Ribchester Museum Trust Lancashire’s Only Specialist Roman Museum
Roman RibchesterThe Roman site at Ribchester, Bremetennacum Veteranorum, comprised a fort and civilian settlement or vicus. The earliest Roman fort in Ribchester was established in the early 70s AD as part of a network of defensive forts across northern Britannia. Originally of turf and timber construction, the fort was rebuilt in stone in the mid first century AD.The fort accommodated a garrison of cavalry troops whose purpose it was to patrol the surrounding area and keep the local inhabitants under control. The first unit of cavalry originated from Spain, the Ala II Asturum, or second Asturian cavalry unit. Towards the end of the second century AD they were replaced by an ala of horsemen from Eastern Europe, a Sarmatian cavalry unit. The settlement then took unusual veteran status indicating that a high level of importance was attached to the site. At this point, if it had not already, Bremetennacum became the focal point for governance of the area.The civilian site outside the fort was extensive and covered an area more or less corresponding to that of the modern village. Narrow plots were occupied perpendicular to the main Roman roads. Excavations have revealed rectangular wooden buildings used as workshops and dwellings. Craftsmen plied their trades in the vicus providing essential goods for both civilians and military personnel alike. Metalworkers and leather workers were particularly abundant, supplying all kinds of military and cavalry equipment.The vicus was also the site of the baths, the most substantial stone built construction outside the fort, and at least two temples, fulfilling important social and religious functions.The fort at Ribchester was occupied into the fourth century although archaeological evidence points to there being little activity in the vicus after the 2nd century. However, future excavations may contradict our current understanding.