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What did the Romans ever do for Dorset?

In partnership with English Heritage, the Forestry Commission has undertaken a major restoration project which has revealed a hidden archaeological treasure, previously hidden in Dorset.

By clear felling a plantation of Norway Spruce fir trees in Puddletown Forest, near Dorchester, the Forestry Commission has painstakingly uncovered a very remarkable section of ancient Roman road. The 26 metre-wide road is a combination of a central cobbled ‘street’, which would have been used for rapid troop movements, and an outer ‘droving’ road for livestock. It is thought the road is part of the Ackling Dyke Roman Road, built in the early 1st Century to link Old Sarum (the original Salisbury) with the Roman fort at Exeter.

Pete Wilson, Head of Research Policy (Roman Archaeology) at English Heritage commented:
‘Roman roads were built in support of the military and civilian administration of a newly conquered province. The well-preserved length surviving at Puddletown Forest pays eloquent testimony to the power and determination of the Romans to consolidate their new territory. The scale and solidity of their work have allowed the road to survive the 1600 years since the end of Roman Britain’.

Laurence Degoul, the Forestry Commission’s Wareham-based Forester observed: ‘We are delighted with the results of this project. Work started last winter and we should see the final clearing of any remaining brash, plus the erection of some simple signage, imminently. Everyone involved – including our timber harvesting contractor Euroforest – has worked incredibly hard to ensure the archaeological significance of the area could be fully restored for local people to enjoy. We are thrilled that local people can now find echoes of the Roman Empire and its engineering prowess hidden amongst the unassuming trees of Puddletown Forest!’

Ulverston Laurel and Hardy Museum

The world-famous Laurel and Hardy Museum at Ulverston in Cumbria has moved to new larger premises on the stage of the art deco Roxy Cinema in Brogden Street. Ulverston (then in Lancashire) was the birthplace of Stan Laurel and they still celebrate his association with the town with enthusiasm, an enthusiasm which they share with visitors from all over the world.

News from Millom Heritage Museum

Millom Heritage Museum and Visitor Centre at Millom Railway Station, Cumbria, now sells Rail tickets both from their new Ticket Office and Phone Booking Service. Commission earned from sales helps keep the Museum open. Millom Folk Museum Society was founded in 1973 as a means of preserving the heritage of Millom’s Iron Industry. Find out more at www.millom or by calling 01229 772555.

Oxfam’s Bookfest needs you!

Bookfest is the largest community-based book festival in the UK. Now in its third year, the two-week festival will run from 02-17 July, and feature more than 300 book-related events, which will take place in Oxfam bookshops and regular Oxfam shops around the country. This year many of the Bookfest events will have a local history theme, including special window displays, talks by local history experts and authors, and events for children. And Oxfam is appealing for anyone with an interest in local history to get involved.

Oxfam shops are already popular with local history enthusiasts who know that the shops can be treasure troves for books about local history as well as rare and unusual historical books. Collectable books found in Oxfam shops over the past year included Cary’s New Map of England and Wales with Part of Scotland (1794), and XXI Welsh Gypsy Folk Tales, collected by John Sampson, (Gregynog Press). And in 2004 the diary of a teenage girl from Bristol who was writing her diary during the winter of 1925 was donated to the Cotham Hill Oxfam shop in Bristol. Many Oxfam shops are appealing for donations of books specifically related to the history of their local area, and during the Bookfest fortnight plan to offer shoppers an even greater choice of books related to local history – many of which it would be impossible to find in regular shops.

As well as appealing for book donations, the Oxfam shops planning local history-related Bookfest events are keen for local history aficionados to get involved with the events themselves. Shop managers would love anyone with knowledge of the history of the local area to take part by giving talks on local history in the shop, or guided historical walks in the area. Anyone interested in being part of the events should contact their local Oxfam shop - see: to find your nearest Oxfam shop.

Lisa Milner the Oxfam Shop Area Manager for Shropshire Staffordshire and Worcestershire says that at least two thirds of the twenty three shops in her area are planning to hold local history themed events during the Bookfest fortnight, and more shops are signing up to the idea every day. Lisa says: ‘Books related to local history always sell brilliantly in our shops and I am really excited that so many of our shops are taking up this theme for Bookfest. We would love anyone who has an interest in local history to talk to their local shop manager about potentially getting involved with the events which will be taking place during the Bookfest fortnight, as well as donating any unwanted books to the shop.’

Clair Davison, manager of the Oxfam Bookshop in Market Harborough, Leicestershire is planning to focus on local history during Bookfest and says that the shop is already collecting books in preparation for the two week festival. Claire said: ‘there are many people with a real passion for local history in our area, especially as we are so close to Kibworth, the village at the centre of the recent BBC2 series History of England. We are planning to have a massive window display featuring books related to the history of the area, and would like anyone who is interested in promoting local history through Bookfest or donating books to get in touch with the shop’.

Oxfam has more than 130 specialist bookshops and sells books in nearly all of its 686 shops.
Oxfam hopes that this year’s Bookfest will generate more than £400,000 in additional book sales which will help fund the charity’s life changing work around the world. For more information about Bookfest see:

Lancashire village tradition preserved

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded £3,900 to “Action for Ulnes Walton” to support the re-instatement of a medieval stone prayer cross in the village of Ulnes Walton.

The project will tell the story of rural wayside crosses which marked the routes of prayer and coffin trails. This fascinating tradition, common to many old rural parishes, offered strategic points to allow prayer gatherings and resting places for pall bearers on their way to the parish church.

The balance of funding for the £4,400 project will be provided by Chorley Council’s Neighbourhood Initiative.

Ulnes Walton is a small parish just north east of Croston near Leyland in Lancashire and is known to date from Viking times.

In the past the people of Ulnes Walton, and the surrounding Parishes, depended for its spiritual needs upon the church of St Michael and All Angels at Croston. This is known to have existed in 1075 as a stone structure probably replacing an older wooden church and is approximately three miles away from the centre of Ulnes Walton.

Ulnes Walton had within its boundaries wayside stone crosses. These were plain, basic, monuments which, unfortunately, have been lost for many years, although the bases remain and are marked on the ordnance survey map.

One stood by the River Lostock at the crossroads of Ulnes Walton Lane and Holker Lane and was probably used as a preaching point by the Dominican Friars in Medieval times.

The stone Latin cross probably replaced an earlier wooden one in about 1300AD and may, itself, have been replaced several times.

The project will be based on a design of that time, and will site the cross and base at the Old School in Ulnes Walton Lane approximately 100m from its origin. The original base, classed as an ancient monument, cannot be moved and is now hidden by the stone parapet of Ulnes Walton Bridge.

Local schools will be providing contributions to fill a time capsule which will be buried beneath the cross.

Sara Hilton, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “The placement of stone crosses along prayer and coffin trails is a fascinating tradition, and offers a real insight into the history of village life. We are delighted that this project will enable more people to learn about and get directly involved in exploring their local heritage.”

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21 March 2011