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  • Penrith and Eden Museum

Roman Artefacts - A glimpse into the collection.

The Museum has a wide range of Roman artefacts, most of them on display. Some of them have were donated to the museum when it first opened. This includes small bronze figurines and brooches though these are more strictly speaking Etruscan, products of a neighbouring people eventually conquered by Rome but to whom the city owed much in respect of culture and religion. The Roman army probably arrived in the Eden valley from Yorkshire by way of the Stainmore Pass in about AD.76 and occupied it for almost four centuries. The neighbourhood of Penrith was at a crossroads of Roman communications.

Most of the objects donated to the museum people find at or near the local forts. Brougham (Brocavum), Plumpton (Voreda), or those at Low Borrowbridge and Kirkby Thore (Brovoniacum).

The terracotta oil lamp was discovered at Plumpton. The lamp is in the shape of a fish with separate upper and lower part.

More up-market is the bronze oil lamp featuring, the legendary phoenix bird on a bed of burning sticks.

The museum also has Roman coin hoards from Ninekirks, (Brougham), Newby near Shap. The coins are still in the mass lump formed by the original container and comprising about 600 pieces - nummi of AD 321-40.

There is also a group of coins found in the 19th century close by the fort at Low Borrowbridge during construction of the Lancaster to Carlisle Railway. They include coins, many from the mints at Rome and Alexandria, of Claudius, Delmatius, Maximian, Diocletian, Alexander Severus and Marcus Aurelius. These were donated to the Museum by the great granddaughter of James Day, the railway engineer who oversaw the work. A note tells us that he would pay the men working for him for every coin they found.

Awaiting delivery (delayed through Covid) is a purse hoard of 56 Roman copper-alloy coins dating from AD 313-335 found at Tebay; remarkably it includes a portion of the textile purse in which it had been carried. There are items of Roman gold and silver jewellery including the piece from Brougham in the form of two stylised opposed birds. A very similar gold piece was found in Lancaster. From Mallerstang are two decorative gold mount strips, each considered part of same object and featuring clusters of pellets representing grapes, possibly part of a bracelet.

From Crosby Ravensworth are a Roman silver ring (lacking intaglio), and the upper part of another silver ring.

As being also of silver, is a coin − a denarius of Trajan (AD 103=111) found near the Roman fort at Kirkby Thore (Bravoniacum). The collection includes the handle of a skillet, below.

On stylistic grounds probably the work of Cipius Polibius of Campania, a pottery spindle whorl and twelve sections of pottery drainage pipework from Voreda.

There is a wide range of Roman domestic ceramics mostly in a fragmented state including buff-ware storage vessels and other coarse and burnished wares and the red moulded ‘terra sigillata’ − Samian ware. Unusual items include a portion of that type made round-shaped for use in some sort of pitch-and-toss game; and a nose shaped fragment of a pottery vessel from Plumpton. Finally, keeping largest to last, we have a good example of a Roman millstone; the grooved pattern is typical and finessed for function – to spread grain evenly between the stone surfaces.

To view some of the objects mentioned pop into the museum, open Monday -Saturday 10am-4pm.

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