To the place where the yew trees grow*.

On my way up north I decided to stop off in York and you won’t be surprised to read that I stopped off there to do a little Roman-hunting.

So, welcome to Roman Eboracum. Site of the legionary fortress which two legions called home: the Ninth Legion Hispana, whose mysterious disappearance is still foxing Romanists,  and later the Sixth Legion Victrix, which we encounter at Vindolanda (whence I was headed). This was where, on February 4th, 211CE, the Emperor Septimus Severus met his end, and where, in 306CE Constantine was hailed Emperor.

So what’s left? Well, as York is a city has been almost continuously occupied for at least the last two thousand years, a lot has been built over by Vikings, Saxons, Normans and the rest, but there are still some pretty interesting  Roman remains to be seen.

I was supposed to be following the trail available here:, but that went to pot within about 5 minutes. I ended up starting at the Museum Gardens where this fantastic Multiangular Tower can be found.


This ten-sided tower stood at the west corner of the fortress. The upper ~3m with the arrow slits are a later, 13th century, addition. There are also sarcophagi everywhere, some of them inscribed and decorated.


P1040417    P1040439

On to St. Leonard’s Place, in a car park, next to the council offices. Apparently all the most interesting things can be found in council car parks these days. Here I found a section of the Roman fortress wall. Just a small section which was left when the road was punched through this area in the nineteenth century.

P1040491  P1040489

Intermission: a trip to the sweetie shop.


From there I went up onto the city walls and walked right round to the north-eastern corner. These walls are medieval with considerable Victorian reconstruction and renovation, but they follow the line of the Roman fortress walls. It’s possible, here and there, to spot a few odds and sods of the Roman army, like this corner tower.


There also appeared to be a small turret nearby, so here you can see the relationship between the turret at the bottom of the image,and the corner tower at the top. You can also see some of the Roman wall running along at the bottom of the later medieval construction.


In the square next to a great big church (York minster actually) stands a column some 8m tall. This column, thought to be one of the columns from the headquarters building of the fortress of the sixth legion, was found in 1969during excavations of the south transept of the Minster.


Nearby sits the Emperor Constantine.


 Next, to the pub.


Bit early, you say? No, not for a drink, but to see the remains of the Roman military bathhouse  which survive under the pub.


Intermission 2: I was staying the night and by random change, a quirk of fate, Mr and Mrs Badger were also in town, so we met up, by the hand of Constantine,

P1040591 (2)

and went for a lovely drink’n’chat session.  Thanks Mr and Mrs B.

In the morning I visited the Yorkshire Museum. York was a very large and important Roman garrison town, and had an important trading/mercantile function, as well as it’s more specific imperial connections, so the artefacts here are particularly interesting. I did look round the whole museum, but this is just a tiny sample of the Roman military material in the museum’s collection.

We’re greeted, rather appropriately, by Mars, god of war and this does kick off a collection which, unsurprisingly, has a strong military flavour. There are civilians, and plenty of them, but there’s no getting away from the army here.


The collections includes a large number of stamped and inscribed objects, some military, some mercantile, These include personal objects like bowls, inscribed with the owner’s name, very important when you’re living in close proximity to several thousand other squaddies.


Several diplomata. Discharge papers, Roman style.

But also evidence of the units working as part of the military machine. Here are tiles stamped with the marks of the units which made them, including the mark of the IX legion. “We woz ‘ere”.


P1220424 P1220363
And it’s rather too tempting to think of this as The Eagle of the Ninth.


Mr Badger has also blogged about his day:

Next time: civilian York…

*The etymology of the name Eboracum is a bit mysterious, but might mean something like ‘The Place of the Yew Trees’. Or it might not:


2 thoughts on “To the place where the yew trees grow*.

  1. Knew I should have gone into the Roman Bath Pub. Don’t those little ceramic stacks (pili I think) look like perfect drink coasters?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.