The end of the fort and vicus
The Roman army left the Castleford fort in about AD 100, probably because the area around Castleford was peaceful.
People went on living in the shops and workshops of the vicus after the Roman army left. They probably earned their living from the travellers using the Roman road through Castleford on the way to the new Roman town at York (Eboracum).
Gradually the number of people in the vicus declined and by AD 180 the buildings were empty and derelict.
A new Castleford
A new settlement was built on the site of the Roman forts from AD 250. This time it was not Roman soldiers who lived there, but native Britons who had taken on a Romanised lifestyle. They are sometimes called Romano-British.
|The Romano-British people who built the new settlement were concerned about their safety. They protected themselves with four large ditches.|
|The main finds from this date were a temple, some burials and evidence of spoon-making.|
What was the temple like?
The temple was built between two of the defensive ditches. Unfortunately the archaeologists didn’t have time to excavate all of the building.
|The archaeologists only found the stone foundations of the western end of the building.|
|The temple was an imposing building. A doorway led into a large room with two rows of columns.|
How many burials were found?
The graves were spread out across the site. Some contained inhumations and some contained cremated bone. The archaeologists found 7 inhumations and 3 cremations near to the temple. At the old vicus site there were 7 more inhumations and a further 2 inhumations were found close to the river.
|This burial was found near to the bathhouse. It was the grave of a small child.|
|This burial was found in the vicus area. It was the grave of a woman aged over 35 years. She may have died from tuberculosis.|
The archaeologists found that spoon making was a major industry within the new defended settlement. They found hundreds of pieces of broken moulds in a small pit. Each mould was used only once and then thrown into the rubbish pit.
|The spoon moulds were found in a small pit to the left of the photo but no evidence of a workshop building was found.|
How were the spoons made?
The moulds were made from local clay. The clay was pressed against the front and back of a model spoon to make an impression of the spoon in the clay. Then these were joined together into a composite mould for about 16 spoons. Molten metal was poured into the mould and allowed to cool. Then the mould was then broken open to remove the new spoons.
|The moulds are all fragments because they were broken open to remove the spoons.|
|Modern reconstruction of the spoons based on mould fragments.|
Why are the spoon moulds important?
The Castleford moulds are unique. They are the best evidence for this type of spoon making in Britain and the western Roman Empire.
The Roman army left the fort in AD 100. Some of the population stayed in Castleford and in fact the vicus prospered after the army left. The vicus was abandoned in about AD 180. A new Romano-British defended settlement was built in about AD 250. It was abandoned again about AD 400, about the time that the Roman occupation of Britain ended.
Anglo-Saxon Ceaster forda
A place called ‘Ceaster forda’ is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles in AD 948. This Anglo-Saxon name means ‘the river crossing near the fort’.
Castleford is not mentioned in the Domesday Book but other historic documents refer to a settlement called ‘Castreford’ (or ‘Castelforde’) in about AD 1130. By the 1170s the settlement included watermills and a parish church. Archaeologists have not yet found any evidence for the Anglo-Saxon or Norman settlement.
The Village of Castleford
Castleford was probably a small village in the medieval period. The archaeologists found some fragments of medieval pottery during the dig and some evidence of buildings near to the church.
|The archaeologists found medieval pottery in the upper layers of soil, above the Roman remains.|
By the early 1800s Castleford was an agricultural village with a population of 800 people. Maps from this time show that the village was centred around the site of the Roman settlement. There were mills, a church and rectory, houses, orchards, ponds, gardens and fields.
Castleford expanded during the industrial revolution. Pottery and glass production began in the early 1800s but coal mining was the main industry from the 1850s onwards. Many people moved to the town to take up jobs. Houses, pubs, schools and hospitals were built. By the 1890s Castleford had a population of 15,000 people.
Today Castleford’s population is about 35,000.