Spectacular views from this hill top site leave you in little doubt as to why it was chosen for a Roman signal station. Today you can look north to see Ribchester, site of a Roman fort. Looking south the Romans would have been able to keep their eye on the countryside surrounding their road that ran through modern day Blackburn and on past Darwen. This Roman road was built to connect Ribchester Roman fort with the one in Manchester.
An excavation of the signal station site in the 1950s revealed some stone walls, although the central tower would have been wooden. A construction date of 79 AD was given implying it was built soon after the Roman invasion of north west England . The building was surrounded by a ditch and bank, the ditch was one a half metres deep, the bank a little over half a metre high. The tower would have signalled using fire or smoke.
There have been other Roman finds in the area. A Roman altar was found in 1874 and a second one was found in 1988 by workmen engaged in hedging and ditch clearance.
Reaching the top of Mellor Moor today there is little left to see of the site, despite the Ordnance Survey map having “Earthworks” marked on it prominently. If you aim for the trig point and then look around, with the eye of faith perhaps you will see a raised area and a shallow bank and ditch, if the grass is low and the light is right. Or perhaps not ! English Heritage describe the earthworks as a raised platform 19 metres by 10 metres, surrounded by a faint trace of a ditch and a faint trace of a bank beyond that. Years of ploughing have eroded the features, making it hard to discern much.
All that said, the site is well worth a visit and not only for the views of the countryside around. “A good site is a good site” and you will immediately notice that it has been used in more recent history. A short distance from the trig point are the above ground remains of a Royal Observer Corps monitoring post, which would have been used to measure nuclear fallout if the Cold War had ever turned hot. For more details on this site, and similar ones in Lancashire, have a look at www.lancashireatwar.co.uk which is one of our other historical websites. Next to the monitoring post is a modern circular panoramic viewing platform, with villages, towns and hills marked on and their distances away, so enjoy your Roman viewpoint !
Parking: Park at Mellor Village Hall. To reach the site, walk up Mellor Lane , straight over the cross roads and turn left into the field following the public footpath. Head for the top of the hill which is marked by a trig point. The West Pennine Moors Explorer map has the site clearly marked and it’s recommended that you take a copy with you.
English Heritage: www.pastscape.org (accessed 20/10/13)
Journeys Through Brigantia, Volume Eleven, Circular Walks in The East Lancashire Pennines, 2003, John Dixon and Jaana Jarvinen, Aussteiger Publications