'We are not makers of history. We are made by history' - Martin Luther King
The site of Trimontium
Who We Are
The Trimontium Trust manage the only museum in Scotland dedicated to the Romans and to the Iron Age population that they encountered, when they invaded the region they called Caledonia around 80AD. We have been telling the story of Roman settlement north of Hadrian’s Wall for almost 30 years and with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), we now have a once in a generation chance to bring this story to a wider audience, a story that can inform us about the world of today. What it means to be Scottish, British, European and a citizen of the world are being questioned and our society can feel conflicted between increased globalisation and national identity. By considering our history, we can discover and learn from past civilisations to help us inform the choices that we make today.
Trimontium is the site of one of the most important Roman sites in the UK yet many people are not aware of it. It is located close to Newstead, near Melrose, in the beautiful landscape of the Scottish Borders, and was occupied from the 1st to the 3rd Century AD, long after the Antonine Wall was abandoned. It remained an important Roman outpost beyond Hadrian’s Wall, home to over 1,500 soldiers and a similar number of civilians. The soldiers stationed at Trimontium came from as far afield as the South of France and Syria. It was the largest Roman settlement north of Ebacorum (York) and for the Romans, it was clearly an important base and the centre of their culture in Scotland.
Reconstruction of Trimontium
Uniquely within the Roman Empire, when the settlement was abandoned and for unknown reasons, many objects were buried in 117 pits across the site. Extraordinary discoveries made at the site include stunning parade helmets, two with facemasks; intricately decorated bronze wine jugs showing how the refinements of Roman life were enjoyed on this remote frontier; considerable quantities of military equipment including swords, axes and spears; blacksmiths tools and farming implements in pristine condition; human and animal remains, many of which remain mysterious and only partially explained; and writing tablets yet to be investigated.
A Roman Military Facemask from Trimontium
Most of these objects are kept in storage at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS). The anaerobic soil conditions perfectly preserved many of the objects, of which over 4,000 have been recovered from the site, one of the largest Roman collections in the UK. This makes Trimontium of international importance with the objects demonstrating that the settlement encapsulated all levels of Roman society.
Voices from our Roman Past
The Trimontium Trust emerged in the late 1980s to set up and run a museum celebrating the history of Trimontium. The museum currently operates from one small room in the centre of Melrose, on a seasonal basis.
For many years we have been undertaking a huge range of activities to engage people in the story of Trimontium and the Roman impact on Scotland and the British Isles. This includes a range of heritage and outreach activities in an annual programme of school visits, guided walks to the Trimontium site, a lecture series and talks to other societies. We are valued in the local community as a centre for learning, a social space, a hub for volunteering and an important tourism asset in the town. We are entirely volunteer run and managed.
Trimontium Schools outing to National Museum of Scotland
Our Project - Safeguarding our Roman & Iron Age Heritage
Our project is for the refurbishment of the Trimontium Museum, to increase the sustainability through enhanced building facilities, increasing footfall, better income generation activity and increased support for volunteers. Much of the Trimontium collection cannot be displayed or shared publicly until properly interpreted and conserved.
As part of this project, we will work in partnership with NMS to be able to borrow a greater number of objects, through long term loan agreements, that came from Trimontium and/or help tell the story of the Romans in Scotland. Many of these objects have never been on public display. This will allow them to come out of storage and return to the location where they were found, ensuring that the people of the Scottish Borders and beyond can better access this aspect of our culture and heritage.
Artist impression of new museum galleries
We Need Your Help
We have raised almost all of the £1.2 million required for this project, which will include the reinterpretation of Trimontium and develop new learning and outreach materials. We need your help to raise the final £80,000 to enable us to turn our vision into reality, to create a nationally fitting museum telling the important story encapsulated by Trimontium. Your help will allow us to improve community & visitor facilities; provide more display areas; enable more loans from other museums across the world, create improved facilities for learning and engagement activities and run a community archaeology project including field-walking and a new geophysical survey to elicit more detail about the site.
Artist impression of refurbished Museum reception
This Project will enable the Trust to move forward towards the goal of creating a new nationally important Museum dedicated to telling the unique story of the British-Romano culture north of Hadrian’s wall and the impact this had on Scotland and the wider UK.
The Power of History
Our project is an ambitious one, but as the only museum in Scotland dedicated to the Roman era, telling the often overlooked story of the Roman beyond Hadrian’s Wall, we feel passionate about our vision. The story unlocked through Trimontium reveals how cultures interact, understand and misunderstand each other alongside the fluidity of borders and the movements of people and ideas. This is a story that is very relevant in the modern world, linking to Scottish and British cultural identity and perceptions around this, paralleling a world in tension between the movement of people, ideas and beliefs. The Trimontium Museum, once refurbished, will help to set this story in context and contribute to our understanding of the world around us today, but we need your help to make this vision a reality
‘Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.’
‘To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.’ - Tacitus quoting a speech by the Caledonian chieftain Calgacus after Grapius Mons.
The Three Peaks of Trimontium in the stunning countryside of the Scottish Borders
The following are pictures of some of the rewards on offer:
Trimontium Lapel Pin
Signed book by Douglas Jackson
Signed book by Lindsey Davis
Signed book by Professor Alice Roberts
Biographies to Tour Guides (Burnswark & Behind the Scenes Tours of the National Museum of Scotland stores and Early Scotland Galleries:
Dr John Reid (Chairman of Trimontium Trust)
Dr Reid is the co-creator of the Burnswark Project - the three year programme to investigate the impressive and unique site of Burnswark Hill in Dumfriesshire. The work of the Trust here has shed new light on what is probably a major Roman assault on the native hillfort, the largest in SW Scotland. The tour will include a tour of the enormous Roman fortifications and the unique ballista (catapult) turrets. It will also explore the native fortifications on the summit which give breathtaking views over the SW of Scotland and the Solway basin.
Dr Fraser Hunter (Keeper of the Iron Age & Roman Collections at National Museum Scotland)
Dr Hunter has unparalleled insight into the material culture of this period. Fraser has dug, written and lectured extensively on the Iron Age in Scotland and has privileged access to the fabulous metalwork artefacts from this period in the National collection. His tours will give a unique ‘after hours’ glimpse of the treasures which shed light on this fascinating period at the dawn of Scotland’s history both in the National Museum in Chamber’s Street or the unique artefacts store in Granton, Edinburgh.