Film ID:
YFA 2498



Visitor Tabs


A documentary film produced by the Audio Visual Unit at Leeds University for West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council that chronicles the work and findings of an archaeological dig at Dalton Parlours, West Yorkshire. Through filming, illustration, model reconstruction and commentary, the film traces the history of this ancient site that was a farming settlement in the Iron Age and location of a Roman Villa.

Phil Mayes, the county archaeologist, explains that they are excavating a Roman town on an Iron Age foundation. The narration gives an account of the different geological make-up of the areas of West Yorkshire; with the area to the east of the Pennines the most rich agriculturally, showing crops being harvested. A map shows settlements in the area through the different ages. It shows Roman settlements and finds, and also Brigantes settlements, Anglo Saxon, through the Vikings to the Middle Ages. Land is shown being dug for new building development, and farmland being ploughed, as examples of the impact of man in destroying evidence of the past.

At Dalton Parlours the stones for the foundation of a Roman bath house have been exposed. An aerial photograph of the site shows previous excavations, beginning in 1854 by the Philosophical Society. A mosaic from the site is shown being exhibited at Yorkshire Museum in York. The aerial photographs also show the farming from the early period. Excavation work is shown in operation. Evidence from the Neolithic and Bronze Age are shown.

As Phil Mayes walks across the site he points out the places where the supports for Iron Age buildings would have been, with diagrams superimposed on the film. There is a drawing of what the Iron Age village might have looked like. Some of the finds are displayed. Next Ledston is shown having a similar settlement. As the history of the site is narrated, workers are shown doing detailed excavation work, and a model of how it would have looked in the 4th century is shown. The remains of the buildings are shown as they were built on top of each other over the ages.

Environmental archaeologist Bob Yarwood shows where the water supply channels and the well. He explains that the well was waterlogged, allowing leather and wooden artefacts to be preserved, as well as insects, giving a clue to the landscape as it was then. They descend the 60ft well on a ladder. Once the water is pumped from the last 15 feet they set about searching for artefacts. The earth is hauled to the top in a bucket by a small crane, and then transferred to a wheelbarrow. Some of the objects found are displayed, including pots, buckets, a finger ring and coins. The debris is sieved to reveal small bones of rodents and birds and other organic material. A nearby hedgerow, at least 600 years old, shows many of the same species of plant as were found in the well.

Phil Mayes asks Barry Jones, Professor of Archaeology at Manchester University, whether he thinks that this is a typical villa. He states that it is, and details how the village might have looked with the help of graphics. This includes the owners' villa, where a candlestick was found. The waterway that runs under another house has also been revealed.

The film switches to Aldborough, which was the Roman capital of the area. Some of the remains can still be seen. By the 5th century the Romans had gone. Phil Mayes asks Glanville Jones, Professor of Historical Geography at Leeds University, what would have happened after the Romans had left in 410. He answers that the area would then have come under Elmet, run by "the British". "The English", who run Deira to the north and east, expelled the British in 617, but took no interest in Dalton Parlours.

A worker is shown excavating the skeleton of a 25 year old woman near a Roman building, showing evidence of a Saxon invasion. The film shows the remains of a defensive bank built ten miles to the south. Further evidence of Saxon occupation is seen in place names. The film shows village signs for Bramham and Headingley, highlighting 'ham' and 'ing', as having a Saxon derivation. In Collingham Church there is a 9th century cross. Young visitors come to the Dalton Parlours site. The site is shown covered in snow, when work came to stop. Phil Mayes concludes by stating that after the completion of the archaeological work, the well was capped and the topsoil replaced. The area is now owned by the County Council and is going back to agricultural use, but that there will be no ploughing. The film finishes with an aerial view of Phil Mayes walking back across the field at Dalton Parlours.

Produced by the film unit of the audio visual service of University of Leeds for West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council.