Romans in Rishton

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Part 1, The Romans

Prior to 1850 there was not much recorded about Rishton other than it was a small village situated upon an 18th century turnpike road. It consisted of about 30 houses, a smattering of farms and a few habited hamlets. In total there was a population of approximately 800 people. (See the map from 1848 here).

Ancient Britons dwelt at and named Cunliffe and Dunscar; the Romans camped here en-route for Ribchester, bequeathing us good roads, cheese, the wedding ring and veil, and the funeral wreath. Later it was the turn of the Anglo-Saxons. They erected a wooden hut at Holt, and also at Cowhill and Sidebeat, and leaving us with the name Risc-tun, a strong hold among rushes. The Saxon Lane from Blackburn to Burnley offered an easy approach for the Normans under Gilbert de Lacy, who held the region for the Conqueror.

These things are born out by the Romans not liking the marshes which still surround our town, making it easy for the Ancient Britons to survive in. The Britons who settled at Dunscar must have protected their pass over the hills with the intention of keeping out other warlike tribes in the neighbourhood. Dun meaning protected from foes, and scar, which was added later, meaning a chink, or hill pass. The same is said for Cunliffe, the name meaning "Hard Steep hill".

At the time of the Roman invasion the Britons in our district were known as Brigantes, who lived in Northern swampy lands. They were called Setantii or Segantii by the Romans, meaning dwellers in the water lands. They were also known as Ceruleos, because they stained there bodies with a blue dye! These marsh dwellers never settled down to Roman supremacy, and many times they broke out in rebellion, and took an active part in the most important rebellion during the reign of Emperor Trajan between A. D. 98 - 117. It is highly probable that they gathered together and sacked Roam Ribchester (Bremetonacum), its defenders perishing in its fall. Long before the Romans left in 410 A. D. they had relaxed their grip on the area, and the Setantii gathered again, levelling Ribchester to the ground, setting fire to the Roman villas and temples there. In no other way is it possible to account for the utter desolation of the town, even at the time of the Norman Conquest.

The Romans did much for us, showing us how to make buildings from bricks and stone, and their methods of land cultivation here was so successful that Britain was spoken of as the "Granary of Rome". Our funeral customs are also Roman, the Yew, the sprinkling of dust, and the wreath, even the black clothing. May Day, which we still celebrate, was originally held in honour of Flora, the Roman Goddess of flowers and trees.

It was 200 years after this that the Britons finally fell to the Saxons in 600 A. D., although the Saxons since before the Romans had left. Little is known of Saxon Rishton, documents were not kept like the Romans had detailed, historians having had to rely on war songs and other such stories which were always glorified in favour of the tellers side!


Parish Church and School Jubilee 1927 by Carlton Noble.