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THE CHORLEY HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY

Extracts from the local press
Notes from the Archives

Article from Chorley Guardian, Feb, 2,1924.
HISTORICAL SOCIETY
THE ROMAN OCCUPATION OF BRITAIN.

Arranged by the Chorley Historical Society, a lantern lecture took place in St Georges' Street School on Thursday evening, when Mr. Donald Atkinson B. A. of Manchester University, was the lecturer, his subject being on "The Civilisation of Roman Britain" In the absence of Sir Henry F. Hibbert Bart., the Rev. C.T. Porteus presided.

The lecture began with a short sketch of the condition of the country at the time of the Conquest. The lecturer showed that the natives were by no means the blue painted heathens they have sometimes been supposed, but had already acquired a considerable degree of civilisation. This he illustrated by references to their towns, their coinage and the admirable art with which they decorated their weapons and utensils. Under the Romans, Britain might be divided into two parts - the Northern hill country and the plains of the Midlands the East and the South. The former region was occupied only in a military sense, the chief characteristics of which were described, the frontier defended by the continuous barrier of Hadrianís Wall, the strategic points south of it held by forts, garrisoned by long service troops, connected by a network of roads.

Behind this strong defensive system, the Southern area for three centuries enjoyed a security and peace unequalled in England for fifteen hundred years. The Roman soldier was here as rare a sight as the British soldier in the years before 1914. In this area the spread of Roman civilisation was rapid and considerable. The lecturer quoted a passage from the biography written by the Historian, Tacitus, of his father in law, Agricola, who was governor of Britain from 78 to 85 A.D., describing the efforts he made to civilise the natives, and proceeded to illustrate from archaeological discoveries the correctness of this contemporary statement. He described successively the development of towns similar to those in other provinces and in Italy, the growth of a municipal organisation in them, and houses both in towns and in the country, with heating arrangements, mosaic floors, glazed windows and frescoed walls which imitated with success arrangements common in Italy, and provided a reasonable degree of comfort, or even luxury. Even villages in the heart of the county copied, in a humble way, these foreign improvements. In fact, the whole of the material environment of life in Britain was perfected with the advanced cultures developed in previous countries in the Mediterranean area.

That this culture was not confined to merely material aspects was illustrated by examples showing the spread of the use of Latin. This was shown to have been used not only by the upper classes in towns, or for official purposes, but by the lower classes and the country folk, whose idle scribblings where chance has preserved them, are exclusively in Latin, as for instance, the remark of a bricklayer who scratched on a tile found in London " Augustalis is always going off on his own for a fortnight" On the other hand, the continued use of Celtic in the West, after then end of the Roman period showed that the native language was still used, perhaps most often in the domestic circle, and in remote country districts throughout the period.

In asking the Rev. P.J.Kirkby to move a vote of thanks to the lecturer, the Chairman said that their expectation of a good lecture was fulfilled, for the speaker had shown them some entirely new aspects of the Roman occupation, and that their Roman forefathers had not been absolute savages.
The Rev.P. J. Kirkby said that the lecture had really been a liberal education in itself and had been altogether delightful. Cllr. J. Baxendale seconded. And the motion was carried unanimously.

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