|What is Ribchester?
The village of Ribchester is encircled by green hills
and lies in a curve of the River Ribble mid way between Preston and
Clitheroe. It is a pleasant jumble of multi-coloured stone cottages in
long twisting terraces. It has three pubs, the White Bull, dated 1707,
the Black Bull and the Ribchester Arms. The White Bull has a porch
canopy supported by four columns said to be from Roman ruins. The parish
church of St. Wilfrid has a sun-dial with the inscription "I am a
Shadow. So art Thou. I mark Time. Dost Thou?"
|The village takes its name from the River Ribble
and the fort of Bremetennacum ( the walled town by the Ribble).
For this reason, Ribchester has been seen to have a purely Roman
foundation. But excavations in 1977 showed that settlements going back
to the middle Bronze Age existed in the area. The Romans established a fort in Ribchester in the
latter part of the 1st century. This fort was essentially an
auxiliary cavalry garrison and two units are known to have been
stationed there. The first was a section of Asturian cavalry from
northern Spain while the second unit, the Sarmations from Hungary,
arrived towards the end of the 2nd Century.
Little is known
of the history of Ribchester during the seven hundred years after the
departure of the Romans in the early 5th Century. What small
‘tell-tale’ signs remain can perhaps be seen within the parish church of
St. Wilfrid, which for most part is essentially 13th Century.
Agriculture remained the principal industry in the area until the 17th
and 18th Centuries when handloom weaving became of growing
importance to the local economy. Many of the older cottages in the
village, particularly in Church Street, were built with this in mind.
Ribchester Parade Helmet
The famous Ribchester Parade Helmet, one of Ribchester’s
most enduring symbols, and one of Britain’s most spectacular Roman
objects, has recently been voted as the nation’s second favourite Roman
find. The accolade was given in a television vote last summe, organized as
part of Time Team’s Big Roman Dig, during the course of a whole week of
programmes devoted to Roman Archaeology. First place was awarded to the Vindolanda writing tablets, which have contributed so greatly to our
knowledge of Roman life in northern Britain. Interestingly one of these
tablets actually came from Ribchester, giving us a claim to at least a
small part of the first prize as well!
The helmet was of course an accidental find, rather than
an archaeologically excavated object, chanced upon by a 13 year old boy,
John Walton, in 1796. Though traditionally thought to have been
discovered on the riverbank, it is more likely to have been found behind
one of the cottages opposite the primary school. The original is in the
British Museum, having been part of Charles Townley’s private collection
but Ribchester Museum has an excellent bronze replica on display.
The helmet was part of a hoard of other artefacts, many of which were
cavalry related. Of course this comes as no surprise because the
garrison of soldiers based at Bremetennacum was a unit of auxiliary
cavalry. Two of the most interesting and finely made objects were eye
guards that formed part of the protective headgear for a horse known as
The helmet itself is an extremely refined piece of work.
The mask depicts a youthful but stylised face with curls of hair that
end in snakes’ heads. The helmet is decorated with scenes of combat.
Originally it is highly likely that helmet was gilded and the mask
silver-plated. This type of helmet was worn during displays of military
horsemanship. Some Roman cavalry sports may have resembled medieval
The Museum is delighted with the outcome of the vote,
which came on the back of an extremely successful Roman re-enactment
weekend. For the tenth year Legio Secvnda Avgvsta put on a wonderful
display of Roman military manoeuvres and demonstrations of civilian life
in front of large crowds of enthralled villagers and visitors.
Ribchester Roman Museum Trust
The Sculpture garden is situated at the entrance to Ribchester
recreation ground at the junction of Church Street and Pope Croft. Four
carvings by sculptor Fiona Bowley celebrate the village’s life past,
present and future
The garden is the result of a community project, which
grew and grew. It started with a public meeting and the desire to
commission a piece of public art to commemorate the Millennium.
Extensive fund- raising followed and the carvings, new paving, railing
and a formal yew hedge transformed the entrance to the village playing
|The four sculptures comprise Ribchester's own Trajan
column, which traces the history of the village from pre-Roman times, a
sun-dial depicting a cormorant chasing fish from the nearby River
Ribble, a panel which celebrates community life and poses a puzzle for
those identifying local architectural features and a panel entitled "The
Pig, The Ribber and The Devil" which draws from local legend.
Sculptor Fiona Bowley graduated in Fine Art
before training as a stone mason. She worked on the restoration of York
Minster and her subsequent work can be seen at venues including the
Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Burnley Library.
Fiona Finch Ribchester Millennium Projects Committee
The annual Best Kept Village
competition, sponsored by Lancashire County Developments Ltd, provides a
focus for keeping the local environment up to scratch. Among the honours
this year were Knowle Green Village Hall, awarded a Certificate of
Merit, with the hamlet of Knowle Green highly commended in
the small village class.
But pride of place must go, once
again, to SS Peter & Paul's RC Church for being the overall winner of the Place of
Worship class. With an award in each of the previous eight years success
has been no stranger to the volunteers, shown opposite, who work
so hard to keep the church and its surrounds in pristine condition
and for which the awards are fully justified.
for more details about SS Peter & Pauls.