The Roman Gardens in Castlefield are somewhat hidden unless you’re really trying to explore the area. In the shadow of the Roman Fort from which Castlefield takes its name, the Gardens currently stand as a fairly bleak offering for Mancs, considering it was the birthplace of Manchester, consisting of one long path with a couple of benches and some trees. This space wedged between the Oxnoble and White Lion pubs, though, is in for a renovation of dreams, kicked back into gear by community group Castlefield Forum.
Working closely with the local community, residents, businesses and stakeholders, a project masterplan has been developed for the Roman Gardens site by BDP, with ‘in kind’ support estimated at £18,000.
The Forum has established from the Greater Manchester County Archaeologist the significance of the reconstructed North Gate, stone footings, ditches and Roman Road in the existing gardens. They say: “We will therefore maintain their final positions within the project masterplan. The North Gate itself is a replica of the northern entrance to the Roman Fort that once occupied this site and helps cement the true historical importance of Castlefield as the birthplace of Manchester.”
The Forum says that the masterplan is designed to: Welcome you in and across Castlefield; sit comfortably with both our Roman and Victorian heritage, as well as Castlefield’s latest incarnation as a residential area and tourist destination; be high-quality, featuring a simple urban design including both hard and soft landscaping; de-clutter the whole site, including the removal of barriers to entry, improving pedestrian permeability; have a uniform approach to pathway design, lighting, furniture, and a simple, cohesive palette of plants and trees; have appropriate borders to stop trampling; and be straight-forward and inexpensive to maintain.
According to Castlefield Forum, the settlement of Manchester was established in and around the Roman Gardens project site in Castlefield nearly 2,000 years ago, when a village grew up beside the Roman Fort of Mamucium. The heritage of this Roman Fort, which is essentially the birthplace of Manchester, will be the focus of the project.
Founded in AD 79, Mamucium was sited on a sandstone buff near the confluence of the Rivers Medlock and Irwell in a naturally defensible position. The Fort was garrisoned by a cohort of auxiliary soldiers and guarded the road running from Chester to York.
The impact of Mamucium was, in its time, as great as the creation of the canals. Castlefield became, for the first time, a centre of commerce and communication. The Fort was on the main route between the major fortresses at Chester and York, and on the road to Carlisle and Hadrian’s Wall from the south.
After the Roman withdrawal from Britain around 410, the area of Mamucium was used for agricultural purposes, and laid derelict for centuries. The site lay in ruins until the Industrial Revolution when Manchester expanded and the fort was levelled to make way for new development, including the Rochdale Canal and the Great Northern Railway.
The project aims to honour this history, creating an outdoor space for locals and visitors to take in the rich culture of Manchester. Once the application is approved, which is generally believed to be a given due to previous successful applications, the project is set to start as soon as possible, with lighting being planned for as early as the end of the year. Keep an eye on the Castlefield Forum social media for any updates.