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Great Days Out
Castlefield Guide

(£) Castlefield For Free
 by Jonathan Schofield

White Lion Pub Start point outside White Lion pub, off Liverpool Road.

Directly ahead from the pub you will see the reconstruction of the gateway to the Roman fort. The fort was founded by General Agricola on campaign in the north of England about AD79 - the year of the eruption of Vesuvius and its smothering of Pompeii. The site was occupied for nearly four hundred years and was strategically placed on a bluff between the Rivers Irwell and Medlock. The Irwell was navigable and much of the supplies for the fort would have come up the river. The fort was also the focal point for at least six major roads, so already Manchester was the obvious central choice for north-western communications.

Roman Fort A local community grew up to the north of the fort and became a busy trading centre. You can see some of the foundations of this village uncovered near the White Lion pub. According to one historian, D.C. Shotter, this was the early sin city, full of brothels and bars, " the soldiers required a nightlife too; this will have been catered for in the (civilian village). It is perhaps not surprising that the Manchester excavation revealed evidence of heavy drinking." So AD178 or AD1998, nothing changes. Some of the earliest evidence of a Christian community in Britain has also been found here.

The Victorians believed the name of the fort was Mancenion which it pleased the vanity of some to imagine came from a virile, masculine city; a place of men. Actually the real name, Mamucium, appears to refer to a city of something else as it translates as "breast shaped hill". The modern city name comes directly from this early apellation as does the term for a local citizen; a Mancunian. ( By the way, Castlefield refers to the ruins of the Roman fort people saw in the fields outside their medieval town; the Castle-in-the-field.) The site of Mamucium was mostly destroyed when our ancestors rammed two canals and four railway viaducts through the site. In a peculiar doublethink the engineers whilst destroying the Roman ruins put castellated turrets on their viaduct piers to remind us of the fort.

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