Wednesday 12th January 2022
106 Duke Street, Manchester, M3 4RU
After having covid over Christmas and just being generally busy, I decided to go out for a walk. I was aiming to do something easy, just a stroll along the Bridgewater canal and researching its history. However, I discovered so much more than expected.
I got the 192 bus into town and walked through the city for about 20 minutes until I got to the canal. I passed Lock 91, which was where I had my work Christmas party. Later I found Lock 92, and it hurt my brain a bit trying to figure out how many locks there are and where they might be! I passed under and over some impressive bridges, and spotted some very pretty canal boats.
While I was walking along the water I saw a sign pointing to several different locations, but the one that caught my attention was the Roman fort. Now, I don’t mind admitting that I felt pretty silly not knowing that there was a Roman fort in Manchester until that moment. I immediately headed in that direction to see what I could find, and I was pretty impressed! I believe most of the fort is a reconstruction, but it was very interesting to walk around and I found some great views from the top. I spent some time in the garden below where there were some restored Roman foundations and information about Mamucium, as it was originally called.
Once I had had a good nosey around the fort, I made my way back to the canal. I did get a bit lost in deciding which side of the water I wanted to walk on, some of the bridge connections were quite confusing. Finally, I found a path to follow heading in the direction of Old Trafford. Despite being cold, it was a nice day which ended in an amazing sunset, so naturally I took many photos. At around 16:30 it started to get a bit dark and I started to get a bit chilly so I turned back. It was very invigorating to go out for what I thought would be a simple walk, and ended up uncovering an ancient history!
I forgot to start recording at the beginning of my walk, so the route on OS maps starts near Mamucium and is called ‘Bridgewater canal and Roman fort’. It was moderate in difficulty, and the distance recorded is 1.28km, but I estimate I did quite a lot more than that. I walked for about 2 hours, also the route on the app doesn’t show any part walking down the canal, so unfortunately I think that was missed off.
Mamucium Roman fort first began being constructed in 79AD. It had two other major reconstruction points in 160AD and 200AD. Before the second round of construction, the original Mamucium was actually demolished before it was built back up.
There is more than one idea of what Mamucium means. The first is that it references a ‘breast like hill’, where ‘mamm’ means ‘breast’. The second is that it’s referring to a local river goddess, where ‘mama’ means ‘mother’. Regardless of which theory is correct, it looks like Mamucium had some feminine inspiration.
Mamucium was a base for a Roman auxiliary cohort. Soldiers who were part of an auxiliary were not usually Roman citizens, but they could gain citizenship after doing their time for 25 years. Roman citizens could join legionary cohorts, and were paid better than auxiliaries. One reason why the Romans created a system to employ non-citizens, was so they could make use of the local skills of the people they conquered. However, they wouldn’t deploy them locally, presumably to avoid a clash of loyalties.
Surrounding Mamucium was a civilian settlement known as a vicus. These were made up of the families of auxiliary soldiers, and merchants. Apparently Mamucium was quite cosmopolitan in the Roman world and attracted people from all over. It really sounded like during the few hundred years that it was occupied, this settlement had a thriving economy.
Links to the history of the site are at the bottom of the post.