Longwood Roman Altar

In 1882, the remains of a Roman altar were unearthed to the south of Royds Hall at Lower Gate, Longwood.

Haigh Hirstwood had been in the process of building a new house on Lower Gate when a workman's pick axe struck a solid sandstone block. After clearing the earth around it, it was found to be "three feet in height, about 18 inches by 14 across, and [...] in an excellent state of preservation".[1]

Photographer Reginald Spurr took photographs of the inscription on the altar and, together with a rubbing, these were sent to archaeologist William Thompson Watkin of Liverpool who provided the following transcription and translations:[2]

D. E. O.
S. BRIGANTIVM
ET. N. AVG.
T. AVR. QVINTS.
D.D. P. ET. S.S.
Deo
Sancto Brigantium
et Numinibus Augusti
Titus Aurelius Quintus
Decreto Decurionum posuit et susceptum solvit.
To the Holy God of the Brigantes
and to the divinities of Augustus
T. Aurelius Quintus
by the decree of the Decurions set
up by this altar and thus performed
that which he had undertaken.

The Antiquarian (February 1883) gave the following transcription:

DEO S(ANCTO) BRIGANT(VM) ET
N(VMINI) AVG (VSTI) T(ITIVS) AVR(ELIVS)
QVINTVS D(ECRETO) D(ECVRIONVM)
P(OSVIT) ET S(VSCEPTVM) S(OLVIT)

Local historian G.W. Tomlinson petitioned for the altar to be moved to Greenhead Park where it was subsequently displayed in the lakeside arbour. Tomlinson later wrote to the Greenhead Park Subcommittee in 1891 suggesting that a brass plate[3] should be attached to the altar to show the inscription and translation.[4] The altar was later removed to the Tolson Memorial Museum in 1920.[5]

Extracts

Supplementary Annals of the Church and Parish of Almondbury, Yorkshire (1885) by Charles Augustus Hulbert:

LONGWOOD.

ROMAN ALTAR DISCOVERED.

The Journal of the Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Association, Part XXX, page 349, contains the following account of the above:—

In August last year (1882) a Roman Altar was found in the Township of Longwood, near Huddersfield. It was imbedded in the soil, one corner being bare. The place where it was found is nearly in a direct line between Slack and Castle Hill. Photographs were sent to Mr. Thompson Watkins and to Professor Hübner, of Berlin. Mr. Watkins thus refers to the Altar in Journal of the Institute:

In July, I had sent to me by the Yorkshire Archaeological Association, two Photographs of an Altar about three feet in height, found at Longwood, near Slack, the ancient Cambodunum. It bears an Inscription which contains several ligatures, but which reads

DEO
S. BRIGANT
ET. N. AVG
T. AVR. QVINTVS
D. D. P. ET S.S.

Amongst several peculiarities about this Altar, one seems to be that the stone cutter has originally commenced the second line with B, thus omitting S for Sancto. On finding out his mistake he has cut the S upon the B, and has added the latter letter (reversed) to the left side of the upright stroke of the R which had previously been produced in an upward direction to form the I. The consequence is that these three letters are in one ligulate form. There is room after the T at the end of this line for other letters of which faint traces appear to remain, and which I think have been VM. I would therefore read the whole Inscription as Deo S(ancto) Brigantum et N(umini) Aug(usti), T(itus) Aur(elius) Quintus D(ecreto) D(ecurionum) P(osuit) et S(usceptum) S(olvit). The translation is, "To the holy god of the Brigantes, and to the divinity of the Emperor Titus Aurelius, Quintus, by decree of the decurions has placed (this) and has performed (his) undertaking." The only other feasible expansion of the second line would be, I think, S(ancto) Briganti, "To the holy god Brigans." However this may be, we previously knew only of a female deity, Brigantia, presiding over the tribe of the Brigantes. We now know that she had a partner in the form of a male god in their worship. The Altar is now in the possession of the Yorkshire Archaeological Association. The peculiarities I have before named make the second line of the Inscription look in some lights as if it were BERIGANT."

Prof Hübner's reading agrees in the main with that of Mr. Watkins ; he thinks, however, that the second line should run "BERGANT."' In consequence of representations made by the officers of the Association, the Altar was presented by Sir Perceval Radcliffe, Bart, (the Lord of the Manor), to the Huddersfield Corporation, who have undertaken to make a suitable provision for its safe preservation."

The History of Huddersfield and the Valleys of the Colne, the Holme and the Dearne (1906) by D.F.E. Sykes:

The most decisive proof of the occupation of this district by the Brigantes is to be found in the Roman altar discovered in September, 1896, in Longwood, and which the curious may see in Greenhead Park, whither it has been transferred. The altar bears the inscription :—

DEO
S. BRIGANT.
ET N. AUG.
T.AUR. QUINTUS.
D. D. P. ET. SS.

Abbreviations which, probably would represent : Deo Sancto Brigantum et Numini Augusti, Titus Aurelius, Quintus, decreto Decurionum, Posuit et Suscoptum Solvit ; or, in our own tongue : "To the Holy God of the Brigantes and to the divinity of the Emperor, Titus Aurelius Quintus, by decree of the Decurions, has placed [this altar] and [so] fulfilled his vow [or undertaking]." Under what circumstances the vow was made and what it was we can but conjecture. Titus Aurelius was probably a Roman lieutenant in command of the fourth cohort of the Breuci, Pannonian (Hungarian) auxiliaries pressed into the service of the Imperial City and stationed in Slack in Outlane during the time of the Roman occupancy of Briton, of which more hereafter. It is possible that the altar may have been dedicated to the war-god of the Brigantes with some idea of placating that warlike tribe, or perchance in grateful memory of supposed assistance from that minor diety, in the same spirit that, centuries later, moved Walter de Laci to erect the Parish Church of Huddersfield in fulfilment of a vow made by him when in deadly peril from a morass that lay between that town and Halifax.

Location

The location given on the 1960s O.S. map is shown below.

Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. "Discovery of a Roman Altar near Huddersfield" in Huddersfield Chronicle (29/Jul/1882).
  2. "Correspondence: The Roman Altar near Longwood" in Huddersfield Chronicle (19/Aug/1882).
  3. The brass plate was manufactured by the Never Rust Metal Plate Company Ltd. of London.
  4. "Huddersfield County Borough Council" in Huddersfield Chronicle (18/Jul/1891) and Huddersfield Chronicle (22/Jan/1892).
  5. Secured for the Town: The Story of Huddersfield's Greenhead Park (2011) by David Griffiths, page 28.