You should now be standing in the village of Ilam, near the site where a Roman copper-alloy pan was found by metal detectorists in 2003. The Staffordshire Moorlands Pan (sometimes known as the Ilam Pan) was bought jointly in 2005 by The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, in Stoke-on-Trent, the Tullie House Museum, in Carlisle, and The British Museum.
The pan is an example of an early Roman pan or ‘trulla’ which is missing its base and handle. It dates from around 100-199 CE. The standout feature of the pan is its decoration, which is colourful and swirling, evoking Iron Age artwork. This type of curvilinear artwork did not die out with the arrival of the Roman army in Britain. The design consists of eight roundels with eight pairs of intervening hollow-sided triangles. Each roundel encloses a six-armed whirligig centred on a three-petalled device. The roundels are inlaid with turquoise and blue enamel, with the whirligigs decorated in alternating yellow, red and possibly purple enamel.
Probably the most exciting part of the decoration is the inscription below the rim which reads – in Latin – ‘MAISCOGGABATUXELODUNUMCAMMOGLANNARIGOREVALIAELIDRACONIS’. This is a list of four of the forts at the western end of Hadrian’s Wall: MAIS (Bowness-on-Solway), COGGABATA (Drumburgh), VXELODVNVM (Stanwix) and CAMMOGLANNA (Castlesteads).
Hadrian’s Wall was begun in 122 CE, running from the banks of the Tyne to the Solway Firth. The wall probably represents Hadrian’s policy of consolidation of the boundaries of the Roman Empire rather than continued expansion. It may also have provided control of trade and taxation.
The rest of the inscription, ‘RIGOREVALIAELIDRACONIS’ is harder to decipher. ‘VALI’ likely refers to the wall, which was known as the vallum in Roman times. AELI may refer to Hadrian – his family name was Aelius – and so ‘VALI AELI’ may mean ‘The Wall of Hadrian’. ‘AELI’ could also be a part of the following personal name, ‘DRACONIS’ – Draco or Dracon. This could be the name of the manufacturer or the person for whom the pan was made. If the pan was made for Draco he may well have been one of the soldiers stationed as part of the garrison along Hadrian’s Wall.
Only two other vessels that name forts along Hadrian’s Wall are known. The Rudge Cup was discovered in Wiltshire in 1725 and the Amiens Patera in Amiens in 1949. The Staffordshire Moorlands Pan is the first of these examples to include Drumburgh and is the only example to name an individual. The pan is likely to be a souvenir from Hadrian’s Wall but it is not known why only four of the forts are named.
We may think of souvenirs and tourism as recent phenomena but these finds show that Romano-British people enjoyed souvenirs too. Perhaps they were Roman equivalent of the modern-day Hadrian’s Wall mug or fridge magnet. Was Draco a Romano-British man from the Staffordshire Moorlands who visited Hadrian’s Wall and brought back a souvenir? Or a soldier stationed on the wall? If so how did the pan end up in the Peak District? Many questions remain and will likely never be answered.
You can find more information on the Staffordshire Moorlands Pan on The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery website: https://www.stokemuseums.org.uk/pmag/collections/getrecord/CFPOT_STKMG_2006_LH_1
and from the Portable Antiquities Scheme: https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/49791