Ribchester, Lancashire
Ribchester, Lancashire

The pretty Lancashire village of Ribchester occupies a picturesque location beside the River Ribble. The village name gives a hint as to its origins, for 'chester' comes from the Roman word 'caestre', or fort.


The village grew up on the site of a fort known as Bremetennacum Veteranorum, established by Agricola in AD 80 as part of the Roman advance into northern Britain. The fort was established at a ford across the River Ribble where the Roman roads linking York, Carlisle, and Chester converged. Bremetannacum covered 6 acres (2.4ha) and supported a garrison of 500 cavalrymen.

A civilian settlement grew up around the Roman fort, and Ribchester grew to become the main administrative centre for the region. The fort was occupied into the 4th century.

The River Ribble at Ribchester
The River Ribble at Ribchester

In 1796 a child discovered a buried stash of cavalry gear behind his father's house. Part of the 'Ribchester Hoard' was a decorative helmet dating to around AD 120. The Ribchester Parade Helmet is now in the British Museum in London but a replica is on display in the Ribchester Roman Museum, next to the parish church.

The museum was established in 1914 (the date is inscribed over the door) and holds a wealth of artefacts found during excavations of the Roman fort. You can see inscribed building stones, cavalrymen's gravestones, pottery, glassware, and beautifully carved columns and capitals.

The Ribchester Parade Helmet in the Roman Museum
The Ribchester Parade Helmet in the Roman Museum

St Wilfrid's Church

Stones from the Roman fort are built into the walls of Ribchester's medieval parish church. There was probably a 6th-century timber church here, on the site of the Roman Principium. That early building was rebuilt in stone in the 7th century and again in the Norman period. The present church dates to around 1220.

Highlights include a pair of Doric columns supporting the organ loft that are thought to have come from the Roman fort. The church boasts a 14th-century font and a Jacobean pulpit with beautifully carved panelling. Local tradition says that 300 residents of Ribchester who died in the Black Death are buried under the north chapel.

St Wilfrid's Church
St Wilfrid's Church

The Roman Granary

A short distance from the church are the foundations of a Roman granary. Granaries were stocked with enough grain to feed the garrison for up to a year. The granary floor was raised on short pillars to keep the grain dry and away from vermin. You can see the pillars and the gutters that ran down the side of each building to draw away rainwater.

The Roman granary
The Roman granary

The Roman Bath House
The Roman Bath House

The Roman Bath House

Another surviving feature of Bremetennacum is a bath house, which was built around AD 100 and fell out of use around AD 220. Excavations on the bath house site uncovered a wealth of artefacts such as brooches, beads, bronze pins, jewellery, and coins. These finds suggest that the bath house was used by wealthy men and women with trading links throughout Britain and across the English Channel to Gaul.

You can see foundation walls of the furnace room (prafurnium), changing room (apodyterium), warm room (tepidarium), hot room (caldarium), and sweating room (sudatorium). Sections of flooring exposed during excavations in 1978 have been left to view.

The 18th-century White Bull Hotel on Church Street has a portico supported by four Tuscan columns. These columns are thought to have been found in the river and came from the Roman fort.

The White Bull, 1707
The White Bull, 1707

Getting There

Ribchester is on the north bank of the River Ribble, on the B6245 about 5 miles north of central Blackburn. There is a pay and display parking area off Church Street. Take care - I was five minute's late returning to my car and found I'd received a ticket.

About Ribchester
Address: B6245, Ribchester, Lancashire, England
Attraction Type: Village
Location: On the B6245, five miles north of Blackburn. Paid parking off Church Street.
Location map
OS: SD649353
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Ribchester, St Wilfrid's Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Ribchester Roman Museum and Fort - 0.3 miles (Roman Site) Heritage Rating

Old Langho Church - 3.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Samlesbury Hall - 3.4 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Stonyhurst College - 3.4 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Great Mitton, All Hallow's Church - 4.7 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Blackburn, Holy Trinity Church - 4.9 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Whalley Abbey - 5 miles (Abbey) Heritage Rating

Nearest Accommodation to Ribchester:

Self Catering   -   B&Bs/Guesthouses   -   Hotels

Nearest Self Catering Cottages

  More self catering near Ribchester

Show self catering cottages near Ribchester

Nearest Hotels

    More Hotels near Ribchester

Show bed and breakfasts near Ribchester

Nearest Bed and Breakfasts

  More bed and breakfasts near Ribchester