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Viewing website implies consent to set cookies on your computer. Full details Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group
Registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation Number 1155775
SWAAG Honorary President:
Tim Laurie FSA

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 *****SWAAG_ID***** 604
 Date Entered 05/09/2012
 Updated on 05/09/2012
 Recorded by Will Swales
 Category Archaeological Find
 Record Type Archaeology
 Record Date 05/09/2012
 Location Heyshaw, near Dacre, Nidderdale
 Brit. National Grid SE 173 618
 Record Name Roman lead pigs from Heyshaw, Nidderdale
 Record Description Two reported finds of Roman lead pigs in Swaledale – at Hurst Mines and at Crackpot – are known to be unreliable because in both cases no proper record was made and the finds do not exist. See details at Additional notes below.

In any search for evidence that could support either story it might be helpful to consider the nature of similar finds in other lead-mining areas. This record relates primarily to the two Roman lead pigs found together near Dacre, in Nidderdale, about four miles from the lead mines on Greenhow Hill. It also includes an image and urls linking to further information about three Roman lead pigs found elsewhere in the country that closely fit the description of the one reportedly found at the Hurst Mines.

Nidderdale find – Arthur Raistrick and Bernard Jennings in A History of Lead Mining in the Pennines (1965) cited an article by the Rector of Ripley in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society vol. 41 (1735), p560, that describes the Nidderdale find. It related that in 1731 on the side of an old trackway near the hamlet of Heyshaw, a countryman’s horse slipped when its foot fell into a hole covered with heather. The curious rider thrust his hand into the hole and pulled out two large pigs of lead.

Both became possessions of the Ingleby family of Ripley Castle, and in 1772 one of them was bequeathed to the British Museum, where it remains. See below for image and link to the museum’s online catalogue. The other pig was kept at Ripley Castle until being sold by auction in the mid 1990s. It came up for auction again in 2007 when it was sold for £36,000. See below for url linking to Bonhams online catalogue.

The pigs are almost identical, measuring about 58.5cm long, by 13.5cm wide, by 10cm deep, and weighing 70kg. The raised inscription on the top reads IMP CAES DOMITIANO AUG COS VII, which when the abbreviations are expanded becomes IMPERATORE CAESARE DOMITIANO AUGUSTO CONSULE VII, which translates as Emperor Caesar Domitian Augustus seventh year as consul. Another inscription on another face reads [BRI]G, which is thought to be an abbreviation for BRIGANTICUM, the name the Romans gave to the Pennine region.
 Additional Notes The only known report of the Roman lead said to have been found at the Hurst Mines in Swaledale was in Harry Speight’s book Romantic Richmondshire, published in 1897. He wrote (p207-8): “The mines at Hurst are … believed to be on the site of a Roman penal settlement, to which the Roman commanders sent their convicts to labour. A piece of lead bearing the name of ADRIAN was discovered in one of the oldest workings about 50 years ago, and is now in the British Museum.”

However in 1956 Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby in their book The Yorkshire Dales reported (p251) that the pig was now lost, and then in 1965 Arthur Raistrick and Bernard Jennings added in their History of Lead Mining in the Pennines (p3) that all efforts to trace it had failed, and it was feared it had been melted down. At the request of the contributor of this record, another search of the British Museum collection was kindly conducted by one of its curators in 2012, but once again drew a blank.

If the story of this find has any truth to it, a clue to its outcome might lie in Speight’s brief description of the item. He called it a ‘piece of lead’ not a pig or ingot, suggesting it was a fragment. And his report of the inscription ADRIAN supports the idea. It cannot have been a full inscription, as is indicated by the inscriptions on complete lead pigs from the period of Emperor Hadrian that are preserved at the British Museum. See the sample image below, together with urls linking to further information on this and two other similar examples at the museum’s online catalogue.

If the Hurst Mine find was a poor quality fragment of a pig, perhaps this was a reason for it to be rejected by the British Museum, and consequently for it to be deemed of little value and melted down. Perhaps it was the last fragment of what had been a small collection of ancient pigs being progressively used up at the mines for some work-related functions, or even systematically plundered by locals.

The second Roman lead pig reportedly found in Swaledale was also described by Hartley and Ingilby in their book of 1956. They told (p251) of the find occurring sometime around the 1870s at Crackpot in the Little Haverdale valley. They reported that its historic value had not been realised and it had been melted down. Later, Edmund Cooper, in his wonderfully succinct book A History of Swaledale (1973), expanded the story, revealing (p15) that this pig was said to have borne the imprint of an emperor’s head and some Roman lettering, and had been found in Crackpot Gill by Mr Francis Garth. Cooper said he had been told by the finder’s daughter, who must have been very old at the time, that her father melted it down “to fix iron crooks into stone gateposts.”

Given what is known about the several preserved examples of Roman lead pigs from other lead-mining areas, the stories of the Swaledale finds must be considered to have some credibility. The locations and descriptions seem entirely plausible; the sparse, unembellished details have the ring of truth; and it would appear that at no stage has anyone gained from promoting the stories. However, without the finds and without any evidence other than hearsay we can only guess at whether they are true or distortions of something, or merely romantic invention.
 Image 1 ID 3288         Click image to enlarge
 Image 1 Description Roman lead pig found at Heyshaw, near Dacre in Nidderdale in 1735, and now at the British Museum. The image is the copyright of the British Museum and reproduced here with permission. The raised inscription on the top reads IMP CAES DOMITIANO AUG COS VII. For further information see the museum’s online catalogue at: For an image and further information on the other pig found at the same time and recently sold at auction see
 Image 2 ID 3289         Click image to enlarge
 Image 2 Description Roman lead pig from the period of the Emperor Hadrian, found in Shropshire in 1795 and now at the British Museum. The image is the copyright of the British Museum and reproduced here with permission. The raised inscription, which is the briefest of the three on lead pigs identifying Hadrian in the museum’s collections, reads IMP HADRIANI AUG. See further information on this at; and on two similar finds at:; and
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