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Aerial view of Ribchester.jpg
Aerial view of Ribchester
Grid reference: SD649353
Location: 53°48’47"N, 2°31’55"W
Population: 1,598  (2011)
Post town: Preston
Postcode: PR3
Dialling code: 01254
Local Government
Council: Ribble Valley
Ribble Valley

Ribchester is a village in Lancashire, on the banks of the River Ribble six miles north-west of Blackburn and twelve miles east of Preston.

The village has a long history with evidence of Bronze Age settlement, but its Roman origin makes it famous. This is a significant Roman site, being the location of a cavalry fort called Bremetennacum, some parts of which have been exposed by excavation. A major Roman road ran through here.

In common with many towns and villages in eastern Lancashire, Ribchester's history in the modern age 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 commuter village for those working in the cities of the county: Blackburn, Preston and even Manchester.

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.


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's having moved, with obvious terracing caused by the meanders.

The River Ribble is prone to extreme spates and this often leads to flooding in Ribchester during the winter months.


The earliest evidence of occupation in Ribchester is from the Bronze Age.

Roman history

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 XX 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 remained at Ribchester until the 4th century AD and its remains can still be seen around the present village.

Plan of the principia at Ribchester Fort

A report on Roman remains at Ribchester was published in Roman Britain in 1914 (Haverfield, 1915):

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, the latter dimension including a verandah 8 feet wide. This again seems a reasonable result. Ribchester was a large fort, about 6 acres, garrisoned by cavalry; in a similar fort at Chesters, on Hadrian's Wall, the Principia measured 85 × 125 feet: in the 'North Camp' at Camelon, another fort of much the same size (nearly 6 acres), they measured 92 × 120 feet.

The most famous artefact discovered in Ribchester, and dating from the Roman period, is the "Ribchester Helmet", an 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 St Wilfrid's Church in Ribchester, and near a river bed.[1] 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.[1] The hoard was thought to have been stored in a wooden box and consisted of the corroded remains of a number of items but the largest was this helmet. The hoard was sold to the British Museum by the cousin of Charles Towneley.

Post-Roman and modern ages

Church Street, Ribchester

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 local saying:

It is written upon a wall in Rome; Ribchester was as rich as any town in Christendom.

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. St Saviour's Church in the nearby settlement of Stydd is perhaps a remnant of a Knights Templar or Knights Hospitallers establishment.[2]

In the 17th and 18th centuries the village became, like many in 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 eastern 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 continued neglect'

The weaving of cotton and other textiles continued in Ribchester until the 1980s when the last weaving business closed in Bee Mill. The mill now houses several small to medium sized businesses.


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 businesses.

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 shop, which occupies the site once occupied by the Co-Operative store and a tea room.


St Wilfrid's Church
  • Church of England:
    • St Wilfrid's
    • St Saviour's, Stydd
  • Mission Church
  • Roman Catholic: St Peter and St Paul, Stydd

Sights of the village

St Wilfrid's Church

Interior of 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.

Ribchester's history, modelled on Trajan's Column

Millennium Sculpture Garden

Portico of the White Bull

To celebrate the opening of the Third Millennium, the Millennium Sculpture Park was created in Ribchester, as a community project. Four sculptures, created by sculptor Fiona Bowley, are set in a garden leading from Church Street into the village's playing field.

The sculptures all reflect aspects of Ribchester life and history; they comprise: a sun dial, a column (modelled on Trajan's column in Rome) showing aspects of Ribchester history, a celebration of local myths and tales ('The Pig, the Ribber and the Devil') and finally a piece celebrating Ribchester's community spirit. (The column base has since been replaced following damage caused by poor quality in the original stone.)

White Bull public house

The White Bull inn, now closed, dates back to 1707 and is a Grade II listed building with some unique exterior features.[3]

The White Bull 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.[4] Above the portico is a rustic wooden representation of a white bull. The pub was patronised by the members of Time Team during their three-day visit to the village in September 1993.

Weavers' cottages

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 flexible.

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.

Roman Museum

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.

Ribchester Bridge

Two miles upstream of Ribchester lies Ribchester Bridge. Rebuilt in the 1770s, after severe flooding damaged it, the bridge gives it name to a hornpipe published by a Thomas Marsden in his Collection of Original Lancashire Hornpipes, Old and New, issued in 1705.

Sports and recreation

Although 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 of 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

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. The event consists, on the Saturday, of a parade of decorated floats and fancy dress classes around the village. Led by local brass bands the parade makes its way to playing fields at the side of the village where marquees and stalls provide entertainment for villagers and visitors and a location for art and craft competitions. Many streets in the village close themselves off at the end of the afternoon and have street parties. On the Sunday afternoon a village tea party takes place in the marquee.

The Field Day event marked its 50th anniversary in 2010.

May Day Market

The 'May Day Market' is held on the Spring Bank holiday which is the last Monday in May from 7.00am. 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 Road.

Ribchester Festival of Music and Art

Usually held in June each year, the Ribchester Festival of Music and Art 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.


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Ribchester)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Baines, Edward; Whatton, W. R. (1836). History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster. Fisher, Son and Co. p. 20. https://books.google.com/books?id=Xt4HAAAAQAAJ. 
  2. St Wilfrid's and St Saviour's
  3. The White Bull, Ribchester
  4. Time Team episode "On the Edge of an Empire"
  • The Parish of Ribchester A History of the County of Lancaster - Volume pp36-44: {{{2}}} (Victoria County History)
  • Buxton, K. and Howard-Davis, C. (2000) Bremetenacum: excavations at Roman 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, Project Gutenburg)
  • 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