48-79

48-79. Manchester
The first  glimpse of historical Manchester is as a Roman military station. The castrum was situated on a tongue of land formed by a curve of the river Medlock, which  approached nearest to the fortress at the southern angle of the latter, from which it was distant about 85ft., forming a defence on the south-western side, a partial one on the south-eastern, and a more distant one on the north-western. The river Irwell, running north and south, approaches nearest to the castrum opposite its western angle, from which it is distant about 528 yards, the junction of the Medlock with it occurring some 130 yards lower down. This proximity of the Irwell, and the intervention of a morass between it and the castrum, proved a second line of defence to the latter on its north-western side. The fortress occupied a slightly-elevated plateau, which had a gentle slope towards the south.  In shape it was a parallelogram, the angles of which almost exactly faced the cardinal points. The north-eastern and south-western sides measured 490ft. in length, and the north-western and south-eastern sides 440ft., thus giving an area of about five acres.  Whether a British post occupied the site previously to the advent of the Romans is a problem which can hardly now be solved." Such is the description given by Mr. W. Thompson Watkin in his Roman Loncashire. The Rev. John Whitaker 'unhesitatingly asserts that there was a British fortress, to which he gives the name of Mancenion, but there is no certain evidence either of the place or the name before the Roman conquest. The date of the foundation of Manchester is also uncertain, but it can be fixed within comparatively narrow limits.  The Brigantes - the tribe to whom this district would belong - were subjugated by the Pro-praetor Petilius Cerealis, A.D. 71-75.  It is known the lead mines of North Wales were worked as early an A.D. 74, and that Chester and the roads to it from Manchester, by Northwich, and to Warrington, by Frodsham, &c., were then in existence.  Mr. Watkin observes, "As the former of these roads would scarcely be made to Northwich only, we may safely assume that it was continued on to Manchester and thus that Mancunium was in existence in A.D. 74. Indeed, it is possible that Ostorius, who in A.D. 48 subdued the Cangi and put down a revolt of the Brigantes, may have founded Manchester at this juncture.  The recorded inscriptions show that the First Cohort of the Frisiavones, who are regarded as the auxiliaries of the Twentieth Legion, were engaged in the construction of the castrurn.  The Frisii came from the district now known as Friesland, and from the north and west of the Zuyder Zee. An ingenious attempt has been made in recent years to show that the language of these Roman auxiliaries has had a permanent effect on the dialect of South Lancashire. The Third Bracarian Cohort is also believed to have been stationed at Manchester.  A fragment of the Roman wall still remains, and, by the care of the late Lord Francis Egerton, was covered with a wooden shed at the foot of one of the large piers of the Altrincham Railway Viaduct.  Its preservation is provided for by deed. There was an altar to Fortuna Conservatrix - "Fortune the Preserver."   (Hollinworth, p. 16.)  Another altar shows that at one time the garrison consisted of a vexillation of Rhaetii and Norici-Swiss and Tyrolese. A fine miniature statue of Jupiter Stator, a small cross, perhaps an indication of early Christianity, and a variety of smaller objects and coins, have from time to time been unearthed.  These evidences of Roman occupation are fully described and discussed by Mr. Thompson Watkin in his Roman Lancashire where many of them are illustrated. It will be seen that there is a probability that Manchester came under the Roman power by the agency of Petilius Cerealis, but it may not have been until the later campaigns of Agricola, whose progress by the woods and estuaries - special charac­teristics of Lancashire - is expressly mentioned by Tacitus in his narrative ot the march by which the great general alarmed and terrified the Brigantes, and subdued such communities as had still preserved their independence.  The building of Mancunium would not therefore be later than A.D. 79, whilst it may have been as early as A.D. 48. Agricola, if we may trust Tacitus, had the wisdom of a statesman as well as the valour of a soldier. The winter after his conquest he began the task of civilising the conquered tribes, by teaching them the art of constructing houses and temples, by imparting to the sons of the native chieftains an acquaintance with liberal sciences and a knowledge of the Latin tongue. Thus they learned to imitate the manners, speech, and dress of the dominant race. (7)