Roman Littleborough – Limited excavations conducted on the site of the civil settlement at Littleborough have produced no clear signs that any part of it was ever defended by any form of earthen defences.
The only entry logged in the Roman Inscriptions of Britain for the site being RIB 277, a building inscription which reads … E… LIB ARAM C..A, recording the building-or rededication of a temple to an unknown god, by an equally unknown freedman.
An oculist’s stamp has been unearthed here. These are small square stone stamps bearing inscriptions cut in reverse around the four edges, which were pressed into the surface of a stick of ointment or onto the top of a jar of salve to record the maker’s name and the type of preparation. Small portions of these medicines would be broken off and mixed together with either egg-white, wine or water, prior to being applied onto the effected parts.
The Trent was forded at Littleborough, the crossing being paved with large stone slabs and bordered by a timber curb which was retained in position by piles driven into the bed of the river.
Excavations at Littleborough/Segelocum
… 4km (2½ miles) SE of Sturton le Steeple: exploration 100m SW of the church found no buildings or military structures, but exposed two kilns (? for corn drying) and a small domed oven, together with building debris coins and pottery of the late-1st to later-4th centuries.” (Britannia, 1970)
Excavations in the vicarage garden in 1970 uncovered a series of buildings with clay floors, plastered walls and tiled roofs, all aligned at right-angles to the line of the main road. The earliest building phases were dated to the Flavian period, and these buildings were overlaid by structures of the late-Antonine.
Classical References to Segelocum
The second century Antonine Itinerary twice lists the Roman name for Littleborough, in the fifth itinerary as Segeloci and in the eighth as Ageloco. It is extremely likely that these similarly-sounding names both refer to the same location as the reported distances in both itinera are identical. Both entries are uniformly listed 14 miles from Lindum (Lincoln, Lincolnshire) and 21 miles from Danum (Doncaster, South Yorkshire), and there is no doubt regarding the identification of this station with Littleborough, as these distances closely tally with modern measures. The seventh century Ravenna Cosmology may also contain reference to the Littleborough fort. This important but confusing document contains the entry Segloes (R&C#234), which appears between entries for Doncaster and the unknown station, Manavi.
Regarding the differences in nomenclature between the two itinera, it is very likely that the Iter VIII entry was mistakenly corrupted by an unknown copyist at some time in antiquity, and the generally accepted name for Littleborough in Roman times is Segelocum. This is an amalgam of the native word (Welsh/Gaelic) Sego ‘strength’, and the Latin locum ‘place, location’. The entire name then, means ‘the strong place’ or ‘the defended position’, a modern equivalent perhaps being ‘stronghold’. The modern place-name Littleborough, which occurs both in Nottinghamshire and Greater Manchester, likewise the name Littlebury in Essex, both mean ‘the Little Fort or Stronghold’, from the Old English words lytel and burh.
Possibly Recorded on a Milestone near Lincoln
It is possible, though unproven, that the letters A.L.S. recorded on a Roman milestone found near Lincoln (vide RIB 2241), may be expanded A Lindo Segeloco or ‘From Lindum to Segelocum.’ This rendering, if true, would place Littleborough within the territorium of the Roman colony at Lincoln, which had been appropriated from the tribal lands of the Coritani.
References for Segelocvm
- Britannia ii (1971) p.258; Britannia i (1970) p.284;
- The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).