Barnoldswick Local History Articles

Thursday, January 03, 2002


The withdrawal of the Romans from Britain at the beginning of the fifth century set the stage for events which were to have far-reaching effects on Barlick. In the end, greater change than any brought by the Romans. However, this is a complicated story and before we go on to look at these events we must devote a little time to the advent of Christianity, a far greater but slower engine of change.

The word of Christianity started to spread shortly after 30AD with John the Baptist’s preachings. Remember that Judaism was already an established religion and had always taught that there would be a second coming. The problem with Jesus Christ was that the Jewish hierarchy didn’t believe that he was the true Messiah and they still hold this to be true. Sometime between 27 and 34 AD Christ started preaching and by 36/37 had been crucified.

All we can say with certainty is that at some time shortly after 30AD word of Christ’s teachings had started to spread both to the East and the West. There was to be crucial differences between the version of Christianity which grew from these teachings in Rome and the West under persecution and that which grew in the East with different handicaps. These differences laid the foundations for friction between the Eastern and Western churches which eventually led to the Great Schism in the 15th century when the Eastern church refused to accept the findings of the Council of Florence in 1472. We inherited the Orthodox Church in the Middle and Far east and some parts of Eastern Europe, and the Roman Catholic church centred in Rome. This state of affairs exists to this day.

However, there was another version of Christianity which is easily overlooked. The simplistic version of how the organised Roman church came into being is that the disciple Peter became the first head of the church, the Pope. (Pope is actually a slang word meaning Papa or Father) Whilst this is probably true, he had no organisation as such and could exert very little control over what other Christians were doing. Remember that the Christians were being persecuted in Rome until the fourth century.

Long before there was any official structure, from about 30AD onwards, the word was spreading and we are fairly certain it travelled by the sea routes, particularly those of the Phoenicians which were well established and had been in use for thousands of years. There already existed Phoenician/Jewish trading outposts at places like Crete, Sidon, Tyre and Sardinia in the eastern Mediterranean and others in Marseilles, Spain and even Britain. Bear in mind that at this time, The Isles were the end of the known world and one could say it was an obvious target for evangelism simply for this reason.

The brand of Christianity being carried to these regions was simply the news of Christ. There was no dogma, it was if you like, ‘pure’ Christianity. Anywhere where it took root it flourished but I suspect in very surprising ways. I can’t help thinking that it would be first accepted as yet another deity or cult and absorbed into whatever belief structures already existed. Eventually it was to triumph and the old religions faded into the background but before it did it would assume local variations.

We’ve already noted that Gildas states that the word reached Britain in 37AD and that this seems improbable. However, it is not impossible. What we can be fairly certain of is that by 200 the word had not only reached Britain but was flourishing in some parts. Celtic Christianity had been born and was to be the religion of the majority of the Isles until well into the sixth and seventh centuries.

In 313 the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Liberation which made Christianity the Imperial Religion. There were to be one or two interruptions when later Emperors revived Paganism but by 395 it was permanent. In 314 Constantine called a conference of the bishops, the Council of Arles, and three Celtic Christian bishops attended and signed the Edict. The archaeological record shows that Christians and Pagans were sharing a church at Lullingstone in Kent in 337/340. In 343 Celtic bishops attended the Council of Sardicia (Now Sophia in Bulgaria). In 359 Celtic bishops attended the Council of Ariminum (now Rimini).

The very least we can extract from these well-certified references is that there was an organised Celtic Christian church flourishing in Britain alongside Paganism long before the Romans withdrew the legions from the Isles. This phase of Christianity in Britain has been badly served by the early historians because they had an axe to grind. They were mostly Roman Catholics and were more interested in concentrating on the benefits that Rome brought to Britain when Augustine was sent to ‘convert’ the Britons in 597 by Pope Gregory. Much more about this later. The point I am making is that there was a distinctive Celtic Christian church with its own liturgy and rituals and I find it very hard to believe that it wasn’t known about in places as remote as Barlick by the fifth century. Let me remind you again what Hugh of Kirkstall said about Barlick in 1147. He stated that ‘there was a church at Barnoldswick, very ancient and founded long before’. The question that intrigues me is how ancient and how long before?

Back to the beginning of the fifth century and what happened after the Romans left. We have no reliable sources for the fifth century but what seems to have happened is that the withdrawal of the Romans left a power vacuum and this was seen by some as an opportunity for conquest. The first assault came from two directions, the Scots from Ireland (Remember that the Scots homeland at this time was Ireland and not Caledonia. They were the tribe of Dal Riata whose base was on the northern tip of Ireland, the Romans called them ‘Scotti’) and the Picts from north of the Wall. Names like Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus and Arthur emerge from Welsh legend and seem to be the names of political and military figures who rallied the tribes against the invaders. (These names are not precise. We suspect that ‘Vortigern’ wasn’t a name but a title and some scholars say that his Welsh name was Gwrtheyrn Gwrtheneu. Ambrosius seems to have been an ex-Roman legionary officer and Arthur, though seemingly well-documented, is in fact a figure surrounded by legend, downright forgery and mystery. We’re fairly sure he existed but can’t assess his importance.) Remember that the Wall was still manned by the remnants of the legions and we are fairly certain that the Picts invaded by sea down the west coast.

The east coast wasn’t safe either. The Romans had long recognised the danger from the warlike tribes of southern Jutland (the Jutes), Denmark (Danes), the Angles from Angeln and the Saxons from Lower Saxony. They built a chain of forts on the coast from Brancaster in Norfolk to Portchester in Hampshire as a defence against this threat. The Anglo Saxons as we now call them saw an opportunity for plunder when the Romans left, they invaded and overran the coastal forts. London was sacked and the south east fell into chaos.

How did Barlick fare through all this? Funnily enough, they were probably better off than the people in the south who had been under Civil Rule. 300 years of stability under the protection of the most powerful army in the world had made the southerners soft, their towns were not built for defence and they were no match for the marauders. There is good evidence that many southern Britons left the country and settled in Northern Gaul which was still held by the legions. Some estimates say that 12,000 Britons re-located in an area around the Lower Seine where there are still clusters of villages called Bretteville (Briton Town)

The less Romanised tribes of the north and the far west were still hardy and mounted a defence against the invaders. Vortigern, whose kingdom was on the Welsh Borders and in Gwent went one better. He reckoned that the way to safeguard his lands and ensure conditions that would enable profitable trade to continue would be to hire mercenaries to fight for the cause, who better than the war-like Anglo Saxons? In about 428/435 he brought in a few hundred Anglo Saxons under their generals Hengest and Horsa, gave them some land on the Isle of Thanet (the Celtic name was Ruoihm) and paid them not only to drive the Pictish and Scottish invaders back but to protect him against possible reprisals from Ambrosius and Arthur who both had scores to settle with him if the legends hold any truth. Once this had been done and he felt safe he stopped paying them and got on with his own business. Not a smart move!

This was a crucial turning point in the history of the Isles. The Anglo Saxons had started raiding in the first place because they were looking not simply for plunder but for land to settle on. Population growth in Europe was putting pressure on resources and their thoughts had naturally turned to the rich pickings across the North Sea. Hengest almost certainly took Vortigern’s contract because things were getting too hot for him and his mercenaries on the continent. Round about 440 he sent word to Angeln that Britain was ripe for the picking and asked for reinforcements. When these arrived, the Anglo Saxon warriors ran amuck and started what was to be a war of conquest. The mercenaries had turned on their masters.

A hundred years later Gildas reported that by 446 things were so bad that the Britons appealed to Rome for help but none was forthcoming. If we are to believe Gildas’ account of what followed, thousands of mercenaries destroyed all before them. In truth, it wasn’t like this. Hundreds of tough Anglo Saxon warriors did go raiding but they were only a tiny band when compared to the British population and they were not invincible. Some sources say that Hengest’s men never managed to break out of their stronghold on the Isle of Thanet and it was sea raiders who overran the country. There are stories of St Germanus defeating them with cries of ‘Hallelujah’ and a famous account of a battle at Mount Badon supposedly fought by Arthur but more likely by Ambrosius Aurelianus (his Welsh name was Emrys).

We mustn’t run away with the idea that this was a complete rout of all that had existed before. Romano Britain did not immediately change into Anglo Saxon Britain. The Anglo Saxons were looking to take the place of the Romans as overlords of the country so they could tap into the wealth they sought. It was in their interest to cause as little disturbance to the people as possible. The Britons weren’t really bothered who their overlords were as long as they had peace and protection. So, a new partnership was built. The Anglo Saxons settled and created their own small manors and bailiwicks. Indeed, this might have been the time when a man called Bernulf took over in Barlick and eventually gave the town its present name.

I wonder if this is how it happened? All the evidence points that way. I think we can take a chance on this one and put the date of the naming of Bernulf’s Wick as sometime late in the fifth century. What was the place called before by the Celts? I wonder if this was when we got a church? I wish we knew what Hugh of Kirkstall was thinking when he used the word ‘ancient’. Did he mean 500 years ancient? It’s entirely possible but I’m afraid we will never really know the answer unless an archaeological dig gave us some evidence? Perhaps we need to get Time Team in to give us a hand!

Thanks again for all the nice comments and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/09 December 2001
2039 words.


Round about 410AD the Romans abandoned Britain. This was never officially acknowledged as a withdrawal but the legions were taken out to fight in Europe and never returned. The strange thing is that some isolated units were left to guard important sites, particularly the Wall. It was almost as though the empire expected to return but they never did and as far as we know, the remaining troops either defected or dissolved into the local population.

What was happening to Barlick during the long period up to 410 that is called by some The Pax Romana, the Roman Peace? Until quite recently scholars who had examined the archaeological evidence in the South of England had formed the opinion that immigration from the continent had taken place under the Romans. They saw the evidence of quite high status houses and small towns and assumed that these must be the result of incoming culture because the native Britons weren’t sophisticated enough to have reached these standards. We are now almost certain that this was wrong, what we are looking at on these sites are the homes of quite well-to-do Britons who have amassed wealth by trading with the Romans and raised the quality of their life and standard of living. However, we have to bear in mind that these sites are largely in the Civil Rule and in the lowlands. The highland areas of the north were not so lucky.

This is not to say that there was no wealth in the north. Towns like Chester, York and Carlisle were very wealthy and there were many smaller centres. The key to how well they did was how important they were to the Romans. If they were a legionary base or a stopping point on an important route, like Lancaster, they would prosper. Lower down the scale, places like Ribchester got their share of the economic activity and became important local centres. The knowledge we have about these towns gives us some clues as to what was happening to Barlick.

The bottom line is that I suspect nothing much went on. Barlick had no strong trading connection with the Romans because, apart from the odd sale of provisions to passing troops, there was nothing here that the Romans wanted. We had no great forests, no minerals and because of the upland nature of the land, no big surpluses of grain to sell. This wasn’t all bad because it meant that the Romans wouldn’t annexe any of the land and any taxes levied would be low because it wasn’t worth expending effort to get blood out of a stone.

I think that once again, Barlick was left to get on with it. Then as now, it wasn’t on the beaten track and would be a fairly isolated place. Looking down on the settlement, we would see virtually the same scene we looked at around 100AD. A small cluster of houses at Townhead with field systems around it and tracks leading to neighbouring settlements. There would be another small settlement at Brogden and perhaps some isolated farmsteads at Hey, up Tubber Hill and down towards Coates. The tracks would be rough lanes with no paving apart from some minor repairs in wet places. One thing we would recognise very clearly would be boundary walls alongside the tracks. If you want to see what they looked like, have a look at the boundary hedge alongside the road just above Hey Farm. If you look carefully you will see a rough wall of large stones and turf holding back a bank with a hedge planted on it. Pieces of boundary like this are some of the oldest features of our modern landscape.

There was another advantage to be gained from living in an insignificant place like Barlick. None of the land was taken into the Imperial Estate. The Romans did this if they wanted something like room for a fort and its associated parade grounds and field systems, land for veterans or land which had some resource like good woodland or easily accessible minerals. This was before the time of the nobles and great landowners and all the land around Barlick was free. If you wanted to create a new field, you simply did it as long as nobody else had got there before you. All the game on the hills and the fish in the streams was yours for the taking. If you wanted to cut turf for fuel, fell timber or gather wild fruit from the hedgerows, you were at liberty to do so. The bottom line is that all the resources of the area were yours for the effort of taking them.

I’m not suggesting that living in Barlick during the Pax Romana was easy, indeed by our standards it would be very hard indeed. However, we think that during this period the population was slowly rising and this is a good indication of local plenty. There would still be disease and the occasional raid by rustlers but these were almost accepted as part of life. The old Pagan beliefs were alive and well, there was nothing to replace them and the Romans had certainly done nothing to stop the practices. The regular festivals and rituals would be performed and it is almost certain that the Barlickers had favourite sites for these but we don’t know where they were. We can be pretty certain that by 200AD word of a new religion would have reached Barlick and perhaps been accepted and incorporated into their existing beliefs as yet another deity. One thing is certain, the advent of Christianity was not sudden, there was no mass conversion and abandonment of the old beliefs.

The same thing can be said of the Romans. They were great ones for secret cults connected with deities and we know that this is how Christianity first evinced itself in the legions. We have examples of them building Romano-British temples where, in effect, they appropriated a local deity and incorporated it into their beliefs. They did the same thing with Christianity even though, until the fourth century, it was a prohibited religion in the empire.

There were some surprisingly familiar problems. Around 250AD the Roman coinage was debased by inflation. The emperor was simply minting money to pay debt. I doubt if this affected Barlick much, I would have assumed that most trade was by barter and their exposure to the worst effects of inflation would have been confined to any dealings they had directly with the Romans.

Another change in the wider empire which would eventually have far reaching consequences was reform of the Roman army command structure. This introduced the concept of promotion through the ranks. Every legionary was theoretically capable of rising to a position of higher command. Once this possibility was raised, in-fighting and anarchy became endemic in the army. In our terms, ‘office politics’ had arrived! Between 259 and 273AD, Gaul, the German regions and Britain virtually severed their links with the emperor in Rome. This was regarded as rebellion and these separatist movements were put down. The emperor Constantinius came personally to Britain in 296 and 305/6AD to restore order.

Things became more and more unstable. We have archaeological evidence which suggests that by 350AD parts of some of the towns associated with the larger Roman forts were falling into disuse. What seems to be happening is that the civilians were moving into the fort with the soldiers and they were becoming more like fortified villages. Further afield, the emperor Constantine, having been converted to Christianity and therefore making it the official religion of the empire, died in 337 and split the empire between his three sons. This provoked rebellion in the army in Britain and permanently split the Roman Empire into the Eastern and Western empires. In 355 emperor Constantius appointed his cousin Julian as Western Caesar and he evidently saw Britannica as a good supply base for the legions in Europe who were fighting to re-establish the German frontier but around 360 the Picts and Scotti rose and caused further problems.

In 382 Maximus came to Britannica and did much to bring the country under control and drive the northern tribes back into Caledonia. He united Britannica and Gaul but in 388 removed many troops to shore up his authority on the continent. We suspect that this made it possible for the northern tribes to raid south again in about 398. A Vandal general, Stilicho, was sent over by Honorius in Rome to bring order to the country. He seems to have succeeded but when he went back to Europe took a legion with him.

For the next ten years there was some tenuous contact with Rome but the supply of money to pay the troops dried up and in effect this was the end of the Roman Occupation of Britain.

What difference did it make? The strange thing about the Roman Rule was how little effect it had on the basic culture of the country. They left nothing behind them but some buildings and roads and of course, some settlers to add to the gene pool. The official language of the country had been Latin but as soon as the Romans left the Britons who had embraced the language reverted to Brythonic Celtish.

How about Barlick through all this? Probably the biggest effect was that as Roman power waned, raiding from the north would become more common. I suspect that this was a miserable time in the north of what was to become England. Stock and reserves of produce would be stolen and it isn’t hard to be fairly sure that Barlick went through a very insecure period. If anything, things were to get worse as the removal of Roman authority started a struggle for land and power between rival tribes. This was to get worse and eventually precipitated the next great change, the arrival of the Saxons.

One nice little story to leave you with. When the Romans went they left some small contingents guarding the Wall. The last commander of the Wall was called Coel Hen by the Western Britons. It appears that he stayed and carved out a small kingship for himself. We call him Old King Cole.

Thanks again for all the nice comments and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .
SCG/04 December 2001
1750 words.


Before I start into the history of Barlick this week I’d like to draw your attention to two items which have come to my notice lately. Both of them illustrate my point that our understanding of history never stands still, research always modifies the conclusions.

On November 8th 2001 there was an article in the Guardian about a magnificent mosaic floor which has been discovered near the village of Lopen in Somerset. This must have been associated with a very high status house and is one of the best examples of Romano-British mosaic ever found in Britain. Remember what I was saying earlier about Roman veterans settling at Ribchester? There is every probability that this floor was part of such a house or even an important Briton who had adopted the Roman culture. Remember that Somerset was under Civil Rule and so there was a greater chance of this happening. Ribchester, like Barlick, was under military rule but even so, there was Roman settlement.

Another item I came across is some research which has been done into finds at a dig near Southampton. These haven’t been accurately dated yet but the first conclusions are that what has been found is evidence of organised steel-making in blacksmith’s hearths in approximately the second century AD. Steel is a very refined alloy of iron and carbon which is much harder and stronger and is ideal for making cutting edges. The significance of this find is that whilst we knew that there was ‘accidental steel’ produced occasionally when making ordinary wrought iron, we have never found any evidence in this country that suggested that steel could be made deliberately and of a consistent quality until the seventeenth century.

The Romans knew about steel, they called it ‘Seric Iron’ and supposed it to be Chinese. Actually it was made in Southern India and reached Rome via Abyssinia. This was ‘Wootz’, a high carbon crucible steel made in small cakes a few inches in diameter which could be worked into strips and fire-welded onto the edge of an iron sword to make it much tougher and sharper. It looks as though the ‘barbaric Britons’ had seen this material and by the second century AD had found out how to make it themselves on an ordinary blacksmith’s hearth..

So, allowing for Barlick’s relative poverty and unimportance, we can probably bring the starting date for steel edged tools in Barlick back from the seventeenth century to about 400AD! Only a small thing but it gives us one more possibility of progress for our Old Barlickers.

Back to Barlick. Barlick may have had a bad time starting around 115AD because the Northern Tribes, in Caledonia, rose up and attacked the Romans. For seven years they looted and pillaged and whilst we are not sure how far south they raided, it is possible they reached Barlick. The Emperor Hadrian arrived in Britain in 122AD and ordered a wall to be built from Carlisle to Wallsend on the East Coast and this was manned by troops to keep the Northern Tribes back.

Hadrian died in 138AD and his adopted son, Antoninus Pius took over as emperor. He came to Britain and built an earth wall from the Forth to the Clyde but it was soon realised that this was too far north to be practical. The legions retreated to Hadrian’s Wall, rebuilt it in stone and this became the northern boundary of empire.

The lands of the Brigantes lay to the south of the wall and extended down to below York (Eboracum) in the east and Chester (Deva) in the west. This was often referred to by the Romans as ‘Britannia Secunda’ and was always recognised as a frontier region. It was overseen from the wall in the north, Chester in the west and York in the east and eventually became the kingdom of Northumbria.

Though no longer a totally independent tribe, the Brigantes were still an administrative unit. The tribal capital was at Aldborough (N Yorks) or Isurium as the Romans called it (some archaeologists argue for Ingleborough but the truth is we are not sure). The Romans recorded that at this time some of the constituent tribes were the Setantii (Barlick was probably in this tribe), Lopocares, Gabrantovices, Tectovari and Carvetii. (The latter were the ‘Deer People’ and inhabited what we now call Cumbria. By 200/300AD they had established Luguvallium. [Carlisle]) All these names are the Latinised forms of the Celtic tribal names but as these were never written down we don’t know what they were.

For fifty years after the re-building of the Wall there was an uneasy peace in the Brigante lands with only occasional border raids but in 196AD the Picts overran the Wall and raided deep into Britannia. The Romans were driven back to York and this could have been another bad period for Barlick. We have no reason to suppose that the Northern Tribes did anything but rape, pillage and destroy in these raids. All the Old Barlickers could do in these circumstances would be to run south as fast as they could if attacked.

We have now come to the point where we have to have a look at another great influence, the arrival of Christianity in Barlick. Of course, we can’t put an exact date on it. We shall have to look at the evidence and do a bit of intelligent guessing as usual!

Gildas Bandonicus, a Celtic monk writing in about 940 on ‘The Ruin of Britain’ tells us that Christianity first entered The Isles during the reign of the emperor Tiberius who died in 37AD. This sounds early but when we consider that the evangelists travelled via the Phoenician trade routes which had reached Britain thousands of years before, we can’t totally discount his evidence. There is also a legend that in 63AD Joseph of Aramathea was sent to Britain by Saint Philip and founded a church at Glastonbury. This is almost certainly false but persists in modern thinking. William of Malmsbury, writing in 1126 was convinced that Glastonbury was the first church in England but didn’t support the ‘Joseph’ legend.

We are on firmer ground with the writings of Tertillian who was presbyter of the church in Carthage and lived from 160 to 220AD. In 200AD he wrote that ‘Christianity had spread beyond the bounds of the Roman Empire’. As the Picts had overrun the Wall at this time, this was almost certainly true. What concerns us here is that if Christianity had reached north of the Wall and had started in the south west of England, there is a good chance that word of it had reached Barlick. Think of the number of clues we have had as to how fast news could travel, even in those days.

What we must clearly recognise is that the Christianity we are talking about here is nothing to do with Rome and the Papacy. The first Christian Emperor was Constantine in 312AD, at the time Tertillian was referring to, the church in Europe was under persecution by Rome and what we are talking about is the Celtic Christian church. The rule of the Pope wasn’t to reach Britain for another 400 years.

As I have said before, the Roman invaders didn’t impose their religion and culture, they were just as likely to adopt the local gods. What they sought was co-operation with the Britons. In Gaul it was different. Christians were persecuted at this time and we have evidence of Celts from Armorica (Brittany) migrating to Glastonbury at this time and quite possibly bringing the new religion with them.

All the evidence points to Tertillian being correct and I think we can safely assume that by about 200AD word of this new religion had reached Barlick. All we know for certain on this subject is what Hugh, Abbot of Kirkstall said a thousand years later; in 1207 he said that in 1147 when the monks first came to Barlick from Fountains Abbey there was ‘an ancient church founded long before’.

Nazarene Christianity was the earliest evangelisation followed later by the missions of St Paul. It was simply travellers recounting the stories they had heard in the Middle East. These new ideas spread slowly and gradually the ideas were taken up. The old Pagan beliefs were still predominant and it isn’t hard to imagine early Christian images and beliefs being incorporated into the Old Religion almost as a sort of alternative deity. What is certain is that conversion was not sudden but a long, slow process. We shall come back to this subject later.

What was the relationship between the Old Barlickers and the Romans. On the whole, the evidence suggests that the Romans treated them with contempt and mistrust. Round about 100AD the Briton’s reputation for intransigence had certainly reached Rome. The Roman poet Juvenal mentioned that soldiers ‘blooded’ themselves in battle with the Brigantes. This was in a satire intended for audiences in Rome and must indicate that we had a certain reputation even then! We have another written reference in which the Britons are described as ‘Britunculi’, (‘nasty little Britons’).

We have plenty of evidence to show that the Britons were good farmers, skilled workers in stone and metal and obviously, very good fighting men. The Romans took advantage of these virtues, they needed the resources the country could produce. They even took some Britons into their legions but they always regarded the country as ‘barbarous’ and treated the tribes, especially those in the north, accordingly.

I think we can make the assumption that the Old Barlickers would come into contact with the Romans as traders on a small scale. A cohort marching East on the old road at Brogden might barter for a few chickens or a pig as they passed through on their way to the way-station at Elslack. I can’t believe that the Romans didn’t have some sort of intelligence gathering system which would involve occasional visits to settlements simply to keep an eye on what was going on. Sometimes these contacts became personal and led to marriage. We have no direct evidence of this in Barlick but from the archaeological evidence we suspect it may have happened at Ilkley and Ribchester.

So, Barlick in the third century hadn’t changed much. The settlement at Townhead and the surrounding out-settlements carried on much as usual. Apart from the occasional raid from the north they led a peaceful life, farming their fields and raising stock. The living wasn’t easy but the chances are that in good years they produced a surplus and would be able to trade. Young men would go off to travel and look for their fortune, the old people kept the traditions alive. There would be regular rituals to placate the old gods and perhaps one or two paid homage to a strange new deity, Jesus. Whilst we can’t be sure of when this happened, we can be absolutely certain that it did occur eventually and that it was a very gradual transition.

However, once more there is change on the horizon. Roman rule, which looked permanent, was about to be affected by events elsewhere in the empire and this was to lead to the most sudden and far-reaching consequences.

Thanks again for all the nice comments and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/3 December 2001
1916 words.


It’s 100AD and Barlick has survived the first impact of the Claudian Invasion. If we could stand on the Weets and look down into the valley probably the first thing that would surprise us would be how similar the landscape was to what we can see now. The hills all round would be bare of trees, true, there wouldn’t be any walls on the moors but otherwise they would look just as they do now. The great deforestation of the Early Iron Age never healed itself because the soil structures and microclimates had been destroyed, a lesson we would do well to heed today.

In the valley, we would see trees and here and there a glimpse of field systems. Some boundaries would be marked by stone walls but most would be constructed of layers of turf and stones alternating. In the oldest parts of the settlement boundaries would be earth banks surmounted by hedges such as we still find around Hey Farm and alongside our oldest roads. The cultivated land was all in the valley bottom on the best soil. If we went down and looked more closely we would find that efforts had been made to improve the drainage of the valley bottoms by cutting channels and even making field drains by digging a trench and laying brushwood in the bottom before covering it over.

The animals in the fields would look strange to us. On the whole they would be smaller but we would readily recognise cattle, sheep, pigs and horses. The plots themselves would be small and there would be more arable than nowadays. Barlick wasn’t well-favoured for grain growing but they had to try because every settlement had to be self-sufficient. Transporting bulky goods was possible by packhorse and small cart but extremely expensive.

The main settlement would almost certainly be where Townhead is today and would be made up of several solidly made houses, we can’t possibly know the number. They would be built of timber with wattle and daub walls and thatched roofs. They clustered together for mutual support in times of stress and would be reasonably comfortable by the standards of the day. Inside the buildings the humans shared the accommodation with the animals in that any needing shelter were under the same roof but I think they would have had enough sense to pen them up.

There would be a central fire which was lit all the year round because it was needed for cooking. This would be a simple hearth in the middle of the beaten earth floor and the cooking pots would be made of earthenware, iron was still too expensive. Any platters, dishes and spoons would be made of wood. Knives and forks weren’t essential as once meat had been butchered, it would be cooked in the lump and simply torn off the joint. Then as now, the most important eating tools were the hands and a spoon. We can see a direct parallel here in the way the slaves on American plantations managed their cooking in the absence of knives and forks. They cooked their meat until it dropped off the bone and shredded it with their fingers.

They didn’t have beds as we know them but probably had wooden frameworks raised slightly off the ground to lie on. These would be made as comfortable as possible with straw bases covered with skins or very rough woollen cloth. These people were still hunters as well as farmers, there was no ownership of the hunting grounds to forbid them so their diet would be supplemented by venison, rabbits, hares and fish caught in the local becks.

The water supply was carried by hand from the nearest stream, in this case, Calf Hall Beck or perhaps what we now call St Mary’s Well.. We have no idea about their toilet or waste disposal arrangements beyond the fact that they would be very primitive and on the same level as their animals. The concept of the midden, into which all organic waste was piled ready for spreading on the land, had been well known for thousands of years and we have no reason to suppose they had made any improvements. When I first went farming in Warwickshire in the early 1950s the toilet arrangements were simply a board with a hole in it in a small outhouse. All the waste fell into a pit and drained off slowly into the main midden by gravity.

So, by our standards they were still a primitive society but we mustn’t allow this to obscure the fact that in many ways they were very sophisticated and had a reasonable standard of living. In many ways they were more free than we are today. There was no central authority governing their lives. After the fall of the royal house of the Brigantes we suspect that the tribal structure was fragmented and whilst Stanwick or Isurium (Aldborough) was still the tribal headquarters, there would be more power at the local level. There would still be an hierarchy of chiefs and we can only guess at what that meant for Barlick. What seems certain is that Barlickers would still owe allegiance to the Brigantes but under less control.

Remember that these people are Celts. Their language would be incomprehensible to us, probably nearer to modern Welsh than anything else. They were still Pagans. Gildas, writing in the 6th century, reckoned that Christianity reached Britannica in 37AD but this seems very early. Even if it was true, it is very doubtful whether it would have made any impact on Barlick as there is no record anywhere of any organised evangelism at this period. As we’ve noted before, they would have had household deities and local sacred sites. We have no idea where these were but there are tantalising clues like the well on Whitemoor and the puzzle of the site of Gill Church. All we can be sure of is that they would have had a belief system of some sort and that the use of magic would be part of their everyday lives.

What about the Romans at this time? What impact did they have on Barlick? Once the Brigantes had been subdued, our knowledge of the Romans and their methods suggests that as long as Barlick toed the line and didn’t cause any trouble, it would be left well alone. As far as Rome was concerned, Britannica had been conquered and they concentrated on the maintenance of law and order and gradual consolidation. One of the curious things about the Romans is that they didn’t try to impose their culture on the natives. Perhaps one of the reasons for this was that the legions themselves had such a varied culture because they were largely composed of mercenaries drawn from parts of the empire that had already been conquered. Tacitus tells us that many of the troops who fought at Mount Graupius in the high lands of Caledonia were Dutch and Belgian. They were all pagan and worshipped their own gods and there is good evidence that if they found a local god they liked, they would worship that one as well. True religious freedom!

Another fact that we have to consider is that there were two distinct forms of administration in Britannica, The Civil and the Military rule. Roman Civil Rule never extended beyond the southern half of Britannica, the rest of the country was under Military Rule. This would include Barlick. What this meant was that beyond trade links, as long as an area remained peaceful it was left alone by the legions. The biggest impact they would have on the district was by passing through it.

The legionaries were the engineers and one of the first things they did was to establish transport routes and way stations around the country. By the end of the first century a fort or refuge had been established at Elslack. It was 100 metres square and no trace has ever been found of any buildings so they either never existed or they were timber and have left no trace. This wasn’t a permanently manned establishment, more likely a safe refuge for a nights camp. It was enlarged in the second century to almost twice the original size. The road to the east went to Verbeia (Ilkley) and west to Bremetenacum Veteranorum (Ribchester). Recognise the name Verbeia? This was the name of the Celtic deity which we think was associated with the River Wharfe. The Romans used the name for their fort there. The Roman name for Ribchester is interesting as it seems to derive from ‘The Hilltop Settlement of the Veterans’. There is reason to suppose that retired soldiers from the local garrison were allowed to take up land there and settle as farmers.

So, we can assume that there was fairly regular traffic along the Roman Road to the North of Barlick, present day Brogden Lane. If you look at the Ordnance Survey map you will see it marked as a direct route passing through Barlick, Chatburn and Clitheroe to Ribchester which was an important crossroads where a north-south route crossed the east-west road. The question we have to ask is how much did this affect Barlick?

There is no doubt that the Romans did interact with the Britons. There is plenty of evidence of intermarriage and retired legionaries settling in Britannia. The attractions were either very favourable farming country, or centres of wealth like Eboracum (York). The nearest evidence we have of this near Barlick is the veterans at Ribchester and possible settlement at Ilkley. I think we are fairly safe in assuming that Barlick wasn’t important or attractive enough for this to happen here. On balance, I suspect that as usual, Barlick was a backwater and was relatively untouched by Roman culture. They just got on with surviving and making a bob or two wherever they could.

The Isles as a whole settled down into a pattern which was to last for another 300 years. Eire, the home of the Scots, remained free, the High Kings ruled at Tara, the Druids officiated at their rites and cattle stealing continued unabated. Caledonia north of Hadrian’s new wall remained outside even Military Rule. Populated by the Picts and Celts it traded with the south and occasionally raided it but was never subdued. The further west one went in Lower Britannia, the less Roman influence counted. In the south, under Civil Rule, a Romano-British culture seemed to be growing. Latin displaced Brythonic Gaelic as the language of the ruling class and trade went on apace. However, forces were building inside the Roman Empire which were to lead to the next big change, the withdrawal of the Legions.

There was another change as well and we shall have to have a look at it next week. A new religion came into the country which was to change everything, Christianity.

Thanks again for all the nice comments and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/19 October 2001
1861 words

Wednesday, January 02, 2002


Last week we had a look at what was happening in the Isle in the first century AD. In order to come to some understanding of what was happening in Barlick at the time we need to look more closely at the arrival of the Romans in force.

The most important fact we have to understand is that this was the first time in our history that we had been conquered by an invader. The Claudian Invasion was just that, a full-blooded take-over of the Isle by a foreign power. Up to this point, Britannica as the Romans called it, had no unity. It was a collection of territories overseen by local warlords or chiefs. By the turn of the millennium, the various local tribes had amalgamated into larger units such as the Brigantes in the north. They had their own hierarchies and culture and, in their own eyes, would be fairly complex and sophisticated.

They were very successful agriculturalists and had exploited natural resources such as mining metal ores and processing them. They understood foreign trade, transport and travel, indeed many had travelled to Rome and some had permanent homes there from which they acted as merchants. They sold the Romans wheat and metals and bought wines, olive oil, spices and luxury goods which they sent back to Britannia. Some of the Roman culture rubbed off on to them and they imported this to the Isle as well. It was the fact that these traders were doing so well that led them to appeal to Claudius for help to pacify the country around 40AD when they saw that the Catuvellauni in what is now Herefordshire and the Trinovantes in Essex were a threat to their livelihood.

It would be a mistake to imagine that this improvement in the quality of life was restricted to the southern half of the country. The mechanism by which improvement spread would be that it travelled to the seats of wealth and power, the tribal cities such as Colchester, York, Chester and some which, like Stanwick and Isurium (Aldborough), the headquarters of the Brigantes, have declined in importance. Some of the more affordable luxuries would spread inside the tribal areas and so it isn’t outside the bounds of probability that Barlick, in its own small way, shared in the improvements. The scale of the share would be decided by how much surplus production an area had. I think we have to assume that Barlick wouldn’t be at the head of the league table but nevertheless would see and taste the differences.

How did the Romans view Britannica and the inhabitants? We have to remember here that all the written evidence we have about this period comes from the Romans. The victors write the history and give it the gloss that suits them. They regarded the inhabitants of the Isle as barbarians. They weren’t interested in the culture or skills of the Britons beyond exploiting them. They certainly didn’t regard them as ‘civilised’ as in their minds, the mark of ‘civilisation’ was city dwellers and a unified political system. Britannica had neither of these. Search the Roman historians as you may, you will only find passing references to the wealth of fine metal goods and sculpture that the Britons were capable of producing. Stanwick produced some notable finds when it was excavated, one of which was a beautiful bronze horse mask. Even the Brigantes of the north had art and a culture of fine craftsmanship.

Because there are no native written records surviving we don’t know a lot about patterns of trade and transport. However, we do know that there was a surplus of grain from the area round Barlick and lead and some silver from the Dales. In order to be exported these goods had to be transported to the coast for shipping to Rome and the continent. The most likely way this was accomplished was by pack horse and there must have been a well established system which someone had to service and run. I have often thought that one of the vital elements of trade at this time was what we would now call the haulage contractors. People who bred pack animals and provided the man power. Satellite villages like Barlick would be the ideal places to take advantage of this demand. I don’t want to push this any further as it’s pure speculation but in a dynamic system of trade with a healthy export market there would be opportunities outside actual production of goods and there is no reason to suppose that places like Barlick would be too backward to take advantage of this. Indeed, they had the strongest motive to seek out these opportunities as it was the only way they could get a piece of the action.

When the Romans did invade in 43AD, Aulus Plautius, Claudius’ commander, knew enough about the native society to realise that if he conquered the tribal centres he would have conquered the country. That is why he struck first at Camudolunum (Colchester), the headquarters of the Iceni led by Cunobelinus. All over the Isle, the news of this catastrophe galvanised the local chieftains, some to opposition but many to collaboration. Let’s have a look at this because it gives us some clues about Barlick.

When he heard the news, Togidubnus, king of the Regnenses in what is now Kent, immediately signed on as an ally. His trading links with Rome had been very profitable and he saw no reason to jeopardise them. He changed his name to Tiberius Claudius Cogidumnus, built himself a palace near Chichester and became more Roman than Briton. This pattern was repeated all throughout the Isle. When Colchester fell, Caratucus, son of Cunobelinus fled and after being defeated by the legate Ostorius Scapula in Wales he took refuge with the Brigantes. Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes handed him over to the Romans in 51AD as proof of her loyalty and this guaranteed freedom from attack by the Romans. The fourth century Roman historian Eutropius recorded that the king of Orkney submitted to Claudius at the time of the invasion in 43AD. This was always regarded with suspicion by historians until excavations at Gurness on Orkney revealed the remains of Roman amphorae (pottery containers used to transport liquids like olive oil, wine or fish sauce). What was even more surprising was that they were of a type that was out of use by the end of the first century AD. Eutropius may have been accurate, news must have travelled fast!

How does all this bear on our understanding of Barlick? First of all, the Brigantes threw in their lot with the Romans and avoided attack. Secondly, if the news of the fall of Colchester could reach the Orkneys in less than a year, communications must have been far better than we have previously thought. Perhaps Barlick wasn’t such a backwater as we might have supposed. Could it be that one of the topics of conversation around the fire at night was international politics?

What we can be sure of is that Barlickers would be as partial to a good bit of gossip as they are now and one of the subjects was almost certainly to be the goings on at the royal court. Cartimandua’s husband, Venetius, was a bit of a firebrand and wasn’t half as keen on collaboration with the Romans as his wife was. Tacitus, the Roman historian, recognised him as the most able warlord in Britannica and so when Venetius fell out with his wife over the surrender of Caratucus in 51AD it was a serious matter. In 53AD he divorced his wife, gathered a band of followers and tried to take over the kingdom. The Romans had been half expecting such a move and came to Cartimandua’s aid. Venetius was banished and we think he went back to his birth-place in Cumbria.

Cartimandua’s success seems to have gone to her head and she took her husband’s squire, Vellocatus as a lover. This scandalised the court and enraged Venetius. Aided by allies within the court who disapproved of the queen’s behaviour, he made a second, successful attempt on the throne in 70AD. Cartimandua had to be rescued by the Romans leaving Venetius in power. The Romans withdrew client status from the Brigantes and in effect, declared them outlaws. This was to have serious repercussions for Barlick.

In 71AD a new governor was appointed to Britannica, Petillius Cerialis. He brought a new legion with him, the Second Adiutrix and made it one of his first objectives to punish the Brigantes. During the next three years he gradually annexed the territory of the tribe but before he could finish his task was relieved and replaced by Sextus Julius Frontinus who had a different priority, subduing the Silures in Wales who had revolted. This gave the Brigantes a respite but by this time, as one of the southern outposts of the tribe, Barlick had almost certainly been taken into Roman Military Rule.

In 79AD Julius Agricola set out from the garrison town of Deva (Chester) to subjugate the Caledonians. He had a force of at least 10,000 legionaries and they marched north up the west coast. On the way, he camped on each estuary he came to and raided inland. From the Ribble estuary he struck into the heart of the Brigantes territory and finally defeated the Brigantes and brought them under direct Roman rule. Eventually Agricola met an army of 30,000 Caledonians under a general called Calgacus and their allies at Mount Graupius (we don’t know exactly where this was but certainly north of the River Tay.) and defeated them. 10,000 Caledonians were killed for a loss of 362 legionaries.

The picture I’m trying to build up for you is one of a small and insignificant village sheltering under the lee of the Weets which was protected from the worst excesses of the early Roman conquest by their relative unimportance and the astute politicking of their tribal queen, Cartimandua. They weren’t ignorant or ill-informed, indeed, I suspect we would be surprised by how fast news travelled along the trade routes. The scandals at the royal court and the aftermath of invasion by Petillius Cerialis must have affected Barlick but probably not by direct assault. By 100AD things would have settled down, the tribal structure had been broken and Barlick had to accustom itself to life under Roman Military Rule.

Thanks again for all the nice comments and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/19 October 2001
1781 words


We’re in the last century before Christ, 100BC and we’ve decided that Barlick is bumbling along fairly well. They aren’t important enough to argue with Brigantes and are too poor to be bothered much by raiders except an occasional rustling raid from the north. They’ve got almost all the domestic animals we have today, including cats and dogs and they are growing wheat, barley and of course, grass.

By this time they are growing other things as well, we know that the Neolithic hunter gatherers had discovered the wild carrot and the sea carrot (only found on the south coast) and when agriculture started these were cultivated. By selecting the seed from the best plants, the quality and size was improved and this happened for other plants such as the wild onion, radish and many of the herbs. Our first century Barlickers would have been able to knock out quite a tasty stew containing vegetables like carrots and turnips and flavoured with onion, mint, fennel and other herbs. They would have had a small cabbage, water cress and of course nuts and hedgerow fruits. We can assume they knew about milk, cream and eggs. They had pigs and wild mushrooms and so the ‘fatty breakfast’ would have been quite common. There were fish in the streams and they could trap wild birds. They had barley and it wouldn’t surprise me if they had found out how to make ale. On the whole, it was a varied diet, the only problem would be to make sure they had enough.

We suspect that they were doing pretty well actually because, country-wide, the population was rising and it couldn’t have done so without adequate food. We have some harder evidence about this; Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar was born in 100BC and by the time he was 40 had established himself as one of the leading men of Rome. He was fighting his way across Europe and conquering the Celts in Gaul (the Gallic Wars) and by 54BC had reached the western coast. He had a problem, he was running out of resources and food to keep the armies going so in 54 and 55BC he mounted two expeditions to what he called Britannica, the mainland Isle. These were probably invasions and if things had turned out well, might also have been a conquest, but they were also armed trading expeditions. What he was looking for was allies and trading partners, not subjects, he had enough on his plate with Europe. He Might also have had a secondary objective; he knew of the close links between the Britannic tribes and their fellow Celts in Europe and his strategy was to make The Isle a trading partner rather than a reserve of reinforcements for Gallic Celts. The Isle at this time was an exporter of tin, copper iron and wheat, all commodities that Caesar needed. The large tribes of the south were, on the whole, receptive and started trading with the Romans and this partnership lasted for almost ninety years.

We’ve already noted the evidence that there was a lot of tribal unrest in The Isle at this time and this was eventually to prove disastrous. Bear this in mind while we have a look at the effect of trading with the Romans. We’ve got some good evidence about Glastonbury at this time and it is a good example of how the new trade affected the southern parts of the Isle.

The close links between the Isle and mainland European Celts included regular trade between Armorica (now Brittany) and the south west of the Isle. This is the reason why what is now a French province got its name. In fact, the name Great Britain was coined to distinguish the Isle from the lesser Britain across the sea.

As the Romans advanced across Gaul, many Armoricans fled across the sea to Glastonbury. They lived on two crannogs there and soon integrated with the locals who traded with Gaul, sending pottery and other trade goods. As trade increased with both Gaul and the Romans, Glastonbury grew in size and imported not only new goods introduced by the Romans but new culture as well. Spices, wine and other Roman luxuries came in and eventually a new religion, Christianity. William of Malmsbury, writing in 1126 was convinced that Glastonbury was the first Christian church on the Isle but he didn’t support the legend that Joseph of Aramathea had been sent there in AD63 by St Philip. Whatever the truth, it is almost certain that the new religion came in by the same route as trade.

Julius Caesar had gone back to Rome, been proclaimed dictator and in 44BC was assassinated. These were troubled times in Rome as well and after what amounted to civil war, Augustus was proclaimed Emperor in 31AD. Two more emperors, Tiberius and Gaius (Caligula) followed in quick succession and in 41AD Claudius became emperor. Claudius wasn’t a well favoured man, he was partially paralysed and had a speech impediment and this meant that he was never going to be a successful campaigner. The senate gave him an honorary triumph when he acceded but Claudius never regarded this as the real thing.

By 40AD the unrest in Britannica had reached the stage where it was serious enough to interfere with trade. Some of the tribal chiefs went to Rome and appealed to Claudius for help to pacify the country. Claudius’ advisers warned him to leave well alone but he saw a chance to gain a genuine conquest and become entitled to a triumph. In 43AD he sent Aulus Plautius to Britannica with about 50,000 troops. This was no expedition, it was a full-blooded invasion and was to end in the conquest of Britannica.

Once Plautius had established a beachhead and was ready to attack Camudolunum (Colchester) he held his men back and sent to Rome for Claudius to come and witness the victory. As soon as the emperor arrived, the town was attacked and taken and after entering the town on an elephant, Claudius spent sixteen days touring the district. He then went back to Rome and claimed his triumph. From then on the conquest proceeded for forty years.

The Romans had perfected the art of conquest during their progress across Europe. Their policy wasn’t to crush the natives but to persuade them to cooperate. If they did, they were left alone to carry on normally, if they resisted they were attacked unmercifully. Terror was a weapon they understood perfectly.

A case in point was the rising of the Iceni in 60/61AD. Their territory was in what is now East Anglia. Led by Boudicca (Boadicea), they almost broke the Roman hold but in the end were defeated by the governor, Suetonius Paulinus. 70,000 were killed during the rebellion and a further 80,000 when Suetonius turned the legions loose on the survivors. We don’t know how fast news of this slaughter spread but we can be sure that it had the desired effect. The Brigantes, in whose territory Barlick lay, had cooperated with the Romans from the start. Cartimandua was queen of the tribe and maintained this policy. Venitius, her consort would have nothing to do with this and revolted. He made his last stand at the great fort of Stanwick Hill in 71AD and was defeated and killed.

In 78AD Julius Agricola was governor of Britannica and he set out to subdue the whole of the Isles. He reduced the Ordovices of central Wales, the last tribe holding out against the Romans in the West. In 79AD he set out from the garrison town of Deva (Chester) to subjugate the Caledonians. He met them in battle somewhere in the Highlands and defeated them. He was recalled to Rome before he could start on Ireland. The conquest of Britannica could be said to be complete but at a terrible cost.

How about Barlick through all this? I don’t think they would be affected too much. For one thing, the western side of Brigante territory had always been firmly under the control of Cartimandua and she never rebelled. Most of the other troubles were in the south and were about acquisition and territorial gain and Barlick wasn’t all that attractive. It was also a bit off the beaten track. The old track across the Weets would be falling out of use, the gold trade to the Baltic had dried up and anyway, it was easier and safer to go by sea at the turn of the millennium. Just like today, the only time anyone came here was if they had a reason, there was no through traffic.

I was wondering earlier how long it took for the massacre of the Iceni to become common knowledge. I think we might be surprised nowadays just how fast news travelled. Other things travelled as well. The Romans brought wine, olive oil, spices and their favourite cooking ingredient, fish sauce. Here’s the original Roman recipe. (Don’t try this at home, it sounds lethal to me!) Use fatty fish like sardines, and a well-sealed container with a 26-35 quart capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs possessing a strong flavour, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano making a layer on the bottom of the container. Then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat these layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.

Notice that we have the original recipe, written evidence is with us now and we can be reasonably precise with names if not dates when it comes to the Romans. No such luck with our Old Barlickers, none of them could read or write.

These new influences would gradually make their way up the country and whilst Barlick might never have see any wine, they would have heard about it and some herbs, spices and olive oil might have found their way here. At this point they were still definitely Pagan and all the old beliefs would be intact. People would be telling the old myths of gods and goddesses and their deeds round the fire at night, the same charms would be used for healing wounds and warding of illness. Once a year on Beltane night, on the first of May, fires would be lit to celebrate the coming of summer and the cattle would be driven through the smoke to ward off disease. The highest point of the summer sun would be marked with a ceremony on Midsummer’s day and all the other old festivals that marked the seasons would be faithfully observed.

Of course I might be completely wrong one way or another. Things might have been much worse or much better. On the whole though, it was a pretty quiet corner of Britannia and I’d like to think that our Old Barlickers were left undisturbed to get on with what was still a hard life, but the only one they had ever known. How were they to get along as the Roman Occupation took hold? We’ll have a look at that next week.

Thanks again for all the nice comments and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/19 October 2001
1880 words


This week we are looking at Barlick during the first millennium BC. Anytime after 1000BC. During the whole of this period there are some trends we can identify which were happening all over the Isles. We’ll have a look at these and then try to understand how they would affect Barlick.

From 1000BC onwards the great monuments and ceremonial sites were abandoned. You might well ask how we can be sure of this as we have no records of ceremony and ritual. Quite easily actually because we see sites where monuments have been literally destroyed, levelled and turned into cultivated land. We can date the start of cultivation from the archaeology and so we know it happened soon after 1000BC. Also, we see field boundaries being set in place that cut right through features on the landscape that we know were once regarded as sacred and these intrusions can be accurately dated. The question is, what can we learn from this?

It seems clear that whatever the culture or ritual associated with these sites was, it had been devalued and possibly abandoned altogether. One of the things that we know about the social structure of the Celts was that Druids out-ranked kings and so it was common for the king to assume the title of chief Druid. This was true of the Romans and was the reason why all Caesars took the title of Pontifex Maximus, the title of the chief priest of Rome. Incidentally, the Pope is still called this to this day so it’s a very old tradition.

So, if the king or chief of the tribe was the chief priest, and it was a fairly large tribe, it would make sense if the main rituals and ceremonies were conducted at his headquarters. It may be that it was a good political move to reduce the importance of the monuments and concentrate the spiritual power in the capital. In our case, Stanwick Hill. Whether this is true or not, the structure of the rituals changed and the monuments were redundant. This may therefore be an indication of the rise in status of the head of a tribe.

A possible result of this might have been the strengthening of ceremonial at a local level. From what the archaeology tells us, it seems clear that individual families had their own idols and minor deities. The Romans certainly did the same thing. Local features like rivers and wells became a focus of ritual and we even know some of the deities associated with them. The Romans recorded that the deity connected with the Ribble was Belisima and the Wharfe had Verbeia. These are the Romanised versions of the Celtic names but the originals would be something like that. Regular readers may remember that I found the name Elsehay or Elesagh on an old map and it seemed to refer to Lister Well on Occupation Road. This looks like a very old name to me and I can’t help wondering whether this is the original name for a sacred spring on the hill which we now call Lister Well. I know this is speculation but it is triggered by evidence and personally I think there is a connection here. I’ve talked to old Barlickers who still believe it has healing properties.

The archaeology, countrywide, gives us another clue as to what was going on. We see evidence of armoured warriors, swords and long hafted spears. By this date at the latest, the horse had reached the Isles. It was high status and would only have been used by the top people for riding or pulling chariots. Carts were pulled by oxen. The advent of the horse and the chariot, coupled with armour, swords and spears means that warfare was modernised. Anyone who had possession of these things had power and could impose their will. We can be pretty certain that the first use would be to subdue smaller, poorer tribes and extend territory and control.

The archaeology helps us again here. Defended sites become common, often in one corner of what we used to describe as ‘hill forts’. It may be that we were wrong in this assumption and that these sites were formerly gathering places, festival sites and trading points. What we now know is that in the early part of the first millennium, we can identify over 3,000 defended sites, mostly in southern England and South Wales. Each of these is about 12.5 acres in extent and controls about 100 to 150 square miles. No doubt there are many more we know nothing about. The overall picture is of uneasy times, tribal warfare and consolidation of control over larger territories. By the time the Romans first arrived in The Isles some of these sites have grown large enough to be described as ‘oppida’ or towns by the contemporary writers.

Before the middle of the millennium The Isles had entered the Iron Age. This led to further advances in means of warfare, iron swords, daggers and spear heads. Even though the weather had been worsening due to climate change since 1400BC, by 700BC it was improving again and we suspect that the natives were coping well because there is evidence that the population was rising, particularly in the south of the Isle. We start to see evidence of coastal salt pans where sea water was evaporated to produce salt, an essential for life as it was used for preserving fish and meat for the winter. Some areas of the country like Cheshire had natural salt springs and these had been sufficient up to now but rising numbers were putting pressure on resources.

There were other ways of ensuring supplies of food in the winter. Fish ponds, which were stocked with netted fish during the summer were one source of protein and dove cotes, or as the Romans called them, ‘columbariums’ were another. You simply killed the food before you ate it.

Another piece of evidence from archaeology that indicates a more violent and precarious existence is the appearance around 350BC of ‘cranogs’. These were brilliant structures formed by making a large raft, floating it out into the middle of a shallow lake or mere and sinking it by piling stones and earth on it. Once it was above high water level you could start a stone foundation and build huts on it. If you needed more room, you added another raft. Communication to the dry land was by a raised footway that was easily defended. A good example was at Glastonbury and grew to over two and a half acres in size and had a causeway wide enough to drive a cart over. These were used until well into Roman times.

You will have noticed that the word Roman has started to creep into the story. We aren’t going to be able to ignore them for much longer! Actually, Mediterranean influence was felt in The Isles long before any ‘Roman Invasion’. The Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BC called The Isles the ‘Nesoi Kassiterides’ or the ‘Tin Islands’. He was vague as to where they were but the crucial point is that he knew about them. The most likely source of his knowledge would be Carthaginian or Phoenician traders who had been there. We have an account written by a trader called Pytheas of Massilia (present day Marseilles) describing a voyage he made to the south west of the Isle to barter for tin in 325BC. His name for The Isles as a whole was ‘Pretanike’, the main isle was Nesos Albionon and the western isle was Ierne. These are his spellings but we can assume that these were his version of the names the Celts used and are translated by the Romans to Britannica, Albionum and Hibernia. The original roots look close to the Welsh Prydain, the Celtic Albion and Eire or Erin. Pytheas described how the natives brought the tin down to the shore on carts on the shore of an island called Ictis which we think may have been St Michael’s Mount. Remember here our example of the Cornish tin found in the bronze statue of the pharaoh Pepi which was made before 2300BC, someone had mined it, refined it and transported it to Egypt.

The point about all this is that we know these things because the Greeks and the Romans were writing things down. We are entering the era where written history exists. Don’t start cheering too soon, a lot of it has been copied and re-copied and altered by early Christian monks. They were often guilty of putting their own spin on the history, Pagans were always bad, Christians always good. However, with care, we can pick out some sources that seem reasonably safe and Herodotus and Pytheas look alright.

So, how does all this translate to Barlick? We now have to start guessing again. One thing seems fairly certain, Barlick wasn’t very prosperous or important. They were too weak to fight anyone and so I think would escape the worst effects of the tribal wars of consolidation. This would explain why there are no obvious remains of forts or defensive works apart from Middop, and we are not sure about that. The climate change would have hit them as hard as anyone and Barlick would be a pretty cold and miserable spot. The population might even have fallen during the first half of the millennium. Being poor, they wouldn’t have horses and probably not even iron tools, they had no local resources and couldn’t afford to trade for any. In short, a pretty backward lot.

This sounds a bit grim but it could have its advantages as we shall see in later years. They were pretty well left alone to get on with survival as best they could. It would be hard, but compared with more attractive parts of the country, peaceful. The trade routes would still be working across the Weets and it’s possible there was another one coming from the East at Salterforth. This looks like a corruption of Salters Ford and could indicate that the salt trade from Cheshire had reached the town. Of course, this could be much later but if it was you would expect the trade to have followed the later Roman Road to the north of Barlick which was well paved and policed by the Romans. On the whole, I think the odds are that if there was a salt trail it appeared before the Romans came.

The Barlickers hadn’t any great monuments to abandon so whatever their belief system was, it would be left undisturbed. They would perform their rituals and magic in the same places, venerate the same objects and perhaps go up to the well on Weets or the one alongside what is now Calf Hall Lane every now and again for a cooling drink and a ceremony.

We’ll leave our Old Barlickers struggling to survive but on the whole making a decent job of it. After a low point round about 700BC the weather was warming up a bit so prospects would be looking better. Next week we will have to get serious about the Romans and you might be in for a few surprises!

Thanks again for all the nice comments and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/17 October 2001
1916 words


This week I’m going to look at Druids, Bards, and magic with a bit of New age thought and crystals thrown in. What I have to say might upset some people but I want to make it clear that all I’m trying to dig down to is the truth, what we actually know or can make a good guess at based on logic and common sense. Over the last two months I’ve read a lot of the latest scholarship on these subjects and consulted with good friends that I trust. So whatever this article does for other people’s beliefs, it’s my version of the truth and I’m entitled to it.

One of the biggest problems we encounter when trying to fathom out the history of Barlick prior to about 1100AD is that very little has been written down. Tin terms of England, the further back we go, the less there is and what has survived is often heavily polluted by monkish writing trying to make a point, or downright forgery. Even the myths have been polluted. The only exception to this is that some of the Irish myth and legend seems to have a firmer base. I’m a great believer in the oral tradition as you know and a good myth passed on orally is very useful but once they have been altered and used as polemics we have to regard them with great suspicion. Unfortunately this covers most of the mainland Isles myths.

Right, let’s get down to what we know for sure. I have no doubt that Druids did exist and were powerful people in the Bronze Age and pre-Christian era. The old Barlickers did have a belief system supported by story, myth and the wisdom of the Elders or Druids passed down orally. The key word here is orally, by mouth. As far as we can tell, this was part of the belief system, that secret and sacred material should not be written down, even when this became possible. The consequence is that we have no evidence at all as to what Druids believed or what their rituals were.

But I can hear you saying, “hang on, I’ve seen them at Stonehenge and at Welsh Eisteddfods”. Unfortunately no, what you have seen is a complete and utter fake. Here’s why I say that.

The Reverend William Stukely (1687-1765) was rector of Stamford in Lincolnshire. He was noted locally as being slightly eccentric. He made a visit to Stonehenge and convinced himself that Druidism was the original religion of the Isles. He had an apple tree in his garden that had mistletoe on it and so he laid out a ‘pagan temple’ round it and recreated rituals. He published extensively on the subject and was one of the first advocates of a Celtic revival.

The ‘Ancient Order of Druids’ was ‘revived’ in 1781 by a London carpenter named Henry Hurle who simply made up the rituals. From late in the 19th century until 1989, Hurle’s Order of Druids was allowed to perform rituals at Stonehenge but his branch was always an elite group.

Edward Williams (1747-1826) gave himself the name Iolo Morganwwg, in case you hadn’t realised, he was a Welshman. He was a stone mason, had failed in business and was an amateur romantic poet. His poetry wasn’t getting noticed so he invented a 14th century Welsh poet, Dafydd ap Gwilym and forged manuscripts which purported to be the original verse. This succeeded and the poetry sold like hot cakes. Encouraged by this he forged a further set of documents which he used to ‘revive’ the Order of Bards. He held his first Gorsedd on Primrose Hill in London in 1792. It is recorded that he took a pocketful of stones with him to lay out the stone circle. William’s ‘Order of Bards’ was taken up by the Eisteddfod movement and later by Welsh Nationalism. It is now the official version and is supported by the royal family, they used it as a basis for the ceremonies used at the installation of Prince Charles at Caernarfon as Prince of Wales.

Between 1760 and 1840 other writers set out to reconstruct Druidism. Rowland James, John Clelland, William Cooke, D James, Edward Davies and William Blake all participated. In 1922 Sir James George Frazer published THE GOLDEN BOUGH which was an enormous study of magic, pagan rites and practices and comparative religion. At the time it had enormous credibility but scholars nowadays regard it as a very poor source. Frazer never left his chambers to research, he culled his material by correspondence and helpers and the result is an enormous stew of badly corroborated myth and story. However, it was eagerly taken up and trawled for anything that might support the Celtic revival movement.

A succession of oddballs and romantics, culminating in Lewis Spence further muddied the waters and eventually ‘Celtic Lore’ was held up to be some sort of parallel with the Teutonic Knights and the myths that surrounded them. These were put to good use by Richard Wagner in his operas and Adolph Hitler in his attempt to build a new German national identity, he even dragged in the myth of the Holy Grail. The belief structures of the Waffen SS were heavily influenced by these myths.

In 1944 Robert Graves was writing historical novels and produced a book called THE WHITE GODDESS. This was taken up as literal truth by the Celtic Revival and New Age movements even though Graves admitted that it was entirely fictional. The position was made even worse when the cult of the Goddess was taken up as an icon by the feminist movement.

Another fertile field for the imagination has been Arthurian studies. King Arthur and his Court of the Round Table never existed. Historians agree that while there might have been an English warlord called Arthur round about 500AD who fought the Saxons, there is no evidence to say he was ever at Tintagel or Cadbury Hill or even fought in the battle at the unidentified Mount Badon. It seems that he was an amalgam of various myths and these were taken up in France and refined and by the time Sir Thomas Mallory wrote MORTE D’ARTHUR in the 14th century all he was doing was re-tell a French fairy tale about French knights based on a Celtic myth.

In 1980, things had got to the state where two notable scholars went back to the original documents and effectively proved that Druidic and Celtic lore was a fake but it was too late to stop it. Those who wanted to believe ignored the critics and went even further out into fantasy by claiming that ‘lines of power’ existed, joining ancient monuments. If they are right, they must be elusive because nobody has ever been able to measure them or use them. In short, they don’t exist.

Funnily enough, this exercise in fantasy is useful to us. It proves that the genuine Celtic material and the contributions by Greek and Roman writers do not contain enough evidence to reconstitute the religion. What truth there was must have been unpalatable because it has never been used.

I might surprise you now. As I have said, I’m satisfied that we have absolutely no evidence for what the Druids did and I’m certain that however well it is presented, all the modern writing supporting the Celtic Revival in respect of Druids and Bards is romantic nonsense. However, here’s a funny thing, suppose that the primeval forces that drove these people to re-create an ancient pagan religion are the same ones embedded deep in all of us that triggered the Stone Age people and the Celts to start pagan worship in the first place. They could be expressing their need for a new belief system that can give them something that Christianity lacks. So, what I’m saying is that I don’t believe them but I will defend their right to believe in what they want.

I suppose some of you will think I was getting a bit academic and high flown there. I can’t say that I blame you but I happen to be against dumbing down. I believe that my readers have enough oil in their can to follow an argument and come to a conclusion. This isn’t Emmerdale, it’s Barlick!

Come to think, aren’t some of the soap operas almost a form of religion? I’ve listened to people talking and I could swear that Coronation Street and Emmerdale are more real to them than their lives. How about the bits of magic and ritual that lots of us use in everyday life that are directly connected to pagan worship? You can’t think of any? How about throwing some salt over the left shoulder when you’ve spilt some? Ever looked into a pool or fountain in a public place? People still make votive offerings, they throw coins in the fountain. How about well-dressing ceremonies in Derbyshire? Morris dancing is a pagan throwback. The practice of decorating the house with greenery like holly and mistletoe at Christmas is taken directly from pagan ritual, we have written evidence for it. If you go to a cattle market you will still see farmers strike a bargain by spitting on their hands and shaking hands. This is an exchange of bodily fluids and in the old days would be blood. It was a very powerful way of sealing a bargain, you literally shared the same blood and became brothers.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this when we get on to early Christianity. For the time being though, just sit back and have a think about the Old Barlickers and what we still have in common with them. Try to think of things that you have been told are ‘unlucky’. Why shouldn’t you put shoes or your hat on the table? Why take offerings to church for harvest festival? Why is it unlucky to walk under a ladder? Why do we have a tradition that if someone gives you a knife or a cutting edge you have to give them a coin? My mother always told me that you should only cut your nails on a Sunday. She never told me why but pagans were very careful about what happened to hair that was cut off or nail parings. They could be used for sympathetic magic. Archaeologists still find ‘urine bottles’ concealed in old buildings. The theory was that if you got hold of a person’s urine, put a thorn in it and buried it they would die of stabbing pains when they made water. It’s no use, I’ll have to stop. Believe me, there is something deep inside us that still believes in charms and magic, ever crossed your fingers?

Thanks again for all the nice comments and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/16 October 2001, 1810 words


It’s time we had a look at what the belief system was for our Barlickers in 1500BC. I keep calling them Barlickers which is wrong of course, the name Barnoldswick is a long way into the future but it’s as good a label as any so I’ll stick to it. There is another name we have to look at as well. The Celts.

As you have probably realised by now, the story of the people of the Isles is basically one of migration and the assimilation of cultures and ideas from continental Europe. Remember that the story of Europe is essentially the same. The original settlers in the furthest reaches of pre-history came up from India and we suspect that originally, they came from Africa. This is all too far in the past for our present survey but makes the point that there was this westwards flow of people and ideas.

At some point around 1500BC we start to give these people a clear and separate identity based on their language and culture. The first people to do this were the Greeks. They described the people of Eastern Europe as Keltoi which means strangers. The Romans called the same people Galli as they lived in those parts of western Europe they called Gaul. The Greek name gave us Celts and the Roman name was transferred to the language they spoke, Gallic or Gaelic. This grouping was the predominant race over much of mainland Europe including parts of Italy, the Balkans, the Atlantic coast of Portugal and the whole of what is now France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

By about 800BC their culture was distinctive enough to be recognised in the archaeology but we should remember that this is simply our first evidence. What we can be sure of is that they were alive and well long before this. We first find them in the upper reaches of the Danube, Rhone and Rhine rivers. Excavations at Hallstadt gave the name to the first identifiable strain of the culture around 800BC and further digging at La Tene lent its name to another phase around 450BC. Later, we find them in Slovenia, Silesia and upper Poland. They were a very successful culture and were the dominant force in Europe and the Isles for almost a thousand years until 100AD when they were finally subdued by the Romans.

Where the Celts concern us is that they started to permeate The Isles somewhere round about 1000BC and by 600BC they were the dominant race. The Hallstadt Celts migrated directly to Ireland by sea and the La Tene branch to southern England. We think that this fact explains the difference between the language spoken by the Irish and that of the Welsh. This influx wasn’t an invasion, it was a migration. I was always taught at school that each tribe that entered The Isles conquered the existing people and drove them westwards. We now know that it wasn’t like this. The process was one of intermingling and adoption of the new culture by the natives. It is quite possible that pockets of pre-Celtic culture lasted until well into the coming Roman invasion.

What effects did this influx have? The first was probably on the language. We can’t be sure about this because we have no written records and it is quite possible that the original natives were speaking a variation of Gaelic before the Celts arrived. They seemed to have no difficulty trading with the continent and this seems to indicate that their language was similar to that of the Keltoi or Galli. The Celts on mainland Europe didn’t only expand westwards at this time. In 390BC a group of them crossed the Alps and after sacking Rome, settled in what is now northern Italy. Another group sacked Delphi in Greece in 279BC. The explanation for this need to expand might be that good weather and high productivity had stimulated population growth and they were simply looking for more and better land. We shall see this pattern repeated later.

Back to Barlick now. How long was it before the Celtic culture reached us? We can’t put a precise date on it but if we say about 800BC we won’t be far wrong. What difference did it make to the original Barlickers? Intermingling would have had an affect on the language, the customs and probably the belief systems. Again we cannot be certain of any of these but common sense tells us that this must have happened. One big change was that Celtic tribal organisation seems to have been more advanced than the native’s. We are quite certain that there was a dominant tribe in the north of England at this time, the Brigantes. There are two versions of where this name originated, one is that it comes from the Celtic briga meaning hill, therefore, ‘the hill folk’. Another version is that the name derives from Briga or Brigid, an Irish Celtic goddess. Take your pick! This tribe was a confederation of several separate tribes, we know the names the Romans gave to some of them because they wrote them down. Remember these are not the names they called themselves but the Roman equivalents. The Lopocares, Corionototae and Tectoverdi were around the Tyne valley. Barlick was part of the Setani who controlled most of what is now Lancashire. The main headquarters of the tribe was either at Stanwick Hill in Yorkshire, it covered 750 acres and so we are talking about an important centre, or Isurium (now Aldborough) in east Yorkshire.

You will have noticed that I have mentioned a Celtic goddess. We have to look at the belief systems now and try to separate myth from reality. This is not going to be easy! The first thing to do is to forget anything you have read about Celtic deities, Druids and bards. We have absolutely no written evidence about any of these and in another article I’ll tell you exactly why but it is too big a subject to tackle this week.

We have to start with common sense and the evidence. I have already told you about the grave dated 25000BC in Wales in the Goat Cave. There was evidence of ceremony and grave goods there. This means that some sort of concept of a journey or an afterlife must have taken hold by then. We have already assumed that these people would use some sort of folk magic to ward off circumstances which otherwise left them helpless. It also seems sensible to assume that there would be a class of people whose job it was to recite the myths and magic and supervise whatever ceremonies or festivals they held. These people have been described as druids. We find variations of this word in Old Irish, Latin, French and Gaelic and the meaning seems to be something like wizard. It’s doubtful whether the Celts would have recognised the concept of religion. They had a set of beliefs which were closer to magic and so druids isn’t a bad word. Let’s use it.

Whatever the belief system was, it had been refined over thousands of years and the coming of the Celts added further refinement. We start to see evidence of idols and symbols that were new to The Isles.

We need to step back a pace here and look at these symbols. What we shall see proves how little we know. For a start off, the first Celtic symbols we can identify are in the Carpathian Mountains in Europe and have been dated to about 3000BC, long before the Greeks gave them a name. These were the cross in a circle, the many spoked wheel and concentric circles. We tend to think that the Celtic Cross is peculiar to the Isles but this is not the case. Other symbols are wavy lines (running water?) spirals and what appear to be footprints. Many people have speculated what these all mean. The most common consensus is that all the circular ones are connected with either the sun or the wheel of life. This element of sun worship has quite a lot going for it. It was a way of measuring time and seasons, it gave warmth and promoted growth and we know they had a festival of the Unconquered Sun in winter. St Patrick wrote in his ‘Confessio’ that all who worshipped the sun would perish eternally, so he evidently thought the Celts were sun worshippers. One more symbol to confuse you, A Celtic design found on Woodhouse Crag near Ilkley has been identified as the first known use of the Swastika in Europe.

I have to demolish another hoary old myth here and I know this isn’t going to popular! There has been much written in the last fifty years about the importance of Celtic goddesses. Much of this stems from a book written by Robert Graves in 1944 called The White Goddess. This, allied with evidence from tombs of what looked like female figures, has been cited as evidence of a matriarchal society and an abundance of female deities. The bad news is that the book Graves wrote was, on his own admission, pure fiction and the latest research indicates that many of the figures identified as female are no such thing. They are male figures which originally had a wooden penis and this has rotted away leaving a hole. This explains why many of these figures had no breasts.

There’s another big change coming up shortly, the advent of Christianity, so we’d better start using the words Pagan and Christian to distinguish between the religions and practices.

How about pagan temples? There is no doubt that these existed some time before Christianity. Apart from the evidence of other civilisations, we have documentary proof that at least one man, Pope Gregory, was sure they existed, that they had idols in them and that the Celts practiced sacrifice and held festivals. We’ll come to this later but take it from me, the written proof exists. However, temples weren’t the only place where pagans performed their rites and sacrifices. Location seems to have been just as important as buildings and we are sure that certain sites were regarded as sacred. Hill tops, clearings in woods, springs, rivers and standing water were all used as ritual sites. We know this because it was a regular practice to throw votive offerings into water. The most famous example of this is at Flag Fen near Peterborough where an amazing pile of objects were found which had been thrown in the water. Similar hoards have been found in rivers but the strange thing about these is that they were all west-flowing, none have ever been found in east-flowing rivers.

So, did Barlick have a temple? I can’t say anything beyond the opinion that I think it likely. All I can tell you with certainty is that Barlickers would be practicing some form of ritual and this would include votive offerings, idols, sacred places and sacrifices. We have plenty of evidence for human sacrifices from this time and for some grisly reason these were often killed three times, pole-axed, garrotted and then their throat was cut. Was this practiced in Barlick? Once again, I don’t know but if we are going to have a clear sight of our Ancient Barlickers we have got to accept the possibility that it might have happened.

We’ll leave Barlick now and move forward to the next big event. Sometime around 600BC the technology of iron reached The Isles. This is a really significant event as it is the first step along the road to our modern industrial world, we are still living in the Iron Age today. Next week we have to take a really serious look at Druids, Bards and New Age beliefs. I just know it’s going to get me in trouble!

Thanks again for all the nice comments and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/16 October 2001
2019 words.


Our gallop through 5,000 years of history last week brought us up to about 3000BC. Let’s have a look at how this translates to Barlick. Remember that at this time the climate was much warmer, something like present day south of France but with more rainfall and better soil. If we go across and look at Middop (two miles west of Barlick) there is a very large earthwork there which I have always assumed was about 2000BC. I have no evidence for this and might be wrong, it could easily be earlier. Let us assume there was habitation there in 3000BC. While I was working at Pendle Heritage, a man came in and showed us a beautiful ceremonial stone axe head he had found at Blacko so we can assume there was habitation there at about the same time.

Looking at these two pieces of evidence and the fact that the track from Middop runs right through the centre of Barlick, I can’t believe we had no habitation here. Add to this the fact that Barlick is more sheltered as it is on the lee side of Weets and I think we can be sure that we had Late Stone Age inhabitants. Trouble is, there is no immediate sign of their presence. This doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t any, simply that we have not found it.

Forget about the buildings in Barlick and just look at the ground. The most obvious site for a settlement is where Townhead is today. It is up on the hill, has good views all round, lies dry and yet is close to what is now Calf Hall Beck. The track from Middop cuts across the top side of it. At Townhead you are low enough down to get the advantage of good fertile soils and the slope catches the sun from first thing in the morning until late in the afternoon. Not surprisingly, this is near the place where, in later days, the Cistercian monks decided to build their monastery, perhaps they couldn’t build in the more favoured position because the land was already occupied. . I think the main settlement would be at Townhead and was in fact the foundation of the Barlick we know today. There would be more than one site. I have an idea I could pick out a few more but I’ll leave it to you to use your imagination. Remember you are looking for somewhere that is slightly elevated, near running water and with good views to give warning of attack.

The later mediaeval roads often followed the course of existing tracks and the road out of Barlick to Foulridge and Colne via Upper Hill is a case in point. Virtually anywhere on the side of that road would be a good place for a farmstead. Looking again at the old track from Middop, there is one other powerful argument for Barlick as a settlement on an important route. If you lay a ruler on the map, the old track is heading as straight as an arrow for the most northerly low level crossing of the Pennines at Kildwick. This was tremendously important in the days before bridges and roads, it is the obvious route east to west.

It’s probably time we said something about weaving. The problem with cloth is it doesn’t last in the ground. As far as I can make out the Egyptians are thought to have started weaving cotton about 3000BC. There is little doubt it was earlier in India and China but we have no certain knowledge. Sometime between 8000 and 4000BC sheep were domesticated in the Middle East and it seems to me to be a fair bet they had got to The Isles by sometime around 3000BC. This is a guess but won’t be a long way out. The point is that sheep naturally shed their wool every year and I can’t see our late Stone Age women missing the chance to collect this useful stuff and sitting there pondering on what to do with it. I won’t hazard any guesses as to when they started weaving but I’ll lay a small bet it didn’t take long. So, until anyone tells me any different, let’s assume they were weaving in Barlick sometime between 1500 and 1000BC.

So, let’s recap where we are. Around 2500BC I reckon that we could see the shape of the Barlick we know today on the ground. There would be a track coming down off the Weets where Forty Steps is now and on the level ground to the North of it would be some fields and a small settlement of wood huts with wattle and daub infill round about where Townhead and the bottom of Esp lane is today. The people would be farmers and hunters, they used flint tools and arrow heads, wore skins and had some domestic animals. They might have had dogs, they were first domesticated before 10,000BC in the Middle East. They could have had goats, sheep and pigs, these were all domesticated before 7500BC, again in the Middle East.

To our eyes, their life would be hard but compared to their ancestors, they were doing well. The climate was good, food plentiful and they had decent shelter. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact however that they would be plagued with toothache and any injury, no matter how slight, would be life threatening. Inside the family there would be the same mix of emotions and events that we have today. Joy at birth, sadness at death, anger at times and kids running about and getting under the feet. There was no marriage as we know it but couples would tend to stick together. Every now and again someone would stray and cause a scandal, jealousy would provoke quarrels and there might even have been murder. In short, the glorious human turmoil that we still enjoy today.

Every now and again there would be alarms about bands of marauders. I can’t believe that there weren’t men about who would rather use violence to steal than settle down and work the land. These would most likely come from the north where they lagged behind as regards progress. The most likely crime would be stealing animals, a bit like the Wild West when you think about it.

One last thought, mead, an alcoholic drink made by allowing honey and water to ferment naturally, has been around for thousands of years. It would be so easy to stumble across it accidentally, a pot of honey and water used for sweetening would pick up wild yeast and start to ferment and before you knew it, you had the technology for a hangover. So I reckon that occasionally our old Barlickers might have struck t’rant, just the same as their ancestors in the twentieth century did. Again, that’s pure speculation but I’ll bet they knew about it.

We’re coming up to another big watershed now in the history of the Isles. 2200BC is generally reckoned to be the start of the Bronze Age in The Isles. However, like all these dates, you’ve got to allow a bit of latitude. Everyone didn’t start using bronze instead of flint in 2200BC. The technologies overlapped. To give you an idea, it’s possible to identify exactly where a metal originated even if it is alloyed, or mixed, with another one. The grave of the Pharaoh Pepi, who died around 2300BC contained a bronze statue. Bronze is a mixture of copper and tin and when the metals were analysed, it was found that the tin had originated in Cornwall. So, we know that Cornwall was producing tin before 2300BC and we also know there was a trading system at work which had moved the tin from Cornwall to Egypt, probably the Phoenicians. There are several things we can deduce from this. Late Stone Age people weren’t dumb animals. They were capable of travel, communication and trade by barter at this time. If they had any surpluses they could trade them for something they couldn’t produce like pottery or flints. We know that by 3000BC copper ingots were being used as currency in the Middle East, how long would it have been before the concept of currency reached The Isles?

What we are sure about, because we have the archaeological evidence, is that the use of copper, and later bronze, became widespread in The Isles after 2200BC if you could afford the technology. We start to see bronze axes and daggers but no swords as yet. Remember that in the early days, flint tools would be better than bronze for a lot of jobs as it was much harder, took a keener edge and took longer to become blunt. By 1500BC bronze technology was reaching its peak and weapons made of metal more common. We have another piece of evidence from this time that gives a clue as to how sophisticated our people were. Around 1700BC the technology was good enough to transport eighty-two fifty-ton blocks of stone from South Wales to Stonehenge and erect them as part of the great stone circle. Think about it, this would be a major civil engineering feat even with today’s technology. There must have been a technology that understood ropes and rollers, labour would have to be organised, housed and fed, we cannot regard these people as ‘primitive’.

Round about this time, probably 2000BC onwards, archaeologists have noted another culture creeping into The Isles. These were the Beaker People, so called because of the distinctive pottery they used. They didn’t necessarily invade and force the older culture out but mixed in with the old who took up the new culture. We see more personal ornament and even torcs (neck bands) of gold. Our Barlickers were coming up in the world!

Around 1400BC another change hit Barlick. The climate started to get colder and wetter. This didn’t happen suddenly, it gradually deteriorated until 700BC when it started to improve again. Up to this point, all the hills round Barlick were covered with trees and brush. The twin factors of worsening climate and increased use of wood by the inhabitants resulted in deforestation of the hills. This upset the soil structure and the whole of the Pennines, the North Yorkshire Moors and the Welsh Uplands never recovered.

At the same time we see yet another change in the culture creeping in. This was the urn people. They were called this because of their practice of cremating their dead and burying the ashes in stoneware urns. This same culture brought in barley and flax from the continent and so linen cloth could be produced or the fibres mixed in with wool to make what came to be called Linsey Woolsey.

So let’s drag this weeks thoughts together. We have reached about 1400BC. Our Bronze Age Barlickers are living in substantial huts, farming the land, keeping animals, even dogs and cats by this time and engaging in trade, even though it was simply bartering their surplus stocks for things they couldn’t make themselves. They are not totally secure, they are occasionally harassed by rustlers and perhaps hostile neighbours. The population has been gradually rising up to this point as productivity improved and if we want to speculate we could easily be looking at a total population in Barlick of perhaps 100 souls. Life was improving, footwear and clothing was getting more serviceable and there would be the occasional stew and a pint of mead. We have come a long way in the last 8,000 years but there are more great changes just round the corner.

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SCG/16 October 2001
1977 words