The February meeting of Adel and Wharfedale Labour Party approved a motion which was sent to Leeds City Council. It was a call to strengthen the local plan.
Roman Adel is a significant site and members felt the local plan should be more robust with a direct reference to protecting the local historic environment.
The context here is the coalition Government’s changes to planning regulations. Councils are now under considerable pressure from the Lib-Dems and the Tories to release land. Many national organisations are concerned about threats to our green belt.
Locally, Roman Adel is one likely victim.
Adel and Wharfedale Labour party thought you might be interested in its history.
Beneath the soil of Adel are the some of the most extensive and important Roman remains in West Yorkshire. It is likely that this is the Roman town of Cambodunum (as recorded in the Antonine Itinerary, a sort of 3rd century Roman road atlas). The first description was given in 1702 by Ralph Thoresby, the Leeds historian, who noted in his diary that workmen had discovered
‘…a Roman town, which by the ruins seems to have been very considerable; they have got up so many stones, though they have dug no deeper than necessity obliged to make way for the plough, that they have already built therewith two walls, one a yard (0.9m) high and twenty-seven rood (135.8m) long, the other a yard and a half (1.4m) high and fifty-two rood (261.5m) long; these are rough stones, the foundations of houses, many of which were three or four courses high, undemolished, being under the surface of the ground.’
Thoresby, always keen to enhance the contents of his museum on Kirkgate, was able to take home two cartloads of Roman material, including inscribed tombstones, pottery, structural masonry, querns, coins, glass, metalwork and part of a large aqueduct. The most spectacular find was a life-size statue but this was unfortunately broken up by the excited labourers who thought treasure might be contained within. Only the head survived the carnage. In the nineteenth century deep ploughing revealed extensive Roman walls and more amazing finds were recovered including a large amphora, several stone coffins and cinerary urns. Some of these finds can be seen today in Leeds City Museum, including brooches, roof tiles, coins and pottery.
Recent geophysical work has revealed that the remains of a Roman fort are to be found near High Leas. It was ideally located on the Roman road running between the forts of Ilkley and Newton Kyme, near Tadcaster. Finds indicate that this defensive site was occupied from the first century onwards and that over the next two hundred or so years a large town developed which supported a sizable civilian population. In 2000, after the site had been deep ploughed for the first time in years, field walkers recovered sherds of Roman pottery which indicated 2nd century activity in this part of the site. It is likely, on the basis of evidence from other Roman forts in the region, that the fort went out of use in the 2nd century but the site continued in importance and may have in fact grown due to its location on what we think was the main east-west route from York (the Roman regional capital) across the Pennines. Work still needs to be undertaken to establish the full extent of the settlement and the burial sites associated with it.
Unfortunately this site is still targeted by metal detectorists who often remove finds without reporting them. Such artefacts can provide invaluable information in trying to establish the longevity of a settlement but removed from their immediate context, their archaeological value is much less. Adel may have continued to be a significant town in to the early fifth century (when the Romans left Britain) but further work is required to establish a more accurate picture. But given the later growth of Leeds as a significant centre in the Anglo-Saxon and Viking period around the parish church, Kirkgate and river crossing, it is likely that the site lost its raison d’etre as traffic on the Roman road network drastically declined. The site currently has no legal protection but records of all known finds are held in the West Yorkshire Historic Environment Record, maintained by the West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. It is essential that this critically important Roman town is preserved and that these fields remain free from development.
So the local Labour branch has acted. It has called for a national programme for protecting sites like this, but also for building affordable homes.
It recognises the urgent need for more social housing to solve our housing crisis. but argues that this need not and should not be at the expense of the green belt.
There are brown field sites where this could happen and builders already have approved shovel-ready projects ready to go.
The LibDem Colaition budget showed the extent of their understanding of the problem – a subsidy for mortgages which will help fund second homes for the rich, and which could fuel another housing boom and bust without solving the crisis.
The Labour Party in NW Leeds is alert to these threats – and is already working to protect our historical heritage and the green belt AND to secure more affordable housing.
Remember Tories can’t win in North West Leeds, Lib-Dems won’t – as far as the Green belt is concerned, that’s a good thing. Roll on the 2015 election!