Ribchester is a village and civil parish within the Ribble Valley
district of Lancashire, England. It lies on the banks of the River
Ribble, six miles (10 km) northwest of
Blackburn and twelve miles
(19 km) east of Preston.
The village has a long history with evidence of
Bronze Age beginnings.
It is well known as a significant Roman site being the location of a
Roman cavalry fort called Bremetennacum, some parts of which have been
exposed by excavation. In common with many towns and villages in East
Lancashire its later history was dominated by cotton weaving; firstly
in the form of hand-loom weaving and later in two mills. Neither mill
still operates and the village is primarily a dormitory village for
commuters to the town of
Blackburn and the cities of Preston and
The main access road into
Ribchester is the B6245. From the
north-west, this is Preston Road, which merges into Church Street.
From the east, it is
Blackburn Road, which, at its westernmost
extremity, also links up with Church Street, albeit closer to the
centre of the village. Stonygate Lane, which runs to the north,
partially follows the route of the old Roman road into Ribchester.
1.1 Roman history
5.1 St. Wilfrid's Church
5.2 St. Peter and Paul's Church and
Stydd Alms Houses
5.3 White Bull public house
5.4 Weavers' cottages
5.5 Excavated Roman buildings
5.6 Roman Museum
7 Sports and recreation
8.1 Field Day
8.2 May Day Market
Ribchester Festival of Music and Art
10 See also
12 External links
See also: History of Lancashire
Main article: Bremetennacum
The village was originally established as a Roman auxiliary fort named
Bremetennacum or Bremetenacum Veteranorum. The first fort was built in
timber in AD 72/73 by the 20th legion. The fort was renovated in the
late 1st century AD and was rebuilt in stone in the early 2nd century.
During the life of the fort, a village grew up around it. A fort
Ribchester until the 4th century AD and its remains can
still be seen around the present village.
Plan of the principia at
A report on Roman remains at
Ribchester was published in Roman Britain
in 1914 (
"In the spring of 1913 a small school-building was pulled down at
Ribchester, and the
Manchester Classical Association was able to
resume its examination of the Principia (praetorium) of the Roman
fort, above a part of which this building had stood. The work was
carried out by Prof. W. B. Anderson, of
Manchester University, and Mr.
D. Atkinson, Research Fellow of Reading College, and, though limited
in extent, was very successful.
"The first discovery of the Principia is due to Miss Greenall, who
about 1905 was building a house close to the school and took care that
certain remains found by her builders should be duly noted:
excavations in 1906-07, however, left the size and extent of these
remains somewhat uncertain and resulted in what we now know to be an
incorrect plan. The work done last spring (1913) makes it plain (see
illustration) that the Principia fronted — in normal fashion — the
main street of the fort (gravel laid on cobbles) running from the
north to the south gate. But, abnormally, the frontage was formed by a
verandah or colonnade: the only parallel which I can quote is from
Caersws, where excavations in 1909 revealed a similar verandah in
front of the Principia. Next to the verandah stood the usual Outer
Court with a colonnade round it and two wells in it (one is the usual
provision): the colonnade seemed to have been twice rebuilt. Beyond
that are fainter traces of the Inner Court which, however, lies mostly
underneath a churchyard: the only fairly clear feature is a room (A on
plan) which seems to have stood on the right side of the Inner Court,
as at Chesters and Ambleside. Behind this, probably, stood the usual
five office rooms. If we carry the Principia about twenty feet further
back, which would be a full allowance for these rooms with their
walling, the end of the whole structure will line with the ends of the
granaries found some years ago. This, or something very like it, is
what we should naturally expect. We then obtain a structure measuring
81 × 112 feet (34 m), the latter dimension including a verandah
8 feet (2.4 m) wide. This again seems a reasonable result.
Ribchester was a large fort, about 6 acres (24,000 m2),
garrisoned by cavalry; in a similar fort at Chesters, on Hadrian's
Wall, the Principia measured 85 × 125 feet (38 m): in the 'North
Camp' at Camelon, another fort of much the same size (nearly 6 acres),
they measured 92 × 120 feet (37 m)."
The most famous artifact discovered in Ribchester, and dating from the
Roman period, is the elaborate cavalry helmet. The helmet was
discovered, part of the
Ribchester Hoard, in the summer of 1796 by the
son of Joseph Walton, a clogmaker. The boy found the items buried in a
hollow, about 10 feet below the surface, on some waste land by the
side of a road leading to
Ribchester Church, and near a river bed.
In addition to the helmet, the hoard included a number of patera,
pieces of a vase, a bust of Minerva, fragments of two basins, several
plates and some other items that Townley thought had religious uses.
The finds were thought to have survived so well because they were
covered in sand.
Church Street, Ribchester, looking south towards the River Ribble
"It is written upon a wall in Rome;
Ribchester was as rich as any town
Little is known about post Roman
Ribchester although the presence of
St. Wilfrid's Church indicates that it retained some significance.
When Henry VIII's antiquary visited
Ribchester in the 1540s he
described it thus: "Ribchestre ... hath been an auncient towne.
Great squarid stones, voultes and antique coynes be found there".
When, a short while later, William Camden, author of Britannia (1586),
visited the village, he recorded the saying that starts this section.
That the site of the Roman fort remained the focus of the village is
indicated by the later building of St. Wilfrid's Church very nearly
over the Principia or headquarters area of the Roman camp. The
church's website provides a detailed history of both St. Wilfrid's and
St Saviour's Church, which stands in the nearby settlement of Stydd
and which is perhaps a remnant of a Knights Templar or Knights
In the 17th and 18th centuries the village became, like many in East
Lancashire, a centre for cotton weaving. Initially in the homes of the
weavers and latterly in two mills (Bee Mill and Corporation Mill)
built on Preston Road on the northern edge of the village.
In 1838 William Howitt published his Rural Life of England, in which
he described conditions in the weaving districts of East Lancashire.
"Everywhere extend wild, naked hills, in many places totally
un-reclaimed, in others enclosed, but exhibiting all the signs of
neglected spiritless husbandry ... Over these naked and desolate
hills are scattered to their very tops, in all directions, the
habitations of a swarming population of weavers ... In Ribchester
our chaise was pursued by swarms of [these] wooden-shod lads like
swarms of flies and were only beaten off for a moment to close in upon
you again, and their sisters showed equally the extravagance of
rudeness in which they were suffered to grow up, by running out of the
houses as we passed and poking mops and brushes at the horses heads.
No one attempted to restrain or rebuke them; yet no one of the adult
population offered you the least insult; and if you asked the way,
gave you the most ready directions, and if you went into their houses,
treated you with perfect civility and showed an affection for these
little brats that was honourable to their hearts and wanted only
directing by a better intelligence. The uncouthness of these poor
people is not that of evil disposition, but of pressing poverty and
The weaving of cotton and other textiles continued in
the 1980s, when the last weaving business closed in Bee Mill. The mill
now houses several small to medium-sized businesses.
The parish was part of
Preston Rural District throughout its existence
from 1894 to 1974. In 1974 the parish became part of Ribble Valley.
The village is situated at the foot of
Longridge Fell and on the banks
of the River Ribble. The solid geography is of thick boulder clay
deposits from the
River Ribble over
Sabden Shale. The area around the
village shows signs of the river having moved with obvious terracing
caused by the meanders.
River Ribble is prone to extreme spates and this often leads to
Ribchester during the winter months.
Ribchester stretch of the River Ribble.
River Ribble in full spate.
The Office for National Statistics gives the following land use for
Ribchester ward.
In 2000 the
Ribchester Millennium Projects Committee marked the
millennium with the publication of a book entitled Ribchester: A
Millennium Record. Its main aim was to record events during 2000 but
as an adjunct to that it carried out a statistical survey of the
The survey, which was conducted in January 2000, collected data from
500 households in the parish of
Ribchester and produced data relating
to 1,244 people. The following demographic data is drawn from this
The 2001 census for the
Ribchester ward gives the following employment
The population taken at the 2011 Census had increased to 1,598.
The two mills that were the mainstay of the village in the early part
of the 20th century are closed. One, Corporation Mill, was demolished
in the 1980s. The other, Bee Mill, is now home to a range of small
There are three public houses in the village: the White Bull, the
Black Bull and the
Ribchester Arms, as well as a sports and social
club that was the working men's club associated with the mills. There
is a small Spar shop, which occupies the site once occupied by the
Co-Operative store, and a tea room.
St. Wilfrid's Church
St Wilfrid's Church.
St. Wilfrid's Church stands by the
River Ribble on what was the centre
of the Roman fort. It is believed to have been founded by St. Wilfrid
in the 8th century.
St. Peter and Paul's Church and
Stydd Alms Houses
Although properly in the neighbouring settlement of Stydd, St. Peter
and Paul's Church is an early barn church. Nearby are alms houses and
the Church of St. Saviour.
White Bull public house
The inn, which dates back to 1707, is a
Grade II listed building
Grade II listed building with
some unique exterior features. It stands on Church Street, in the
middle of the village, and is well known for its portico, which is
said to be supported by two pillars taken from the Roman fort.
Above the portico is a rustic wooden representation of a white bull.
The inn was put up for sale, in January 2017, at an asking price in
excess of £385,000.
The pub was patronised by the members of
Time Team during their
three-day visit to the village in September 1993. The honorary curator
of the village's Roman museum, Jim Ridge, for whom a gallery is named
in his honour, was a former history teacher at Broughton and then
Fulwood High Schools. The back garden of his home, at 2 Church
Street, opposite the primary school, was excavated during the
Weavers' cottages on Church Street
Opposite the White Bull pub are a row of cottages noteworthy for their
unusual configuration of windows. Built for the hand loom weavers they
have three levels with a single window at the uppermost. Although it
is commonly believed that the window in the top level is to illuminate
the looms this may not be the case as the weaving would probably have
been carried out in the lowest part of the house because of the size
of the loom and the need for damp conditions to keep the cotton
Excavated Roman buildings
Adjoining the churchyard of St. Wilfrid's Church are the excavated
remains of the granaries which belonged to the Roman fort. A short
distance east of the village and behind the White Bull pub, are the
remains of the Roman baths.
Sculpture modelled on
Trajan's Column depicting scenes from
Near to St. Wilfrid's Church is the Roman Museum which has recently
been refurbished and remodelled. The museum houses many of the finds
from the Roman fort.
The most famous find, the
Ribchester Helmet, is on show in replica,
but the original is in the
British Museum collection.
Census returns for
Ribchester show that 86.7% of the population
expressed themselves to be Christian with the majority of the
remaining population professing no religion.
There are three places of worship in Ribchester. St. Wilfrid's (which
incorporates St Saviour's, Stydd) is a Church of
England church within
the Diocese of Blackburn. St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in
a Catholic church coming under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford.
There is also the Mission Church.
Sports and recreation
Ribchester is a small community it has a number of local
sports and recreational groups and facilities. Many of these are
focussed on playing fields situated to the west of Church Street
(alongside a lane called Pope's Croft). These were the gift of a
notable local family, the Openshaws.
Ribchester Tennis Club has a
pavilion and two hard tennis courts and two junior courts on the
playing fields. There is a football pavilion which is the headquarters
Ribchester Football Club. The playing fields also hold a large,
well equipped, children's adventure play area.
Ribchester and District Angling Club (RADAC) leases fishing on the
rivers Ribble and Hodder in the surrounding area.
Ribchester Amateur Theatre Society (RATS) performs plays and
pantomimes in the Parochial Church Hall.
Field Day parade turns up Water Street
On the third weekend of June each year the village celebrates its
annual Field Day. Such an event is common to the villages in the area
where they are variously known as Club Days or Gala Days. Field Day
event marked its 50th anniversary in 2010.
May Day Market
Each year the village organises a 'May Day Market' on the Spring Bank
holiday which is the last Monday in May from 7.00am when most of the
village clubs, churches and charitable organisations set up and manage
stalls as a means of raising funds to support their activities through
the year. The market takes place on the 'Bee Mill' site on Preston
Ribchester Festival of Music and Art
Usually held in June each year the festival brings internationally
renowned musicians and performers to
Ribchester for four or five days
of performances. The majority of performances take place in St.
Wilfrid's and St. Saviour's churches with additional events taking
place in the pubs and around the village. It had been announced that
the 2015 festival will be the last to take place but the festival
continued after funding was sourced.
Ribchester Primary School.
St. Wilfrid's Parish Church.
St. Wilfrids' tower.
Interior of St. Wilfrid's Church.
Looking down an alley connecting Church Street (foreground) and Water
Homes on the western side of Church Street.
White Bull public house, one of three in the village.
Palm Sunday parade moving from outside the White Bull pub to St.
Ribchester Fort, built by the 20th Legion.
Ribchester Fort's Roman bath buildings
Listed buildings in Ribchester
^ Haverfield, 1915
^ a b Baines, Edward; Whatton, W. R. (1836). History of the County
Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster. Fisher, Son and Co. p. 20.
^ Preston RD, Vision of Britain, accessed 9 June 2014
^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
^ "About Us" at hewhitebullribchester.co.uk
Time Team episode "On the Edge of an Empire"
^ "Generations will miss 'larger than life' Jim" -
Post, 3 February 2003
Buxton, K. and Howard-Davis, C. (2000) Bremetenacum: excavations at
Ribchester 1980, 1989-1990, Lancaster imprints, no. 9, Lancaster
University Archaeological Unit, ISBN 1-86220-083-1
Haverfield, F. (1915)
Roman Britain in 1914, British Academy
supplemental papers III, Oxford University Press, (Online Text,
Smith, T. C. and Shortt, J (1890) The history of the parish of
Ribchester, in the county of Lancaster, London: Bemrose & sons,
283p (Online Text, American Libraries)
Edwards, B.J.N. (2000) The Romans in Ribchester, Discovery and
Excavation, Centre for North-West Regional Studies, University of
Lancaster, ISBN 1-86220-085-8
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ribchester.
Vindolanda Tablets mentioning
Ribchester Vindolanda Tablets Online
Ribchester Parish Council
Ribchester Local History Society
'The Parish of Ribchester', A History of the County of Lancaster:
Volume 7 (1912), pp. 36-44. British History Web Site
Music for The
Ribchester Bridge Hornpipe
Ribchester Roman Hoard (including Parade Helmet) at the British
Ribchester Conservation Area Appraisal
Geography of the Borough of Ribble Valley
Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley
Billington and Langho
Bowland Forest High
Bowland Forest Low
Centre of Great Britain
Forest of Bowland
Forest of Pendle
Trough of Bowland
Lancashire Witches Walk
Fair Snape Fell