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Bremetennacum Veteranorum, more commonly known as Ribchester Roman Fort, was originally established as an auxiliary fort around 72 AD, during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. Situated on the banks of the River Ribble, the fort’s strategic importance is evident in its chosen location beside a crossing over the river at a point where the roads from Eboracum (York), Deva Victrix (Chester) and Luguvalio (Carlisle) converged. Whilst initially built by the XXth legion using timber, the fort underwent a period of development during the late 1st century AD which saw the timber structure replaced with stone, indicating the presence of a more permanent settlement by this time. The fort was home to roughly 500 cavalry troops who were tasked with keeping the local population, the Brigantes tribe, under control.

The Latin name for Ribchester has the suffix Veteranorum, which suggests Roman army veterans also settled here. When retired from service, the veterans of Ribchester appear to have been granted use of the nearby marshland, in which they cut a series of drainage channels to allow the land to be used to grow crops and to raise cattle and horses. The decision to retire at this location, along with the presence of the strategically important road network, allowed Ribchester’s vicus (civilian settlement) to prosper until its eventual abandonment in the 4th century. 

As with many forts of the period, Ribchester was endowed with a large bath house which was utilised by both the fort and vicus’ inhabitants. Erected in the 2nd century, the bath house consisted of a furnace room, a caldarium (hot room), a tepidarium (warm room), sudatorium (sweating room), a frigidarium (cold room) and an apodyterium (changing room). The excavated foundations of the bath house can be found behind the White Bull Inn, which is also home to four Roman Doric or Tuscan columns, two of which are believed to have come from the remains of the bath house. 

Visitors to Ribchester can visit the bath house and the remains of the fort’s granary, both of which are free to enter and open all year round. Also available to visit in Ribchester, is the Roman Museum (open year-round, Adult £4, Child £2.50) which is home to many of the artefacts discovered during the site’s various excavations. Parking is available at Ribchester’s pay-and-display carpark (around ¼ mile from the museum) and a variety of refreshment outlets can be found in the village.

Secondary sources

De la Bedoyere, G. (2013) Roman Britain: A New History, Thames & Hudson Ltd., London.

Historic England (n.d.) ‘Bremetennacum Veteranorum’, Pastscape, online 

Roman Britain (n.d.) ‘Bremetennacum Veteranorum’, Roman Britain, online 

Unknown (2012) ‘Ribchester Roman Fort, Lancashire’, The Journal of Antiquities, online 

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