Bradwell: Ancient and Modern

A History of the Parish and of Incidents in the Hope Valley.

By Seth Evans (1912)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013

Chapter II.


Discoveries at the Roman Station Anavio (Brough)

Bradwell is built on the Roman Road from Buxton baths to Brough Fort, the most famous of the Roman roads in Derbyshire, Bathgate, or as the natives call it, Bathamgate, which ran from Buxton over Fairfield Common, crossing Peak Dale, Small Dale, and over Bradwell Moor, where it is in a splendid state of preservation, in fact, almost in its original condition, today. Passing through the gateway at the bottom of “Bathamgate”, the road crosses the Moss Rake between the Upper and Nether Cross Mines, again enters the moorland and stretches along right down Small dale (a portion of Bradwell), Gore Lane, and “Streetfield” (so called from the Roman street) where it entered the military camp at Brough, or Anavio. From thence it continued along through Hope, over the ridge which divides Edale from the Woodland Valley, along the Doctor's Gate to Cold Harbour and so on to Glossop and the Roman Fort of Melandra, where interesting excavations have been made within recent years. Built on this important road, and being also on one of the recognised boundaries of the King's Forest of the Peak, Bradwell was a place in the very earliest times, of considerable importance. These were declared to be the bounds of the Forest at an inquisition in 1274. “Beginning at the south end of the River Goyt, and so along that river to the River Ederowe, and so by the River Ederowe to Langley Croft near Longdendale Head, and so by a certain bye-way to the head of the Derwente, and from the head of the Derwente as far as Mittenforde (Mytham Bridge) and from Mittenforde to the River of Bradwall, and from the River of Bradwall to a place called Rotherlawe (‘Ralley Road’); and from Rotherlawe to the Great Cave of Hazelbache, and from the Great Cave to Little Hucklowe, and from Hucklow to Tideswell, and so to the River Wye, ascending to Buxton and to the Springs of Goyt”.

In the Record Office there are some old maps showing the “Forest Wall”, so constructed that it would keep cattle off the great tract specially reserved for the deer, whilst the deer themselves could leap it to wander at their pleasure over the rest of the forest. In ancient records the name of the place is spelt “Broadwall”, a name that occurs on many Roman sites, and “Bradwall”, and one part of the village is still known as “Wall Head”, a continuation of the ancient forest wall from the head of the Bradwell Brook. That access was gained from every side through gates, is evident. for - in addition to the great military road

of Batham Gate - Moor Gate, Hollow Gate, Town Gate, Hall Gate, and Over Gate, all remain to-day, entrances to the town from all sides.

Built, partly, on the old Roman Road, Bathamgate, it would be of considerable importance 1700 years ago, because of its close proximity to the Roman station, Anavio, at Brough, just a mile distant. It was in the upper of two fields called the Hallsteads, where the fort was planted, close to the Bradwell Brook, low enough to be near the water, “high enough to command an outlook all over the valley, and guarded by nature on three of its four sides”.

The excavations made in 1903 by Mr. John Garstang, on behalf of the Derbyshire Archaeological Society, were most interesting.

The fort was a rectangular oblong with rounded corners, about 285 feet by 340 feet, and its internal area, exclusive of the defences, amounted to about 2¼ acres. The fort was defended by a stone wall six feet thick. There were four gateways, and each corner contained a turret. There was a central building, or headquarters, and a well built edifice close by, but other edifices in the fort were not then excavated, though there are indications of the bath-house near Brough Mill and the union of the Noe and Bradwell Brook.

But the most important discovery was a pit or vault, nearly rectangular in shape, eight feet long, by five to seven feet wide, and eight feet deep, walled with eleven courses of good masonry, floored with cement, and entered by eight steps.

The writer was present when this discovery was made, and during the greater part of the time the treasure-house was emptied. The walling contained a fragment of an inscribed slab dated about A.D. 158, which had been broken up and used as building material. Lower down were three other fragments of the inscribed slab, a drum of a column, a stone trough, a few corroded coins of the fourth century, Roman Dottery and bones. The regimental standards and military chest were kept in the headquarters building close by, and this pit was a strong room where the valuables were kept. The fact of there being a big flow of water into the pit led some to believe it to be a Roman bath, but experts consider this to be owing to the defective drains of the fort. When the pieces of the inscribed slab were put together and the slab restored it was found to contain an inscription, which being interpreted, read: “In honour of the emperor, Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Pius, pater patrial (erected by) the First Cohort of Acquitani, under Iulius Verus, legatus Augusti pro praetore (Governor of Britain), and under the superintendence of Capitonius Fuscus, praefect of the Cohort”. The emperor is Pius, who reigned A.D. 138-161. The Cohors I Acquitanorium presumably garrisoned Brough when the slab was erected.

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There was also found a square block 20 inches high and 12 inches square. On the front was rudely carved in low relief a wreath or garland, with tassels, which encloses an inscription. It was placed in the Buxton museum.

Two other Roman altars were found, and were evidently once inscribed. The larger, 28 inches high with a panel for lettering, stood for many years in the village of Hope, and the other was found among the debris in the vault. There were also numerous tiles inscribed with the name of the regiments in garrison at Brough when they were manufactured.

When the excavations were suspended in 1903, the walls were covered up, but the vault, complete, was left open, being railed round for the protection of cattle.

But there had been occasional “finds” at the Hallsteads for centuries past, and it was well known to archaeologists as the site of a Roman camp. Some authorities have declared that a town stood on the site, which is not unlikely, considering that the locality stretching right away to Eccles House is known as “The Breach”, i.e., a gap, particularly in a fortification made by a battery. Some masons getting out the foundations of a barn on “The Breach”, nearly half a mile from the camp, bared ancient walls of immense thickness.

In the year 1747 a bust of Apollo and of another deity, in stone, were ploughed up on the Hallsteads. Some years later two large urns containing ashes, were taken out of the ground in a fine state of preservation. They were found on a tongue of land between the camp and Bradwell Brook, which was doubtless a cemetery. No doubt when this comes to be explored there will be more interesting discoveries. At a still later period - about 1767 - a half-length figure of a woman was found, with her arms folded across her breast and wearing a large peaked bonnet on her head. One valuable find in 1783 was a gold coin of Vespasian, and foundations of buildings have been turned up by the plough on every side, also loads of tiles, bricks, broken swords, spears, and bridle bits, and during the excavations of 1903, there were found pieces of lead ore and spar, evidently from the Bradwell mines, some of which were worked by the Romans.

A double row of gritstone pillars, between which three men could walk abreast, formerly crossed the field where the Bradwell Brook and the Noe have their confluence. It is said that the original church of Hope was built of stone from the fort. It is certain that the village of Brough was so built, in fact, it abounds with inscribed stones, and the capital of a Roman pillar is built on the wall of a field in the centre of the village by the roadside. About the year 1790, Mr. Samuel Sidebottom, a farmer, found in the Hallsteads a gold coin of Agustus Caesar.

A Roman Pig of Lead.

When foundations were being dug for new Bradwell Board Schools in 1894, the workmen found an ancient pig of lead, which is now in the Sheffield museum. It weighed 112 lbs, was 20 inches long, 5½ wide, and 3 high. It was considerably worn, and the part which might have borne the inscription had perished. It was unquestionably Roman, and being found close to the Roman road, with so many ancient lead workings all round, it was probably smelted at the place.

Ancient Baking Ovens.

About the same time highly interesting discoveries were made in Nether Side on property belonging to Mr. John Hall, and at the foot of Charlotte Lane, just behind the old chapel. When Mr. R. Barker was taking down some old property at the latter place some curious buildings were exposed, which were, by some, supposed to be Roman ovens, used when the garrison was at Brough. It was a circular building of dressed sandstone blocks, turned red by the heat, and the top, almost flat, was held by a massive keystone of rectangular shape. The floor was composed of blocks of dressed grey sandstone, and the structure was most elaborate and skilfully constructed. It was hoped by some, that these interesting relics would remain uninjured, so as to add to the many antiquarian attractions of the locality, but they were destroyed. There is, however, very good reason for believing that they were not Roman at all, but that they were public bakehouses, of which there were many in Bradwell centuries before, when the inhabitants sent their meal to be baked, before the modern ovens came into use. As a matter of fact octogenarians could remember the one near the old chapel being used. On the top sides of the stonework was a great thickness of lime ashes, in fact, the building was covered with it. It was first heated by burning chaff which was withdrawn before the bread was put in, and the accumulated heat of the chamber would be retained for weeks. It is, perhaps, a pity that this splendid object lesson of our forefathers was not preserved.

The Battle of Edwin Tree.

The very ground which the Roman soldiers occupied was later the scene of fierce conflicts during the Heptarchy, when England was under the government of the seven Saxon kings. Derbyshire was included in the kingdom of Mercia, founded by Crida in the year 582, and ended in 874. After Crida it was in every way enlarged by Penda, and afterwards converted to Christianity by Peada. Having long endured the miseries of the Danish wars, it was, after a duration of 250 years, subjected to the dominion of the West Saxons.

Standing on the old Batham Gate, and close by the Grey Ditch is “Eden Tree”.

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This is stated to be the site of a battle during the heptarchy, and at the close of the engagement a king named Edwin was captured and hanged on a tree near the spot. This tree was afterwards called “Edwin's Tree”, long since corrupted to “Eden Tree”, and after the tree had perished the spot where it stood bore the same designation as it does at the present day. There must have been an habitation here at the time of the battle, for tradition says that the King was captured in a garden.

About 1859 Mr. John Maltby, a local worthy who was the owner and occupier of the “Eden Tree” when making some excavations there found ancient places of interment in which were many human bones. Indeed, Bradwell is built on a battlefield, and everywhere there are names of places strongly indicative of human carnage - Grey Ditch, Rebellion Knoll, Gore Lane, Deadmen's Clough, and many others. Gore Lane is close to Eden Tree, on the line of Batham Gate, the Roman road.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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