The Senhouse Roman Museum is home to both the oldest collection of Roman artefacts in Britain and the largest from one site in Britain. The collection was begun by John Senhouse from Netherhall around 1570. The artefacts were recovered from the remains of a Roman Fort, Alauna and its nearby settlement. The Romans used Maryport as a landing stage for troop supplies for Hadrian's Wall and Carlisle, and as part of a chain of coastal defenses.
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During the 18th century there were extensive excavations around Alauna, and many altars were discovered giving weight to the importance of religious practice in Roman Britain. The stone altars were dedicated as part of an annual ceremony at a temple to Jupiter, possibly located northeast of the fort.
The altars are rectangular with a base and capital. Each has an inscription in the central part. The Romans poured offerings and burned incense on the top. The altars were constructed annually in thanksgiving to the gods for keeping the Roman Empire safe.
Other museum displays cover the Roman occupation of the area and Celtic religious sculptures. Everyday life of the Roman outposts is explained in the museum, which is housed in an 1885 Naval Reserve Battery located between the coast and the remains of the Roman fort.
Senhouse Roman Museum
The Battery, Seabrows
Tel. 0 1900 816 168
Web: Senhouse Museum
Open: Jan–March and Nov-Jan, Fri, Sat, Sun, 10.30am - 4pm; April – Oct, daily, 10am - 5pm, Nov-Jan, closed 25 and 26 Dec
Text and photos © by Barbara Ballard