For the past two decades or so I have been researching the links between Cumbria and North Yorkshire. For most of that time my researches have focused upon Prehistory and the movement of people, objects and beliefs.
In recent years my focus has broadened and I’ve become interested in the post- Roman period, a time when our identity was more about being Northern than being English. With this in mind I decided to return to Cumbria and spend a couple of days travelling around the Eden Valley.
On trips like this I can never completely detach myself from Prehistory but I consciously decided to limit the megalithic sites to a couple and loosely focus upon looking for remnants from the post-Roman period onwards.
The journey started at the western foot of the Stainmore Pass at Brough. For me, Brough has always been the gatekeeper of the Eden valley. The Romans recognised the strategic value of the site and built a large fort there called Verteris, later in the 11th century the Normans chose to build a castle on the Roman site. When seen from the A66 the ruined castle of Brough is generally my first glimpse of the red sandstone of the Eden valley.
St Michaels Church Brough
In the bible, Michael the archangel was Gods’ General, leading the forces of heaven in the fight against Satan. It is fitting that the a church built within the confines of a ‘pagan’ roman fort should be dedicated to him. Perhaps the site was once occupied by a Roman temple and continued to be used by local people until the arrival of Christianity. The current church was founded in 12th century and has undergone a number of improvements in the years since.
There are many masons marks on the exterior walls of the church. Most of them are in the form of a crossed ‘Z’. I am guessing that the stones as they were quarried and were marked with the orientation of the cross indicating how the stone should be aligned, but this is only a guess.
Built into the wall of the porch of the church are a number of large cross slabs and a tribute to the Roman commander of the fort. The stone was found in 1880 during building work to the church. The inscription translates as For the Emperor Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus and for Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caesar … in the consulship of Lateranus and Rufinus.
The Brough Stone – A Roman tribute, written in Greek, to a young Syrian who died a long way from home.
A lovely Norman arch
A possible Celtic/Romano-British carved head and a hexafoil, a symbol of purity that has been used elsewhere as a folk-magic symbol of protection.
Andy Goldsworthy has built one of his beautiful Cone Pinfolds in the grounds of the local school.