Roman fort of Olicana (England)

DFN: NE of Manchester, 90km. archaeology

Ilkley church grounds to be dug up
6:50am Wednesday 23rd December 2009
By Suzy Poole

Archaeologists are to dig up part of the grounds of an Ilkley church which stands on the site of a Roman fort.

Permission is being sought for excavations at All Saints Church to clear the way for an extension on its neighbour, Church House.

The church, which lies at the crossroads in Ilkley, stands on the site of the Roman fort of Olicana, which is protected by scheduled monument status.

Church officials have been in negotiations with English Heritage and planners about proposals for all-round improvements, which include internal work in the church and a small extension to the building which is used for community groups throughout the week.

The vicar of All Saints’, the Rev Lee Townend, said better facilities had been a vision for the church for around 20 years and were needed to meet the needs of a steadily growing congregation.

He said: “We want to ensure the buildings retain their historical dignity while making them high quality and fit for purpose for the community today.

“It’s only small scale in terms of extensions but we need to make sure it’s not going to be damaging. If we do find something, that’s great, but we want to make sure we protect the site as it’s so beautiful and of such significance historically.”

Planning regulations require an archaeological evaluation to take place before submitting a formal application to build on a scheduled monument.

Archaeological Services WYAS have been asked to undertake the work in Castle Yard but cannot progress until permission has been granted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Abandoned in the late fourth or fifth century AD, the fort of Olicana fell into ruins but became the focus for the town’s development.

All Saints’ Church dates back to Norman times, but was substantially rebuilt in the 1860s. The area has been a site of Christian worship for more than 1,000 years.

Mr Townend said parishioners had already raised about a quarter of the envisaged costs for improvements, which will include new heating, lights and seats within the church, discreet audio-visual systems and accessible toilets.

“We want to be a real community resource,” said Mr Townend.

“I think the church is at the stage where we’ve had the vision for many years and really want to get things moving.”

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