The Hall of Waltheof/Chapter XXXV

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The Hall of Waltheof by Sidney Oldall Addy
XXXV. The Stannington Diploma—The Stone Villa—The Hall

THREE-QUARTERS of a mile to the north of the Long Causey, and on the opposite side of the valley, "two thin plates of copper about six inches by five" were discovered in April, 1761.[1] The discovery was made by one Edward Nichols, whilst "ploughing a piece of common land called the Lawns, on the Stannington side of the Riveling."[1] We are further told that the "plates of copper" were "found near a large ground-fast stone."[1]

These "plates of copper" were the celebrated Roman military diploma which, at the time of discovery, the Society of Antiquaries, at a very full meeting, agreed in regarding as "the most curious thing of the kind which had ever been discovered in England."[2] The full meaning of the diploma was not ascertained till long after its discovery.

In order that I might publish an accurate edition of this document I applied to Dr. Purser, Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, who has most kindly sent me the following transliteration from the Corpus of Latin Inscriptions, and has appended a translation, together with a few notes.

Found at Stannington, dated 15 Sept., a.d. 124.

Imp(erator) Caesar, divi Traiani Parthici f(ilius), divi Nervae [nepos, Traianus] Hadrianus Aug(ustus), pontif(ex) maxim(us), tribun(icia) [potest(ate)] VIII, co(n)s(ul) III, proco(n)s(ule)

[E]quitib(us) e[t peditih(us), qui mil]it[a]ver(unt) in alis vi et coh(ortibus) xxi, quae ap[p(ellantur)] I Hisp(anorum) A [st] ur(um) et I Qu / ru////et . . . . .
al(is) et Picentana e [t] . . r . . . et Petrian(a); e[t] . . . . .
c(ivium) R(omanorum) e[t IJ Hisp(anorum) et I Frisiavon(um) et I Ham [i] or(um) sagitt(ariorum) et I Sunuc(orum) et I Vang(ionum miliaria) et I Baetasior(um) et I Delm(atarum) et I Aquit(anerum) et I Menap(iorum) et I Ulp(ia) Traiana Cuger(norum) c(ivium) R(omanorum) et I fida Va [rdulor(um)] c(ivium) R(omanorum) et I Batav(orum) et I Tungr(orum) et II Ling(onum) et II Astur(um) et II Dongon(um) et II Nerv(iorum) et III Brac(ar)augustanor(um) et III Nerv(iorum) et VI Nerv(iorum), quae sunt in Britannifa] sub Platorio Nepote, quinis et vicen(is) pluribusve stipend(iis) emeritis dimissis honesta missione,

Quorum nomina subscripta sunt, ipsis liberis posterisque eorum civitatem ded [i]t et conubium cum uxoribus quas tunc habuissent, cum est civitas eis data, aut, si qui [caelibjes essent, cum eis, quas postea duxissent, dumtaxat singuli singulas.

a.d. xvi [k] O(c)t. C. Julio Gallo, C. Valerio Severe co(n)s(ulibus).

Coh(ortis) I Sun [uc] or(um) cui praes [t M. J] unius Claudianus, ex pedite . . . . . . Albani [filio Su] nu [c] o.

[De]scriptum et recognitum ex tabula [aen]ea, quae fixa est Romae in muro p [ost] templum divi [Aug(usti) ad] Min [ervamj.


Par Ati.

Round brackets signify that the letters enclosed thereby would have been omitted in the most perfectly preserved diploma.

Square brackets signify that the letters enclosed are not extant in the diploma we are considering.

Slanting lines signify that letters equal to the number of lines are not legible, and that no reasonable conjecture can be made as to what those letters are.

Dots signify that whole words are omitted—proper names which cannot be conjectured.


The Emperor Caesar, son of the deified Trajan styled the Parthian, grandson of the deified Nerva, Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus, pontifex maximus, possessing the tribunician power for the eighth time, consul for the third time, proconsul—

To those of the cavalry and infantry who have served in the six squadrons of horse named the first squadron of the Spanish Asturians, and the first squadron of the Qu / ru //// , the . . . . . . . . . . .
the Picentine squadron, the . . . . . . . . . . . and the Petrian squadron; and the twenty-one cohorts named the . . . . . . . . . .
of Roman citizens, the first cohort of the Spaniards, the first of the Frisiavones, the first of the Hamii who are archers, the first of the Sunuci, the first of the Vangiones which consists of 1000 men, the first of the Baetasii, the first of the Dalmatians, the first of the Aquitanians, the first of the Menapii, the first of the Cugerni consisting of Roman citizens styled Ulpia Trajana, the first of the Varduli consisting of Roman citizens styled the Faithful, the first of the Batavians, the first of the Tungri, the second of the Lingones, the second of the Asturians, the second of the Dongones, the second of the Nervii, the third of the Bracaraugustani, the third of the Nervii, and the sixth of the Nervii (which are all serving in Britain under Platorius Nepos) and who have served twenty-five or more campaigns, and have obtained an honourable discharge,

Whose names are given below, to them their children and posterity, has given Roman citizenship and right of lawful marriage with the wives they then had when the citizenship was given to them, or if they had not been married, with the wives they may afterwards take, provided each takes only one at a time.

Dated the 15th of September in the consulship of Gaius Julius Gallus and Gaius Valerius Severus.

To . . . . . . . . the son of Albanus, of the tribe of the Sunuci, late a foot soldier in the first cohort of the Sunuci commanded by M. Junius Claudianus.

Copied and verified from a brazen tablet, fixed up in Rome on the wall behind the temple of the deified Augustus at the shrine of Minerva. (The seals) of Urbanus, Severus, Paratus (three out of the seven witnesses required). The other four names are lost.

A portion of the diploma is now in the Anglo-Saxon Room at the British Museum, and a photogravure of it is here given; but the photographic process does not, owing to the dark colour of the metal, represent the engraved letters very distinctly. The portion here represented is broken into seven or eight pieces. The remaining and much larger portion has been lost or misplaced for many years, and this is only a fragment of one of the copies. The other copy, which is not now forthcoming, was the one from which the contents of the diploma were actually discovered.[3] The real deciphering of the diploma is based on Cough's reading of the last portion. A splendid reproduction in colour of the preserved portion is given in Dr. Bruce's Lapidarium Septentrionale.

These documents were always in duplicate, and were fastened together by wire put through holes in the brass. One of these holes will be noticed in the photogravure.

The fact that both copies were found together under a stone is evidence that they were intentionally put there either for safety or concealment. Had they been treated as waste metal they would not have been found under a stone, and the plates would not have been in one place.

This diploma, like other Roman military diplomata of the same kind, bears special reference to one individual and his descendants. It is a grant, by Hadrian, of Roman citizenship, with all its attendant rights and advantages, to . . . . . . the son of Albanus, of the tribe of the Sunuci, whose home was in Belgium, between Cologne and Liege.[4] This person had formerly been a foot soldier in the first cohort of the Sunuci, commanded by M. Junius Claudianus. He had served twenty-five campaigns, or more, and obtained the honourable discharge (honesta missio) which entitled him either to a grant of land, or a lump sum of money.[5] In this case it is possible that he received a grant of land, and settled in or near the place where his diploma was found. The diploma does not, as in some other cases, mention the wife and children (if any) of the recipient. But it will be noticed that the form of the grant confers the citizenship not only upon him, but also upon his lawful descendants.[6]

In order to distinguish what lawyers call "the formal parts" of the instrument from the special words applying to the particular case, the special words have been printed, in the translation, in italics. The whole of the instrument, except the words thus printed, is "common form," as though it had been taken from a book on conveyancing, or recited from an Act of Parliament. A space was sometimes left on the tablets for the insertion of the name. Historically this diploma is of great interest, because it gives us the names of the auxiliary troops of the Roman army which were serving in Britain under the command of Platorius Nepos in A.d. 124.[7] And it has a prospective importance, because, as we shall presently see, the name of the place where it was discovered seems, along with other evidence, to indicate the site of a Roman country villa, built, perhaps, or begun by this very son of Albanus.

The diploma is a copy made from an original anciently- kept in Rome, and fixed up there on the wall behind the temple of Divus Augustus. As in the case of other military diplomata, the copy was examined or verified, and then attested by the seals of seven witnesses. "The names of the witnesses," says Dr. Purser, "are nearly always in the genitive, signifying that it is their seal."[8] Here the names of three out of the seven witnesses have been preserved.

Mr. Thompson, the tenant of a farm at The Lawns, belonging to the Duke of Norfolk, is a very old man, and he says distinctly that the brass plates were found by a man who was "grubbing up" stones in a small enclosure, of about a rood in extent, known as King's Park or Penny Piece, and represented in the drawing below. These stones were not apparently the foundations of buildings, but the "day-stones" which lie on land not usually ploughed.

This field is in the tenure of Mr. Nichols, a descendant or kinsman of the Edward Nichols who found the diploma. There are no mounds or other signs of buried ruins on the spot. The name "Kings Park" is rather striking, "park" here meaning a small enclosed piece of ground. As regards the alternative name "Penny Rent," Harrison, in 1637, mentions "a meadow called Penny Rent" at Ranmoor, containing 1R. 35P.[9] We learn then that the place where the diploma was found was an enclosed space, of small extent, and, for some reason or other, called "King's Park." Whatever the word king here means it cannot be a personal name, and it is significant that the property is still in the possession of the Duke of Norfolk, the representative of the ancient lords of Hallamshire.[10] The name Penny Piece apparently implies that the agricultural value of the paddock was very small. Dr. Bruce, however, writing of Halton Chester on Hadrian's Wall says "the portion of the station north of the road was brought into cultivation in the year 1827. It is called the 'Brunt ha'penny Field,' from the number of corroded copper coins which have been picked up in it."[11] No such discovery has yet been made in Stannington.

Harrison describes the place now called The Lawns as "the old launde for the deare," containing sixty-two acres, which was "invironed with Rivelin," meaning probably the forest known as Rivelin Firth. A "laund" was an open space surrounded by trees, so that the diploma was found in a deer park of the lords of Hallamshire. An old road runs from the Long Causey down the hill, across the brook, and up the opposite hill side, to The Lawns. The land on the east side of The Lawns is known as The Rails.

A very interesting question arises as to the word Stannington, which was anciently written without the g, and apparently means stone villa. A "stone villa" can only mean a Roman villa, for, as we have already seen, the oldest houses in this neighbourhood were built of wood.[12] Stannington is mentioned in two deeds of the years 1330 and 1331 as Stanyton,[13] which is the abbreviated way of writing Stanynton. "Stanyn" is equivalent to "stonyn, or made of stone, lapideus."[14] The Old English tún translates uilla in a vocabulary of the eleventh century.[15] There is no difficulty in the present form of the word, for stáni-forð has made the local surname Stanniforth, and not, as one might have expected, Stonyforth. Accordingly the old form of the word was stænen-tún, stone villa. Again, Förstemann gives many old German place-names compounded with stain, or its adjective steininer, such as Steininachiricha, stone church.

Hunter says "there is, properly speaking, no village of Stannington, the principal collections of houses being known as Upper-gate and Nether-gate."[16]

A villa standing at the Lawns or on the hill side of Stannington would face the south. "The villa," we are told, "which must be of size corresponding to that of the farm, is best placed at the foot of a wooded mountain, in a spot supplied with running water, and not exposed to severe winds nor to the effluvia of marshes, nor (by being close to a public road) to a too frequent influx of visitors."[17] Now the hill side of Stannington, which slopes to Rivelin Water, has every one of these advantages. The valley which Elliott loved to celebrate in song, and which once contained such magnificent trees, would have been a very likely place for the site of a Roman villa, whether built by the son of Albanus or not.

It seems that in Hunter's time (1819) the voice of tradition was loud in asserting that this valley, which now contains so few inhabitants, was once the "seat of a numerous and busy, people," and some persons even spoke of "the city of Hallam."[18] This tradition may merely represent the dim remembrance of some great house in this place. Traces of the former existence of such a house on this hill side are indeed very clear.

William Harrison, in 1637, mentions "the Hawe Park," and tells us that it "lyeth open to Rivelin Firth," and contained severity-four acres. To the west of this park stood "the old laund for the deer," where the diploma of citizenship was found. This laund, if we may believe the modern field-name, was the King's Park.

But what is "the Hawe Park"? About a mile to the east of "the old laund," otherwise The Lawns, the six-inch Ordnance Map describes a considerable piece of ground, now divided into small enclosures, as "Hall Park." Harrison's "Hawe" stands for "hall," as "Smaw" in Smawfield (in Bradfield) stands for "small," or as "caw," in some dialects, stands for "call."[19] In Scotch, according to Jamieson, ha' or haw is "hall," and means manor house. Much confusion has been caused by Hunter and others, who have written the word as "Haugh." The same Ordnance Map gives, as adjacent to Hall Park, Park Side, Hall Field Lane, Park Head, Park Road.

In the Duke of Norfolk's office is an old coloured plan[20] entitled "a map of Wm. Carr's Farm at Stanington, as survey'd January 4th 1747 by W. Fairbank." This farm, containing 9A. 1R. 23P., consisted of six closes and a homestead, which is roughly sketched on the plan, near "The Manner House." Three roads are marked on this plan, namely Hall Field Lane, out of which runs Cockshot Lane, and the main road then called "Stannington Town Gate." On the south side of this main road the plan marks "The Manner House," and on the opposite or north side of the road it marks a small pond. Immediately to the north of the pond the plan describes by means of a curved dotted line an "old mote." "The Mannor House" is not included in W. Carr's farm; it is just outside, and a little to the north-west of his homestead. The reference list written on the plan contains the following words:

The Gardens & homestead - - - - - 0 0 21
& 3 Bay 6 lenths of Building & 2 Bay 4 lenths
at the Manr in possession of W. Carr and Jno

It appears from this that, besides his farm of nine acres, W. Carr held, along with John Ibbotson, a quantity of building, divided into "lengths" and "bays"[21] "at the manor." The position of this manor house can be exaclly pointed out on the six-inch Ordnance Map, dated 1855. It adjoins the south side of the road leading from Owlerton to Stannington, a little to the west of Cockshutt Lane. The pond of the plan of 1747 appears on the Ordnance Map as a very small triangular sheet of water adjoining the north side of the road, and immediately opposite the place once known as the manor house. The pond is now filled up, and the "old mote" on the north side of the road is no longer there. But another segment of the circular mound of which it formed a part is still visible, though somewhat faint, in the grass field on the south side of the road. The segment preserved on the plan of 1747, taken together with the existing segment, enables us to see that this house was surrounded by a circular moat, like the moat round the manor house of mercy described by Langland in "Piers Plowman:"

þanne shaltow come to a courte as clere as þe sonne,

þe mote is of mercy the manere aboute.

B. 5, 595.

This circular moat, or earthwork, may remind us of the earthwork in Roe Wood described in a previous chapter. In Stannington they say that a "hall" stood on this spot.[22] It is more likely that the hall of Waltheof stood here than at Hallam Head.[23]

According to local tradition a "castle" stood half a mile to the south of the manor house, in the field which, on the six-inch Ordnance Map of 1855, adjoins the eastern side of Goodyfield Wood. This would be a very likely place for a Roman villa, as it is nearly at the foot of the hill, and well protected from the winds. The field in which the "castle" is said to have stood is near an eminence described as Goodyfield Rock, and shown on the right side of the frontispiece of this book.

The discovery of the Roman tablets, the old moated hall, and the voice of tradition give a strange interest to this beautiful valley.

Here, facing the noonday sun, and surrounded by the finest timber in Christendom,[24] stood an ancient house of the lords of Hallamshire. From the great sun-lit slope the trees have gone; only the verdure remains. When we look across this valley our eyes fall indeed upon a lovely scene, but imagination alone can bring back the great deer park with its huge oaks and pines, the villa built by the Roman, or the timbered hall of the Norseman. In few other English districts has the hand of man so changed the old appearance of the country. On the western side of Hallamshire lands which little more than a hundred years ago were unfilled moors, overspread by heather and broom, and tenanted only by wandering tinkers, or by mere squatters, are now covered by big trees and exotic plants. But, standing on the high ground of Crookes and surveying the far-reaching expanse of neat stone fences, and the trim and regular fields which rise one above another on the southern slope of Stannington, you would say that, saving a few old enclosures, this northern side of Hallamshire was a waste newly cleared of its heather and day-stones, and just brought into cultivation. You would not think it was the place which the Roman chose for his villa, or the great Northumbrian Earl for his hall.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hunter's Hallamshire, 1819, p. 18, and 19, footnote, col. 2.
  2. Ibid. p. 19, n. col. 1.
  3. Accounts of this missing copy will be found in Cough's Notes to Camden's Britannia, Vol. III., pp. 28, 29, and in Hunter's Hallarashire, pp. 18, 19.
  4. They probably lived in the same distrift as the Segni of Caesar (Bell. Gall, vi., 32).— L. C. P.
  5. See Dr. Purser's article on Exerctlus in Smith's Dict. of Greek and Roman Antiq. 3rd ed. i, 809, b.
  6. As to the form, manner of making and attesting, etc., these instruments see Dr. Purser's article (Diploma) in Smith's Dict of Greek and Roman Antiq. 1891, p. 641.
  7. Both the Petrian and Picentine squadrons, named in the diploma, are mentioned by Tacitus (Hist, i., 70; iv., 62). Squadrons of horse were frequently named after the officers who first organized them ; thus the Petrian squadron was called after someone who bore the cognomen of Petra. But the Picentine squadron probably got its name from the town of Picentia, in the district of Picenum. Cf. ala Britannica: Tac. Hist iii., 41—L. C. P.
  8. Article diploma, in Smith's Dict. ut supra.
  9. In Sheffield Glossary. Mr. Winder tells me that he does not find "Penny Piece" in the list of field-names at the Duke of Norfolk's office. But he finds "King's Park and Pasture Field" (about two acres) now in the occupation of Mr. Nicholls. Still Penny Piece must be an old name known to the tenant.
  10. Mr. Winder has shown me a list of the fields in the occupation of the present tenant. Besides King's Park I noticed Summers Lawn, and Linting Lawns. These fields lie all together.
  11. Handbook to the Roman Wall, 1885, p 61.
  12. Chap. xxii.
  13. Gatty's Hunter's Hallamshire, p. 467.
  14. Prompt. Parv. p. 477.
  15. Wright-Wülcker, 333, 21.
  16. Hallamshire, p. 273.
  17. Smith's Dict. of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1891, s. v. villa.
  18. Hallamshire, p. 18.
  19. Sweet's Hist, of English Sounds, p. 266.
  20. For the production of this plan I am indebted to Thomas Winder, Esq.
  21. As to this word see ante, p. 179.
  22. A house on the north side of the road, opposite to the site of the old manor, has been lately named The Manor House.
  23. See ante, p. 194.
  24. See ante, p. 192.