The British Architect (15/Aug/1913) - The Roman Fort Near Huddersfield

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


The work of excavating the site of the Roman fort near Outlane at Huddersfield is being followed with great interest by archaeologists in Yorkshire. It has always been a moot point whether this old fort at Slack is the same station as Cambodunum, mentioned in the Itinerary, and the discoveries so far made threw but little additional light on the problem. Cambodunum is said to be 18 miles from Manchester. This is 23. Hence the doubt. But in any case it is difficult to see how such an important station as this — capable of accommodating a full cohort of 500 men — could have been overlooked ; and so, in the absence of any better claim, Slack — a “vulgar denomination,” vide Whittaker’s “History of Manchester” — will still be considered to have the best title.

It is nearly a century since the site was first disturbed, and then a hypocaust was found in the baths, situated just beyond the north-eastern corner of the rampart. Here, in 1865, further investigations were made, and some of the walls of the buildings inside the rampart were also laid bare, and a plan drawn of them. This sketch, however, was very incomplete, and the excavations now being carried out will furnish a much better guide as to the general internal arrangements of the fort.

Mr. A.W. Dodd, Assistant Lecturer in Classics at the Leeds University, has charge of the work ; and during the past two months great progress has been made. In the central area of the fort many walls have been unearthed, and those who would care to examine what has been done had better pay a visit before the trenches are filled in for winter. The original fort was square, and occupied a space of about three acres.

On the north the foundations of a part of the rampart have been unearthed at a depth of about two feet, close to the entrance gate. The surface of the entrance road is quite well preserved, being a layer of gravel on big stones. On either side of the entrance there evidently stood three big wooden piles, probably carrying a bridge over the gateway on the same level as the rampart. The holes in which the piles were embedded are plainly marked, and. indeed, the old stumps have now been recovered from the deep earth. Outside the rampart there seems to have been a dry ditch, which probably extended all the way round, dug out most likely in throwing up the earthwork. The excavators have sunk down into it. but their operations were rendered very difficult by water percolating through, and filling the trench.

The entrance road from the north has been traced to the middle of the fort, where it is met by another running east and west ; and it is pretty clear that the camp had four main thoroughfares, issuing east, west, north, and south. A well, preserved water trench by the side of the road has been found, and between it and the main buildings there was a footway. Mr. Dodd, however, has been concentrating mostly on the foundations of the main buildings, and from what he has found you may imagine that on entering the fort by the north gate you would find on your right two rectangular buildings, which from the embrasures in the walls were evidently used as granaries. They were about 58 feet long and 16 feet broad. Some of the masonry is still in good condition ; though none of the stone is hammer dressed. Nearer the centre of the fort there was a bigger building, about 65 feet square, but very little has been discovered about it, except a hearthstone (still in position and cracked with the heat), which, however, is situated outside the wall. Traces of ash have been found in the ground close by. Having reached the junction of the two main thoroughfares, and still proceeding south, you find on the left the foundations of the chief buildings of the camp — the principia, which are divided into many rooms, traces of four having now been found.

In a yard close by the soldiers would probably be assembled, and so far as can be ascertained the barrack rooms were on the west and east sides. In many forts of this kind, wooden buildings were used for the barracks, but here there is evidence that the men slept in stone houses. There is, at least, the trace of a wall running in the direction of the barrack quarters. If the necessary funds are forthcoming, the work of excavating will be continued for two or three more years. Underneath the walls of the old granary, and close to the north and south street, a big pit has been dug out, disclosing a rectangular arrangement of thick timber, the surface of which is grooved, suggesting that it was used as water-trough or carriage The timber is laid on puddled clay, and a quantity of water has since collected in the pit. Here a well-preserved specimen of Samian ware — a bowl — was found, and the fragments have since been put together. The glaze is wonderfully well preserved, and satyric groups decorate the fragment. A good deal of coarse, grey pottery has also been dug up, besides a number of red tiles, plainly stamped COH IIII. BRE — the four strokes representing the number of the cohort, and the “BRE” the place of its origin, wherever that might have been. To the earlier excavations a number of coins were found, covering the period from Vespasian to Trajan, and other coins now discovered belong to the same period. These, with the evidence of the pottery, suggest an early occupation, and it is supposed that at whatever period such occupation may have been, it was not very long continued. — “Yorkshire Post.”