Were there Romans in Slingsby?

[This article by Margaret Mackinder appeared in the December 2015 issue of the Triangle]

Were there Romans at Slingsby? 

This was the question discussed by Slingsby School children in their local history assembly in the summer as part of their wider study of Roman Britain.

Slingsby sits on the route of what is thought to be a Roman road leading from Malton westwards to Hovingham, and eventually to Boroughbridge. Archaeologists now think that many of the previously named Roman roads probably follow the routes of earlier trackways.  ‘The Street’ as we know it, does bear many of the classic features which the Romans favoured; that is being sited in an elevated position, but on the brow rather than on the ridge and keeping to a straight route.

The Romans were very active in this area of Yorkshire. In easy contact with the  coast, Malton was an important garrison town, one of only two towns in the country to be continually in use over the four centuries of Roman occuppied Britain, although it was rebuilt and strengthened several times.  A significant Roman town or ‘vicus’ grew up to the south of the hill fort, with a connecting crossing of the River Derwent.  South of the river, a large variety of service industries such as metal, leatherworking and pottery, as well as small food producing industries needed to service the army and its followers extended the settlement southwards over the area occuppied by present day Norton.

Nearer to Slingsby there are the buried remains of a large and important villa at Hovingham, and record of a marching  / training camp at Wath.  Troops would have marched westwards to Aldborough near Boroughbridge then northwards to Cataractonium, modern day Catterick.  The nearby Roman road would have been very busy, and at times noisy!  This might not be good, the school children thought, particularly as soldiers, however well disciplined, might at times be badly behaved and rowdy.

Living near such a road could have advantages too. A well made track to Malton (Roman name Derventio, although this name has now been questioned) would be useful, leading to a ready market for surplus crops and meat animals to supply the army. In return there would be access to some of the many new fruits,vegetables and other products introduced by the Romans.

Evidence continues to emerge through crop marks and analysis of airial photos, that small anglo-roman farm settlements, developed from iron age settlements alongside Roman roads. Faint lines visible from the air indicate a number of small ‘ ladder’ settlements as these farm groupings were known, because of their layout, along the route of The Street, particularly where water supplies were more readily available. There are indications that there was at least one on the east side of Slingsby, with a trackway connecting it directly to the road.

So yes, very likely there were Romans living at Slingby, but that was more than five hundred years before the Viking Danish Danish settlement of Selungesbi or Eslingesbi gave its name to the present village.

Margaret Mackinder