The largest standing structures left from Ribchester’s Roman fort are its two granaries located close to the Headquarters building (the Principia). These were enormously important to any Roman outpost, having to hold a year’s worth of grain. One of the officers of the fort would be given the task of monitoring and maintaining the stock.
The Romans called their granaries ‘horrea’ and they were substantial buildings. Both the granaries at Ribchester were just over 100 feet long and the north one was 28 feet wide while its southern counterpart was a little slimmer at almost 22 feet. Their walls were two and a half feet thick and buttressed. The granaries had loading platforms at their east ends to allow the grain to be easily transferred from a cart.
Flag stone floors stood on low support walls and pilae (very small columns) raised them off the ground. This prevented mice and rats from getting into the stores. It also allowed air to circulate and keep the grain cool and moisture free, which prevented spoiling. Stone gutters on the ground would collect rainwater from the tile-covered pitched roofs and move it away from the buildings, again minimizing moisture.
In 1908, an excavation of the granaries discovered a large amount of burnt spelt wheat, some of which is now on display at the museum next door. The dig unearthed charred timbers mixed with roof tiles which lay on top of the burnt grain. Beneath this were collapsed flagstones. The deposit of wheat was two feet thick in places.
It would appear that the granaries had been deliberately burnt, most likely by the Roman garrison before they left for a new posting somewhere else in the country. The Roman army always made sure that a fort and its buildings were put beyond use by any hostile force when they left. They would deliberately destroy their own forts, only to reoccupy them at a later date if the need arose.
Today you can clearly see the remains of the substantial wall foundations, the pillars that supported the granary floor and the gutters that collected the rainwater from the roofs.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2013. This page updated 2019.
Access and Parking
The site if free to visit and is open all year. Entrance is through a gate in the churchyard.
Lots of space available at the town’s car park. Then just head down the street to the parish church.
Nearby, just a few steps away:
Ribchester Roman Museum. This excellent independent museum is open all year round and charges a small entrance fee. It details life before the Romans and during the time the fort was built and occupied by them.
Ribchester Roman Baths. This site is only open April through to October, and is kept locked during the rest of the year. It is free to visit.
St Wilfrid’s Medieval Church A fantastic building, which may well have some Roman pillars in the interior
Just a short walk away:
The Romans at Ribchester: Discovery and Excavations, B.J.N. Edwards (2000) Centre for North-West Regional Studies, University of Lancaster
Ribchester, B.J.N. Edwards (1972) The National Trust
Romans and Britons in North-West England, David Shotter (2004) Centre for North-West Regional Studies, University of Lancaster
On site interpretation board, Ribchester Roman Museum