Extracted from Midgleyana by John Franklin Midgley


There is no point here in attempting to trace what is known or conjectured about Midgley in pre-historic times.  Details are scanty but traces of Stone Age man, Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic remains of the Picts such as flint implements and arrow heads etc. have been discovered under several feet of moorland peat. Incidentally there is one group of monuments in which Yorkshire is richer than any other part of the country, namely the 'henge". structures, of which the most famous in the South is Stonehenge. The henge which dates from the end of Neolithic times is essentially a monument of religious significance.  To refer back to the previous page, Midgley was not far from the ancient track along which evidences of subsequent Bronze Age invaders and traders have been found.  This route linked Ireland with Scandinavia across northern England.  It entered Lancashire from the Irish Sea by the Ribble waterway, crossed Airedale near Keighley, passed into Wharfedale and continued over the York moraines into East Yorkshire and the North Sea coast.  Indeed ancient barrows have also been discovered at Castle Carr to the north of Midgley hamlet, as well as buried urns in several places.
Two thousand years ago England, and Yorkshire in particular, presented a very different appearance from that of to-day.  Over large areas where now are great towns, or villages surrounded by well-tilled farms, there used to stretch unbroken forests, through which the deer, the wolf, the bear & other wild animals roamed freely.  In other parts, great swamps, marshes and meres stretched for miles, where numberless wild-fowl preyed on the fish which abounded in the waters.  These circumstances conditioned the nature of the land of the early primitive Britons who clothed themselves in skins and painted their bodies with the blue dye of woad - "Omnes se Britanni vitro inficiunt".2
Though somewhat isolated among the Pennine Moors and the adjacent thousands of acres of primeval woods or more or less tangled forest of those days, the inhabitants of the West Riding3 were bound to have been affected in varying degrees from earliest historic times by the course of events in the Vale of York, stemming from a succession of foreign invasions.  Though no invaders of any strength have set foot on English soil for hundreds of years, it must no be forgotten that for more than a thousand years before the Normans crossed the Channel in A. D. 1066 Britain was constantly under attack and suffered invasions from Celts, Romans, Picts and Scots, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Danes and Norse men.
The dales were early penetrated and it is unlikely that the few upland people about Midgley escaped completely undisturbed by elements of various armed forces which were periodically moving across the land or rampaging in the Vale of York and striving for the mastery in those distant centuries.  To repeat, invaders had ready entry not only up the eastern rivers and estuaries but also from the West, either through the Aire Gap just described or across Blackstone Edge up which the Roman road from Manchester to Ilkley later climbed.
No hard and fast line can be drawn between one period and another prior to the coming of the Romans, as is well illustrated in the gradual transition from Bronze to Iron, dating probably from circa-B.C. 400 in East Yorkshire. This district was overrun then by Gaulish Celt charioteers. Their La Tene culture (Lake Neuchatel) gradually spread into other parts of the County whose inhabitants were still in the Bronze Age.
At the time of the first Roman invasion under Julius Caesar in B.C. Yorkshire was shared by two Celtic speaking tribes in the main, the Parisii and the Brigantes.  The former occupied the Eastern part and were a branch of Gaulish Parisii settled on the Seine.  The culturally inferior Brigantes (Brix of Lake Constance) dominated West Yorkshire and Lancashire.  These were people who having merged with the original inhabitants were living there when Romans the came, and were not mere painted savages.
In B. C. 55 Julius Caesar led what was only a reconnaissance in force to punish the Britonsfor aiding the Gauls.6 The following year he cme with


20, 000 soldiers and 2, 000 cavalry in 800 vessels, forming the largest single force ever to breach England's defences.  Again the military operations were confined to the southern half of the island.  After a victory at Verulanium(St Albans) he received the nominal submission of the Britons.  Because of risings of the Gauls against Caesar, civil wars in Rome and barbarian pressures on the northern and the eastern frontiers of the Empire, Britain was not attacked for almost a hundred years.
In A. D. 43 Caratacus on the death of his father Cunobelinus renounced the latter's friendship with Rome, whereupon the Emperor Claudius sent Aulus Plautius to conquer Britain. Camulodunum (Colchester) the stronghold of Caractacus and the oldest town in England was captured, and the Romans gained the submission of most of the land south of a line from the Humber to the Mersey. Caratacus fled to the Silures of South Wales whereupon the Romans advanced towards Chester to separate the latter, Silures people, from the Pennines, defeating them in A. D. 51.  Caratacus then took refuge with the Brigantes who had by this time developed a confederation of groups stretching over the Pennines from the Calder Valley to the Tyne and had achieved a considerable degree of civilisation.  Ptolemy, writing of Britain later, gives a list of nine Brigantian towns, most of which have been identified, such as Olicana or Ilkley, Eboracum or York, Cataractonium or Catterick, Isurium or Aldborough or Isubrigantium of the  Romans.

In A. D. 51 the Brigantes were ruled by Queen Cartimandua and actually had a gold coinage of their own.  Outside the towns the people lived either in small villages, farmsteads or even in single huts with one or two fields and small enclosures and shelters for cattle and sheep.  The main part of the population was made up of small farmers living in hard conditions on the hillside ridges anid experiencitig considerable poverty.  Queen Cartimandua had married a native Brigantian, Venutius, whom Tacitus described as pre-eminent in military skill.  His hatred of the Romans led to many quarrels with the Queen and he became the leader of a resistance movement against the Romans.  In reprisal she captured his brothers and kinsfolk.  When added to all this provocation she surrendered Caratacus, who was conveyed in chains to the Imperial City to make a Roman holiday, Venutius left her and was divorced.  Incidentally Claudius was so impressed by the undaunted courage of Caratacus that he set him at liberty, never to return to Britain however.

During the Civil War that followed in Brigantia, Queen Cartimandua sought refuge with the Romans and Venutius gathered his Brigantian followers about his headquarters in the walled town of Rigodumum or Ingleborough.7 In lonely countryside near the hamlet of Aldborough St John at Stanwick Park, eight miles north of Richmond in the North Riding, he constructed his great defences against Roman attack.  It is the most imposing of all Brigantian sites, with its 850 acres surrounded by and divided by six miles of ditches and ramparts which in places are more than 20 feet high.8 In due course the Roman legions under Petillius Cerealis were advanced against Stanwick before all the defences were completed.  In A, D. 74 at the battle that took place Venutius was defeated and many of his people who avoided capture were forced to retreat into the Dales.
When contact between the Brigantes of Yorkshire and the Romans thus began one can well picture the West Riding scene in those early historic times.  Where the Pernine limestone gave suitable platforms and terraces for human habitation there men of pre -history had thrown up stockades, earthworks and defences.  Here the Iron Age Celts, these Brigantes, watched the Roman invaders from formidable hill forts on the gritstone caps of the same hills.
It is not too much to assume that the Romans made use of the prisoners taken at Stanwick as slave labour in their various camps, in working the lead mines and in the building of their framework of roads and forts, and that the Brigantes must have long fostered a hatred of these ruthless conquerors and taken every means of robbing and annoying them.  Despite whatever fraternisation, intercourse or miscegenation ensued during the subsequent Roman occupation irreconcilable Brigantian eriodically seized upon the invaders'


preoccupation with other enemies to join with raiding Picts and border Caldonians in forays to destroy Pennine forts left unprotected.
The earliest Roman works in Yorkshire belong to the Flavian period so called after the Fliavian Emperors, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian A. D. 69 - 96.  The frontier was pushed northward from Lindum Colonia (Lincoln) to Eboracum (York) where from A. D. 71 the ill-fated IX Hispana Legion was stationed for some fifty years.  This Legion had lost 2,000 irifantrymen during Queen Boudicca's rebellion in A. D. 61, when the cavalry alone escaped the Iceni 9  It must have been completely wiped out in action against the Caledonians and Brigantes just before the arrival of Hadrian early next century, for it disappears from the Imperial muster rolls. York then became the headquarters of the VI Legion for some three ceuturies.
The Roman Legate or Governor of Britain, Julius Agricola A. D.85 whose son-iti -law was the historian Tacitus, consolidated previous conquests and carried Roman arms even to the foot of the Grampians.  After subduing North Wales he made Deva Castra (Chester), his base for dealing with the Brigantian Confederation.  He linked Chester with Mancunium (Manchester) and from there drove the road northwards and westward of the Pennines through Lancashire via Ribchester on the Ribble to Carlisle.  In conformity with his strategy of containing the Brigantes of the West Riding and of maintaining communications with the Vale o York eastward of the Pennines, military roads were built across the Pennine range and forts established en route.  As nearly the whole of Airedale and Calderdale with their tributary valleys was one continuous thicket and the valley bottoms a vast swamp, the Romans chose the high moors above as affording not only an easier passage but also better observation of the movements of the natives.
A southern boundary road was laid from Manchester up past Castleshaw, short of Blackstone Edge. to Slack proceeding thence down and across the valley of the Calder on to York.  A second cross-Pennine road ran from Ribchester past Clitheroe and Rimington to Elslack, Skipton and on to.Aldborough and York.  A strong camp was formed in the Gap at Alicana (Illkley) where there was a Brigantian settlement.  Later circa A. D. 125 Hadrian's road was built - a continuation of Watling Street - from Aldborough to Manchester passing through Ilkley.  From Ilkley its 39 mile course to Manchester went over Rombald's Moor, crossed Airedale by Morton, through Hainworth between Keighley and Bingley, proceeded south to Luddenden and the Calder which it crossed at Sowerby, not far from Midgley, and then south-west over Blackstone Edge.  Other link roads joined Almondbury with Colne via Greetland and across the upper Calder, and also Ilkley with York over Otley Chevin, past Adel10 and Tadcaster, probably built later when and after Severus restored the camps.

The Roman army comprised two classes of troops, the legionary and the auxiliary.11  The legions were about 6, 000 strong formed of citizens of the Empire, whilst the auxiliary numbered from 600 to 1 ,000 men, being recruited from recently conquered frontier tribes who were given the brunt of the fighting, the legions being kept in the rear.  Roman blood was 'precious.' The auxiliaries occupied frontier forts for their permanent quarters whilst the legions were stationed at a rearward base. Auxiliaries helped, to defend the later walls of Hadrian and Antoninus whereas the Legion headquarters were stationed at Eboracum (York). which became the military capital of Roman Britain.
In A. D. 115 there was a widespread and very serious revolt of the northern tribes and many forts were destroyed, some like Alicana, (Ilkley) being burned down.  When Hadrian came to Britain in A. D. 122 he adopted a new plan which included the building of the Wall along the line of the Agricolan forts from the Solway Firth to the Tyne - Luguvallium (Carlisle) to Segedunum (Wallsend) - and a partial withdrawal from Scotland.  The defence of Hadrian's Wall drew some of the troops from the Pennines but the VI Legion at York and the XX at Deva (Chester) were considered sufficient for the policing of


Brigantia.12  Alicana (Ilkley) fort was rebuilt in A. D. 125, this time with a stone rampart.  Between A. D. 140 and 150 another wall from Firth of Forth to the Clyde was built by Antoninus and troops were drawn from the South Pennines to help garrison this.
In A. D. 154 the Brigantes broke out again in revolt, assisted by a simultaneous outbreak between the two Walls.  Its suppression was followed by a period of relative peace. and prosperity until at the turn of the century wranglings at Rome and War on the Continent helped to drain Britain of some of her garrison. This coupled with the defeat and death of Claudius Albinus, Governor of Britain, in A. D. 197, was the signal for a revolt of the northern tribes who broke through the defence of the Hadrian Wall and, with some of the Brigantes, wasted much of the land.  Alicana (Ilkley) along with many other forts was attacked and seriously damaged.  Nearly ten years were spent in rebuilding and repairing the forts and towns.  Even the Emperor Severus was needed and died atYork in A.D. 211.
There followed a period of peace and prosperity which lasted for nearly a century.  Recruits to the Roman army were now partly drawn from the local peasantry instead of being brought entirely from other countries, so that it was now much easier to establish better relations between the army and the native populations. Even on the hill country of the Pennines, judging by smaller articles of Roman manufacture and coins, there was now a growing, though in some opinions still slender intercourse between the hill tribes and tbe Roman soldier -police.
Though the Roman occupation was frequently punctuated by Caledonian invasions and revolts of the Brigantes of the West Yorkshire dales, as already stated, the Romanisation of the county must nevertheless have progressed considerably during long peaceful intervals. 13 The ancient Britons and Celts were shown what Roman civilisation meant.  The occupying Romans made roads and camps, built towns, made good laws and kept the peace.  Great tracts of forests were cleared, swamps were drained and cornfields took their place. The tin, lead and iron mines became scenes of busy industry, salt mines were opened and manufacture of glassware and pottery grew up.  Handsome villas with adequate sanitation and water supply and public baths were built in the Vale of York, not only in such "coloniae"' as Lincoln and York, but also at the thriving Brigantian tribal capital at Aldborough14 and elsewhere.
The discovery of the Roman aUltar-stone at Thick Hollins in Greetland, which is dedicated "to the gods of the states of the Brigantes and the deities of the Emperor (Severus)" establishes,15 first, that the Brigantes (having been conquered?) assisted in friendly alliance in the enterprise of road building north-wards and eastwards through the hilly regions of the Pennines and in the general restoration of the camps effected by the Emperor Severus: and, secondly, that paganism was still rampant in those parts in the early third century.  This Emperor had come to Britain to put down revolts of the Caledonians and died at York as aforesaid.16  The Romanisation of Britain attained its maximum development under Diocletian A. D. 284 - 305 and Constantine A. D. 306 - 337 by which time Christianity, but not the Bishop of Rome, had gained a foothold in Yorkshire.
In A. D. 314 Eborius, Bishop of Eboracum (York), was one of three bishops from Britain who attended the Council of Arles, and Bishops hill is conjectured to have been the site of the Romano-Christian church in York.  That all these civilising influences penetrated the West Riding must be accepted, and innumerable objects have been recovered from the neighbouring civil settlernents and forts which flourished outside the Roman camp at Alicana (Ilkley).  In any case this century of comparative peace was the lull hefore the final storm which tore Britain from the Empire.
During the 4th century A. D. a new enemy appeared on the eastern horizon when the first Saxon pirates from across the North Sea began to harry the British coasts.  To counter these attacks from the sea a chain of coastal signal towers was established, whereby a watch could be kept, and part of the Roman fleet was stationed in the Humber ready for despatch to any part of the


coast. At the same time a line of signal stations was formed across the North Riding from York to the western end of the Roman Wall with a system of interlinking defences to counter an invasion.  More roads became necessary for the speedy movement of troops.  There is plenty of evidence of the violence and cruelty of the piratical raids which eventually overthrew the signal stations at the close of the 4th century,
After the death of Constantine in A. D. 337. Britain became increasingly subject to assaults from the Irish, then called Scots, on the West, the Picts or Caledonians in the North and the Teutons in the East,  In A. D. 343 the Emperor Constans took the field in person against the northern barbarians. He was the last Emperor to set foot in York. In A. D. 364 Picts, Irish and Sa:xon pirates all invaded Britain and, three years later, swept over the greater part of the country, a catastrophe which shook Roman Britain to the core.
Attempts to reorganise the defences were shortlived and before the end of the fourth century the Wall had been abandoned, the garrisons depleted by Maximus, and the Roman dominium in Yorkshire came to an end with much slaughter.  This was soon followed by the withdrawal from Britain of the troops. and the auxiliaries, who included the flower of the native Britons, to cope with the pressing Continental situation,  The country was left in a very distressed state, and what happened afterwards, the fate of the remnant Brigantes, the Saxon infiltration - 'Adventum Saxonium'  - and the eventual Anglo-Saxon colonisation belongs to the next chapter.  See note 16.

1. The generally accepted order is first the Neanderthal race replaced by the Cro-Magnon race 40-30,000 years ago, then the New Stone Age Neolithic culture from Western Europe, succeeded by the invasion of the Bronze Age Celts from across the Channel by B.C. 2,000.

2. Caesar's War commentaries quoted by L. Cottrell reveal that they were nevertheless skilful and experienced warriors. Red clay was highly prized by the Xosas for ornamental purposes.

3. Though the term Riding is of later origin, it is used henceforward for the sake of convenience asa the West Riding was the original habitat of Midgley forbears. See text on page 15.

4. The use of iron revolutionised society.

5. The war chariot proved a formidable weapon initially against the Romans who were mainly infantrymen. Two La Tene beads were found at Luddenden

6. Motivated also by personal pride in conquest and curiosity as to what lay beyond the rim of the white cliffs of Kent.

7. Hers may have been at Almondbury hill-fort.

8. Compare the British camp on the Malvern Hills, Bratlow Camp, Wiltshire and Maiden Castle, Dorset. It would be impossible to man the entire length of ramparts so there was a central high observation or control-point at the Tofts to direct rapid concentrations at threatened points.

9. Prompted by the oppressive extortions of the Roman Procurator, Decianus Catus and Seneca, inter alios. See Cottrell p. 134. She had been scourged and her daughters ravished by the Romans.

10. At Adel a Roman Altar stone has been found inscribed to the godess Brigantia.
See Speight p. 64. Johnnie Gray p.67 For Adel see p. 49 of text.
On March 17, 1775 as a farmer was making a drain in a field at Morton Banks, near Bingley, he struck upon the remains of a copper chest about twenty inches beneath he surface, which contained nearly 100Lbs. weight of Roman denarii, probably a military chest hiden in some emergency. They included every Emperor from Nero to Pupienus - from A.D. 54 to A.D. 238 - with the two exceptions of Pertina's and Didus Julianus, both murdered incidentally by the Praetorian Guards in A.D. 193.

11. Their food as extremely simple and meat was rarely eaten. "The Roman Army marched on vinegar". When the Roman centurion offered Jesus Christ a sponge soaked in vinegar, he was performing a charitable act. It was his own standard drink. See Cottrell p. 73.

12. Britain was the northernmost frontier of the Empire for some 400 years. Apart from Syria it was the only Roman province that was permanently occupied by three legions. The third, 2nd Augusta, was stationed in Wales at Caerleon on Usk [Isca Silurium], Monmouthshire: Welsh for Castra Legionis. All three bases had good waterways to the sea.

13. At first Roman soldiers were forbidden to marry Britons.

14. Note the famous baths of Vespasian, A.D. 86, Aquae Sulis, Bath, which I visited.

15. Speight p.55.

16. With regard to poor old Severus, Edward Gibbon categorically states in his monumental work, at the end of Chapter V Vol. 1 "Posterity..... justly considered him as the principal author of the Decline of the Roman Empire"!
Roman Britain might be divided geographically into two parts; the Civil Zone, inhabited by a particularly Romanised society in the more fertile lands of the South and East; and the Military Zone of the more barren and mountainous North and West. In the latter area up to the great Wall the army of occupation patrolled the wild Pennine moorlands, marched and counter-marched from fort to fort, whilst as I have indicated, the sparse population of tribesmen- our Brigantes, a turbulent and dangerous folk- came down to traffic shyly outside the forts and on occasion of rare opportunity broke in to kill and burn. There were no cities and few "Villas" in the inhospitable West Riding, only forts, round some of which, such as Ilkley, a village or 'vicus' grew up to supply the needs of the garrison. Here in half-timbered houses, better than the primitive wattled and thatched circular huts of the natives, lived the women attached to the long service veterans quartered in the fort.
G.M. Trevelyan, sometime Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, regards Roman Britain as the prelude to the drama of English history, of which the first scene must be England after the Saxon conquest. The Roimans vanished, leaving their roads, their ruins, and here and their their the potent Christian seed.. Their cities and villas were an 'alien interlude' and Britain 'went native' again. He compares the Roman Conquest to the Norman for its introduction for the introduction of new social, administrative and cultural patterns, but neither the Roman nor Norman invaders changed the racial character of the islanders to the degree of the intervening Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian mass-settlement of men and women. Very little was done under the rule of the Caesars to reclaim new lands or to penetrate the forests., e.g. Elmet, and the few cities, with the exception of Londinium and possibly York, remained the parasite on the countryside for the Romanised Britons never took kindly to town life. There were no walled towns to carry on a continuous civilisation across 'The Dark Ages' when the legions withdrew.. Then even rural society began to break up, the villas were destroyed and abandoned and the British tribes lapsed into barbarianism.
Our English society, says Trevelyan, does not, like Italian and French, derive from the direct survival of things Roman.. The origin of modern England must be sought in the habits and ideas of the very primitive but very vital invaders who landed from the longboats. This will be revealed in the following Chapter 3. These 'pagani' were 'country-folk', warrior farmers who sought a new home.. They came as the personal followers of a fighting leader, and though ruthless as foes, were bound to one another by a kindly comredeship and loyalty 'which may be the germ of modern English good nature'.
In their Continental homes by the sea there had been an atmosphere of freedom and there had been few slaves.. TRhey sought in Britain not only richer plunder but drier and better lands. These ancestors of ours must have been hardy and enduring folk to row themselves across the North Sea in long narrow open boats. They were lovers of horses, oxen, sheep and pigs, devoted to deep ploughing of the open fields they reclaimed by axe and spade. The ultimate effect of Anglo-Saxon settlement was greatly to enlarge the arable area by the felling of dense forests which the Romano-Britons had left untouched. As a rule they did not like the Romans and the Normans, come to exploit the land by the labour of the conquered natives. They came to till it themselves by their own peculiar system of open field cultivation and for this purpose formed their own village communities.

                                          %%%%%%%END OF CHAPTER 2 MIDGLEYANA %%%%%%%

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Copyright ©  Tim Midgley March 2003. Links revised July 2023.. Scanned and corrected from a copy kindly donated by David & Milnethorpe Midgley of Tasmania from an out of print book by John Franklin Midgley 1970.