Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

A Roman Villa in Wensleydale

The discovery of a portion of a substantial Roman villa at Aiskew, part of the town of Bedale in lower Wensleydale in the North Riding of Yorkshire came to my attention through the Internet. The excavation of a small part of the villa, revealed during the building of a by-pass - which has been realigned to preserve most of the site - is described in an article in the Yorkshire Post. This draws upon a publication from North Yorkshire County Council about what has been discovered and which also indicates the potential of the other 95% of the whole site were it ever to be fully investigated. What has been found are the remains of a bathhouse and all the features one would expect to find therein.

Quite apart from the interest of the villa itself this discovery helps fill in a bit more of the map of what was to become Yorkshire in the Roman period. The villa was one of the most northerly examples that is known from the Roman Empire, but appears to have lacked nothing in terms of domestic comforts. It also suggests how Roman or Roman-inspired life existed alongside Iron age culture as indicated on an adjoining site. The central area of the North Riding, the Vale of Mowbray, is known to be good farming land so it should perhaps be no surprise that it did support a villa economy in the Roman period. Nonetheless to have physical evidence is to really begin to populate the landscape of the past.

This is also a further contribution to our knowledge of an area that is particularly rich in historic buildings and links. For those who do not know the area I would urge anyone with an interest in history to visit it if you are in the vicinity armed with a Pevsner and an OS Map.

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