarked that they purposed making a pic-nic party to Slack, in July or August. It was expected that the whole of the members would go ; but there were many outsiders who were very anxious to explore there. He mentioned that he had received a letter from the Rev. James Hope, of Halifax, in which that gentleman said he would gladly contribute to a fund for that purpose. This was one of the objects of the Association. He might also mention that Dr. Wollaston had kindly presented to the society his work on Thermœ Romano Brittanieœ, which was at the service of any member who wished to peruse it. Nothing showed more the state of the civilization to which the Romans had arrived than the Thermae of their towns and camps. Wherever they dwelt they built them as matters of necessity. The celebrated baths of Diocletian were capable of accommodating 3,000 people ; and there were seats for the same number, made from Egyptian granite, which were inlaid with the green marble of Numidia. They were open to the public for a small coin, which was equal to one-eighth of an English penny; and, as it was not beside the subject, he would read an extract from Sir Hugh Platts’ work, "Delights for ladies, to adorne their persons, tables, closets, and distillatories with beauties, banquets, perfumes, and waters. London : Robert Young, 1640." It would show the difference in respect of the civilisation of the Romans, in the days of Diocletian, from what it was in the time of Charles I.

I know that many Gentlewomen, as well for the cleering of their skins, as cleansing of their bodies, do now and then delight to sweat. For the which purpose, I have set down this manner following, as the best that ever I observed: Put into a brasse pot of some good content, such proportion of sweet herbs, and of such kind as shall bee most appropriate for your infirmity, with some reasonable quantity of water, close the same with an apt cover, and well luted with some paste made of flower and whites of Egges : at some part of the cover you must let in a leaden pipe (the entrance wherof must also be well luted :) this pipe must bee conveyed thorow the side of the chimney, where the pot standeth in a thick hollow stake of a bathing tub crossed with hoopes, according to the usuall manner, in the top, which you may cover with a sheet at your pleasure. Now, the steame of the pot passing thorow the pipe under the halfe bottome of the bathing tub, which must be bored full of bigge holes, will breathe so sweet and warm a vapour upon your body, as that (receiving aire, by holding your head without the tub as you sit therein) you shall sweat most temperately, and continue the same a long time without fainting. And this is performed with a small charcole fire maintained under the pot for this purpose. Note, that the roome would bee close wherein you place your bathing tub, lest any sudden cold should happen to offend you whilst your body is made open and porous to the ayre.

Rev. Chas. A. Hulbert thought there could be no reasonable dispute that Slack was the Cambodunum of the Romans, for two reasons stated by Dr. Walker, 1st : the fact that the site of the ancient Roman roads could be traced through Slack ; and, 2nd : the very strong evidence of the name of Scammonden itself. How the name could originate he could not decide except from that of Scammonden itself, as a corruption of Cambodunum. He was of opinion that the evidence was pretty strong, seeing that we had traces of Roman remains at Slack.

Rev. George Lloyd begged to say that they had for the inspection of the members and friends, the copy of the Almondbury Parish Registers, made by John Nowell, Esq., of Farnley. It was a wonderful work for a gentleman of his time of life. The loose papers from which he copied them were so old that they looked and felt more like tinder than anything else. He had often to use the microscope to decipher some of the entries. The date extends from January, 1557, to September, 1652. Parish registers had been shamefully neglected in many places : he knew of one parish, not very far from Huddersfield, where the old registers were knocking about in various directions, one being used as a sort of footstool in a pew. He took this opportunity to read a short extract from Archdeacon Musgrave’s charge last month, on the subject. The archdeacon very kindly sent him a copy ; and requested him "to make any use he might desire of the part relating to parish registers."

An iron sale for the custody of the registers and parish records is of yet more serious and general concern. If these are loosely kept, or left open to interpolation or erasure — to removal or destruction, who can estimate the inconvenience or confusion, the injury and loss, which may fall with severe and irreparable hardship on unsuspecting families? We have the authority of some of the most eminent of her Majesty’s judges — to quote their own words — pronouncing from the bench that "all the property of this country, or a large part of it, depends on registers" — and insisting on the inexpressible importance of their safe deposit. And yet, to speak again of my own experience as Archdeacon. In the exercise of my duty I had to assist in recovering some registers carried off to a far distant part of the country by a late Incumbent, and long detained to the great uneasiness and apprehension of the parish. I might tell also of a missing register — the one in use immediately before the present Marriage Act — which at the cost of much anxious enquiry I traced to another riding, and eventually found among the books and papers of a deceased Incumbent. Or I might advert to a mass of neglected, mutilated sheets, with no cover, incidentally discovered by myself in an outhouse of a parsonage in Craven ; or to add but one other instance, which, if it were not too irreparable a mischief, might provoke a smile. I have seen the entries of half a century cut away in shreds from a parchment register by a sacreligious parish clerk, to subserve the purposes of his ordinary occupation as a tailor.

After the inspection of Mr. Nowell's book, which received much admiration, the meeting concluded. The Association proceeded to pass the amended rules, and to admit new members.

Votes of thanks were passed to Dr. Walker, Mr. Hastings, and Dr. Turnbull.


  1. Vide an account of a Roman hypocaust discovered in the parish of Great Witcombe, in the county of Gloucester, by Samuel Lysons, Esq., V.P.F.R.S.

Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Jun/1865) - Archaeological and Topographical Association


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