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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
I know I said I'd sworn off this thread, but since things are a bit quiet around here... [Image: wink.png]

I was in the British Museum last week, and happened to notice one of the exhibits. Most of you will know it - a bronze Coolus E helmet. What caught my attention was the information card: found during the digging of the Grand Junction canal between Tring and Berkhamstead.

British Museum Helmet


[Image: AN00033850_001_l.jpg?width=304]
There are actually (I think) very few legionary helmets from Britain - this one, another at Colchester, and a third from the Thames. All of them early-mid 1st century. The find spot for this one is a bit vague: 'Northchurch, Norcott Hill' - but if it was found during the canal construction in 1813 then it must have been close to the canal itself, perhaps where Norcott Hill crosses it, or thereabouts. This is close enough to Akeman Street, of course. But why would a helmet have been deposited there, when so few have been found elsewhere?

Here's the hypothesis: the helmet could have belonged to one of the legionaries who fought in the Claudian invasion of AD43. These men, upon discharge, could have been settled in the new veteran colony at Colchester and taken their kit with them. When the colony was conquered by the rebels in AD61, the helmet was picked up by one of the Britons. He took it with him to the final battle against Paulinus, where it was dropped or discarded during the rout - perhaps in the fight around the wagons. It was then interred with all the rest of the battle debris, only to be unearthed more than 1750 years later during the construction of the Grand Junction canal. As a large and recognisable item, it alone was preserved.

So - is there anywhere close to the probable find spot that might fit with our battle site description? I think it might (I've removed the canal from this plan):

   

Looks like a defile, 900m-ish wide, narrowish 'plain' in front. No sign of woods behind, but patterns of forestation etc etc. There is the problem of the Bulbourne, which would have risen much higher before the canal altered things - but if this was midsummer it may have been a fairly inconsiderable stream, or even completely dry.

What do you reckon?
Nathan Ross
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(02-12-2016, 12:24 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: There are actually (I think) very few legionary helmets from Britain - this one, another at Colchester, and a third from the Thames. All of them early-mid 1st century.

There is another Coolus E type helmet from St Albans in the Verulamium Museum

(02-12-2016, 12:24 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: What do you reckon?

It's certainly worth consideration. I really must get to Tring and look at the various sites in the area that have been proposed.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
Reply
Nathan Ross wrote:

Looks like a defile, 900m-ish wide, narrowish 'plain' in front. No sign of woods behind, but patterns of forestation etc etc. There is the problem of the Bulbourne, which would have risen much higher before the canal altered things - but if this was midsummer it may have been a fairly inconsiderable stream, or even completely dry.


I have mentioned the "Tring Helmet" as it is known in "The Vengeful Queen" and I certainly agree that this was fallout from the battle.

There are so many sites around Tring that do actually fit the description from Tacitus (3 valleys backed by woodland with rampart like sides) that you could choose any one of them or all three.... as Dio infers however there is no reason that Nathan's site wouldn't work and it is one of the sites that Steve also indicates.

The only problem is the Bulbourne running through the site but the Romans could have dammed it as their water source which would deny the Brythons water.

I think the only weakness is that the Romans could be attacked from the rear from the Icknield Way if some tribes came down there but this is the same as the Dunstable argument.

The following map shows how close this site is to my preferred option of Chivery Top etc.

   

Interestingly Cow Roast is a Roman site which is still under investigation - http://www.dacorumheritage.org.uk/articl...roast-dig/ and http://www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk...t-home.htm .

Coins have been found from Tasciovanus, Claudius through to Honorius

It shows an industrial site used for the production of iron through smelting but also using water power. Was this a placae used to melt down the weapons collected from the battle? 

There are Roman remains around the Berkhampstead area and Northchurch and at Aston Clinton near Tring


Renatus wrote:

It's certainly worth consideration. I really must get to Tring and look at the various sites in the area that have been proposed.

Michael you really should - it is well worth a look. 

Deryk
Deryk
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(02-12-2016, 02:38 PM)Renatus Wrote: There is another Coolus E type helmet from St Albans in the Verulamium Museum

Ah yes, of course. And a similar one (Coolus F?) at Bosham Harbour too, I think.

But, aside from Bosham (AD43 relic?), the others do create an almost-too-tempting pattern:

Colchester (AD61 debris deposit) - Wallbrook (London) - St Albans - Tring/Berkhamsted

Almost looks like the course of Boudica's campaign mapped out in Roman helmets... [Image: smile.png]

 
(02-12-2016, 08:34 PM)Theoderic Wrote: I have mentioned the "Tring Helmet" as it is known in "The Vengeful Queen"... it is one of the sites that Steve also indicates.

So you did! And yes, Steve Kaye has it as 'New Ground Road', somewhere near the top of one of his lists. I had doubts about his sites further down the valley, as the Bulborne would more probably have been an obstacle there. I think this one might be ok on that front though. And the helmet find-spot makes it very appealing.
Nathan Ross
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well this is an exciting twist on Tring, sadly the LIDAR is less than patchy in the area;

   

The Bulbourne doesn't seem much of an obstacle anywhere along it's length, and flowing along the direction of march it wouldn't have had as much impact as the cross field rivers we've discussed at Mancetter and Cunetio. It may even justify the left and right wing principal a bit. However if that is the case couldn't we move the field down the valley relatively easily? Berkhamstead looks good too. The only plain I am seeing is that to the north of the Cow Roast site, the approach from the south seems a very tight valley in terms of the contours but the street view images make the side slopes seem rather relaxed, not a plain but fightably flat.
   

And if you move your Roman line south to the helmet, there are a couple of "iffy" looking cuts in the chalk;

   

It's moved Tring up the ranking for me.... but still not above no. 3

90069
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(02-13-2016, 01:15 PM)John1 Wrote: The Bulbourne doesn't seem much of an obstable anywhere along it's length

We discussed this some time ago. Prior to the canal's construction in 1798, the Bulbourne rose much forther north-west, and was a more substantial stream or small river, sufficient to power several mills in the Berkhamsted area. I would say anywhere below the current appearance of the watercourse would have presented too much of an obstacle bisecting the battle site.


(02-13-2016, 01:15 PM)John1 Wrote: a couple of "iffy" looking cuts in the chalk;

Northchurch Common/Norcott Hill has a number of odd earthworks. None appear to be of sufficent size to be fortifications. Several seem to have been dug in the 17th century to protect areas of trees from sheep.

In this scenario, any Roman camp would be up to the north-west, perhaps around Tring station or the town itself.
Nathan Ross
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"I would say anywhere below the current appearance of the watercourse would have presented too much of an obstacle bisecting the battle site." 1222

I can't speak for flow rates in 41AD but it's a chalk stream so a guaranteed year round flow of any sort would seem questionable, making the obstacle negligable, the report here is worth noting;

"the watercourse (Bulbourne) has a history of low flows and drying out all year round."
http://www.wildtrout.org/av/bulbourne

Of course if it were dry then there would be a problem with watering the troops.
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(02-13-2016, 05:20 PM)John1 Wrote: "the watercourse (Bulbourne) has a history of low flows and drying out all year round."

Thanks for the article. However, I'd say that many rivers in the Thames basin have changed enormously since the Industrial Revolution. For my earlier points about the changes in the Bulbourne in particular see this post.

Even the article, which considers the state of the river today, mentions that the drying of the upper reach is caused by 'abstraction pressures' (ie artificial water consumption), and also that the river margins feature 'wide wetlands' - this fits with earlier descriptions of the Bulbourne supporting cress beds and willows.

However, if we're considering a summer battle then the upper reaches at least could be dry. I'd guess Paulinus would camp his men on the north-west side of the hills, around Tring, and would take his water supply from a different source.
Nathan Ross
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it's also very close to where a rash of lead slingshots and arrow heads came from, put up for sale on ebay, the seller claimed they came from the side of the canal near Wiggington. I looked at maps at the time and thought it interesting apart from the stream, then again there would have to be a decent water sourse for horses and men.
wayne oldfield
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(02-13-2016, 07:47 PM)tyketicus Wrote: the seller claimed they came from the side of the canal near Wiggington.

And the road that leads down from Wigginton to cross the canal is Hemp Lane leading to... Newground Road. Which would put this supposed find-spot more or less exactly at the point marked 'Romans' on that map above... This is seeming altogether too good to be true!
Nathan Ross
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I've been trying to find a bit more information about this site. As Deryk mentioned above, there have been surveys of the area around Cow Roast, with some tempting finds and some less tempting possibilities.

This paper gives a good summary of (official) finds so far.

With regard to the Coolus E helmet, the paper notes that the stated find date is unlikely, as no work on the canal was ongoing in 1813; 1798-99 is more likely. It estimates the find spot as 'Grand Junction Canal, in the vicinity of Dudswell Locks', which looks about right. This would possibly have been wet ground even if the stream was low, and debris left here (perhaps following the hypothetical rout!) might have been lost in pools or muddy areas.

The paper also states that excavations at the 'Esso site' (presumably now the Texaco garage on the south-east edge of the village, backing onto the canal) turned up an iron pilum head, together with some British coins. The Fendley House orchard across the road turned up a bone sword grip.

There's an intriguing mention of a 'putative temple in the field near Newground... known only from an aerial photograph'. I've been wary of the ideal of battle memorials, but hmm... [Image: tongue.png]

There's also a suggestion (on p.8) that the area to the north of Cow Roast (between Aldbury and Tring Station, maybe?) was wooded - the timber later used as charcoal for ironsmelting. Could be Tacitus's 'closed in the rear by a wood'?

However, there has been quite a lot of surveying in this area, including geophysics, and nothing of a more obviously military nature seems to have turned up. Most of the finds relate to the iron smelting works that was apparently established here in the later 1st century - although much of it seems to have been deliberately dumped in pits.

There's a brief point about 'metal detectorists... active in the fields around Newground Farm' turning up coins and 'small metal objects' - possibly this is the source of the 'arrowheads and sling bullets' that appeared on ebay?

I also had another look at Steve Kaye's last paper (2015) - the site is given as 'New Ground Road' and listed as numbers 10 and 11 on his list of plausible locations, which is reassuring. Interestingly, he suggests that the Roman water supply for this site (and another possibility at Tring Station) could have come from the Thame headwaters, to the north-west, rather than from the Bulbourne.
Nathan Ross
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Nathan Ross wrote:

.........he (Steve Kaye) suggests that the Roman water supply for this site (and another possibility at Tring Station) could have come from the Thame headwaters, to the north-west, rather than from the Bulbourne.

Interesting that your observation that Paulinus would camp his men on the hills in the North West coincides with Steve Kaye's indication that there would be other water sources in the North West.

Many thanks for the link to the article on Cow Roast and the surounds.

From those excavations it can be seen that creating wells was widespread in this area and therefore that water was not going to be a problem for a waiting or indeed besieged army depending on your interpretation.

Also the excavation shows that the area around Cow Roast was utilised prior to the Roman conquest and that this was obviously an important natural crossroads North West to South East and North East to South West taking the Icknield Way into account.

This raises the question of the militarily strategic importance of this place in this instance as a place to regroup as a vanguard for the next phase of the campaign to reconquer the East of the country.

Any thoughts?

Deryk       
Deryk
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My thoughts are that Nathan's on to something here. I'd like it to be a conquest period event, there must have been dozens, but happy to see Boudicca here, and look for a conquest event at Church Stowe.
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(02-15-2016, 11:46 AM)Theoderic Wrote: This raises the question of the militarily strategic importance of this place in this instance as a place to regroup as a vanguard for the next phase of the campaign to reconquer the East of the country.

Any thoughts?

That's pretty much what I've been saying for some time, I think.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
Reply
could someone have a look on google earth at the fields due south of Tring and Wyevale Garden Centre on Bulbourne Road. I keep rubbing my eyes and seeing the same thing. i would post a map if i knew how... dont know if this will work..

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.804416...a=!3m1!1e3

probably not
wayne oldfield
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