ELHAS News - September 2016

ELHAS News September 2016

Our first meeting of the autumn season saw a record audience of 67 members and guests meet to listen to an illustrated talk by Simon Tomson entitled "Roman Castleford". Simon is a well known local speaker who can always be relied on to provide a thoroughly informative and entertaining evening. Last night was no exception. He began by telling us a bit about his background. He moved from Berkshire in 1983 to the industrial north, and has not regretted his decision. In fact he said he has counted himself lucky to be able to work for the West Yorkshire Archaeology Unit, as it was then known, on such a rich and important site as Castleford. During his talk he summarised 19 years of work on this site.

He began by advising us that the Roman name for Castleford was Legentium, and it was originally the site of a Roman fort built on the Roman road Dere Street, close to the ford in the river. The fort was built here in order to protect the river crossing. He explained that the site was an industrial area until the 4th century even after the Roman soldiers had left. Showing us many images of the extensive excavations which have taken place over the years, he detailed the discovery of the north and south gates, the ramparts and several internal buildings including the bath house, which remains to this day, sadly buried under a roundabout. Whilst it was fascinating to see the remains of the buildings and hear Simon's explanations of life within the fort, for example there was an area given over to the repair and maintenance of leather tents, it was the artefacts which were unearthed which had us all spellbound. To be able to view pictures of a Roman soldier's bunk bed and examples of the coins they used and the everyday eating and drinking vessels which were a normal part of their lives was absolutely thrilling.

Simon explained that items such as the statues of sirens or the cavalry saddle were either the only examples of these artefacts found in Britain, or they were only found in extremely small numbers elsewhere. This reinforced for us the significance of this site, which was perhaps not something we had been aware of before. Simon also showed us diagrams of the "Vicus", the small township outside the fort which grew up in order to provide goods and social interaction for the soldiers. He explained that when the solders left it was this area which grew into the town of Castleford.

Simon is a thoroughly entertaining and informative speaker with an engaging manner who kept his audience captivated throughout the evening. Indeed one of his audience was heard to remark that he could make the alphabet interesting!. I think that was probably a sentiment that all his audience would echo.

He concluded by advising us that artefactsfrom the dig, ie statues of the god Mercury and a Siren, are on display in Castleford Museum on the top floor of the library. Entry to the museum is free. No doubt his listeners will be making plans to visit the museum in due course.


The images of Mercury and a Siren were taken in Castleford Museum.

The next meeting on Monday 31st October will be an illustrated talk by David Aldred entitled "Transport Mixture" , nostalgic photos from yesteryear.