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Roman Lead Ingot

Photograph of a lead ingot on display in a museum case

Ancient Roman lead ingot. © Skipton Town Hall

Date AD 81

A lead ingot mined by the Romans and found on Heyshaw Moor.


Where did the ingot come from?

An ingot is a block of pure metal that has been cast in a particular shape to make it easier to transport and trade.

People have been mining lead in Craven for thousands of years. This ingot was most likely mined by the ancient Romans in the area around Greenhow Hill near Pateley Bridge. Lead mining continued in that area until the mid-20th century.

The ingot was found in 1735 by a local farmer whose horse stumbled over a hole on Heyshaw Moor. Two ingots were found at the same time, and one was donated to the British Museum in 1772. The other one was kept at Ripley Castle for a time before eventually coming to Craven Museum in 2021.

The ingot is very heavy, weighing 70kg and there are only a handful of ingots of a similar style that have been found across Britain.

A photograph of a wooden spade mounted in a museum case.

An oak lead mining spade believed to be Roman, that was found at Greenhow Hill. © Skipton Town Hall

Photograph of a Roman coin mounted in a museum display.

A coin showing the head of the Roman Emperor Domitian. It dates from around AD 81. © Skipton Town Hall

What is inscribed on the ingot?

The ingot has a long inscription on the top, and one on the side. The long inscription reads: ‘IMP CAES DOMITIANO AUG COS VII’. This means that the ingot was cast when Emperor Domitian had been consul seven times. This allows us to date the ingot very accurately to the second half of AD 81.

The short inscription on the side of the ingot reads: ‘BRIG’. This refers to the Brigantes, who were the British tribe that lived in Craven at the time. The lead for this ingot was mined in their land.

What can the ingot tell us?

When the Romans first came to northern England, the Brigantes’ Queen Cartimandua cooperated with them, probably to avoid military conflict with the advanced Roman forces. However, by AD 81, Cartimandua had been overthrown, and the Brigantes had become hostile to the Romans. It was likely that they had to guard the lead mines at Greenhow Hill heavily.

The Romans went to great lengths to continue mining lead from Craven. It was a very important resource to them, as they used it to build aqueducts and plumbing systems across the Empire. The ingot shows us one of the reasons why the Romans came to Craven, and why they kept fighting local Britons in order to stay there.

Photograph of the side of the ingot showing 'BRIG' inscription.

The side of the lead ingot showing the 'BRIG' inscription. © Skipton Town Hall