The Tripontium Collection

After many years' wait Rugby now has its own Museum.  This is situated in the centre of the town on the site of the old library in Little Elborow Street.  It is part of a large complex comprising Library, Museum and Art Gallery.  The Library opened in March 2000, the Museum opened to the public on Tuesday 18th April 2000 and the Art Gallery opened on 16th May 2000.

The Museum provides an ideal resting place for the finds recovered so far from the excavations at Tripontium, the Tripontium Collection.  The Trustees of the Collection handed the Collection to the Museum on long term loan in the build-up to the opening of the Museum.  It is important to us that people in the Rugby area, and others visiting the Museum, can see evidence of the work that has been carried out in the last 40 years by Rugby Archaeological Society and have access to the important finds from the excavations.  It is particularly pleasing that the Collection has found a home in such a fine location so near to the Roman town.  An excellent exhibition incorporating the important items from the Collection has been designed to occupy the circular gallery of the Museum.  In December 2006, the Gallery was renamed the Jack Lucas Archaeology Gallery. For people interested in Tripontium, or Roman history in general, a visit to the Museum is a must.

One of the most important finds is the very fine late Roman bronze "belt buckle" or strap-end, which the Society has adopted as its logo.  The condition is almost perfect, length 7.1cm.  This artefact is important because it contains Christian symbols, particularly the peacocks, Tree of Life motif, swasticas or whirligigs and fish (Hawkes 1972, pp144-159).

Other finds that are of great importance are locally made Roman tiles or tegulae containing graffiti.  One tile reconstructed from several pieces, contains the name of the British tribe local to the Leicestershire area.  Before this tile had been found, the tribe was known as the Coritani, but following research conducted by Roger Tomlin  the tribe is now known as the Corl el Tauvi (Tomlin 1983, pp353-362). 

Inscribed on another pieced-together tegula from Tripontium is the complete Roman alphabet, indicating literacy in the local population.  There is also part of a tegula that appears to show birds feeding from the Tree of Life, echoing the early Christian symbols depicted on the peacock belt buckle.

Hawkes, S.C (1972) A Late Roman Buckle from Tripontium, Transactions of the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society 1972, Vol 85 pp144-159.

Tomlin, R.S.O. (1983) Non Coritani Sed Corieltauvi, The Antiquaries Journal 1983, Vol LXIII, Part II, pp353-362.

Rugby Museum

Tripontium

Tripontium is featured in the Antonine Itineraries, a document created in the third century AD which recorded the journeys taken by the Roman Emperors, the places they stopped and those they passed through.  Three of the itineraries pass through Tripontium (II VI and VIII) but only Iter VI has Tripontium as a stopping place.

The location of Tripontium has been a subject of speculation for centuries.  An etching by William Stukeley dated 1722 of the Dow Bridge is clearly marked as the location of Tripontium.  The Dow Bridge is near to the village of Catthorpe in south-east Leicestershire, where the River Avon crosses the Roman road which was called Watling Street by the Saxons and is now the A5. The first century version of this bridge,  is almost certainly one of the three bridges that gave rise to the name of the town, but the centre of the town was located about one mile north of the bridge.

This is quite a close guess compared to those of many other historians.  However the first person on record to correctly identify the location of Tripontium was Matthew Bloxam, the Rugby historian and antiquarian, who proposed that the settlememt was at Caves Inn, which is on the A5 about eight miles south of High Cross (Venonae)  and about ten miles north of Bannaventa. 

Rugby Archaeological Society was founded and began excavation of Tripontium in the early 1960s when the area was being quarried for sand and gravel.  The work of the Society has continued since that time and excavations are still going on .

This web site aims to tell you about the work of RAS and a little of what is currently understood about Tripontium.

The Tripontium Collection

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