ILKLEY

(Verbeia/Olicana/Morbium)

  Quality of Remains  
  Ease of Access
  Atmosphere & Setting

History:

Though long thought to be the Olicana entry in Ptolemy's Geography, this has now been dismissed in favour of either Verbeia, the name taken from an altar stone found at Ilkley and possibly referring to a local river-associated deity or the Morbium entry in the Notitia Dignitatum. Despite the apparent existence of an early Flavian or Agricolan fort, the earliest evidence of a fort in Ilkley is from the latter half of the 2nd Century. The size of the fort suggests its construction to house a 500-strong infantry Cohort. Inscriptions found indicate that Verbeia was occupied around 155 AD and in the Severan period (193-212 AD), at which time repair work was carried out. Coins and pottery evidence tell us that the early undiscovered fort was occupied throughout the time of Trajan and that the final form of Verbeia remained manned until at least 378 AD.

Occupation:

A 500-strong infantry Cohort of Lingones occupied Ilkley during the 2nd Century. If Ilkley is indeed the suggested Morbium (a name that has been tentatively associated with a number of places, including Piercebridge) then during the late 4th Century, Britain's only Cataphract was based here. A cataphract unit consisted of horses and their riders both covered almost head to foot in armour (much like the mounted Norman Knight of the early middle ages.) This was a type of unit Rome had fought against under the Parthians and later adopted. Although Cataphracts are noted throughout the late Empire, only one is shown in Britain, stationed at Morbium.

Remains and Visit:

Though the fort platform is very pronounced at the northern end, the only visible remains consist of the consolidated west wall of the fort behind the Manor House Museum. The museum itself covers all periods of Ilkley's history and serves also as an art gallery, but the small collection of Roman finds from the town is interesting in itself. The site and the museum are both free, though the museum asks for donations.

Images:

West Wall North Wall Oil Lamp Tombstone Aerial view
West Wall
North Wall
Lamp in museum
Tombstone in museum
Aerial view (c/o Google Earth)