Heavy Metal on Regis House

Written by Ian Blair

For a period of several weeks on Regis House, our superb metal-detectorist Pat Connolly (more of him in a later post), had been getting ever-more excited by a massive signal that was given off as he passed the detector over an area of one of the Roman quayside warehouses destroyed in the Hadrianic fire. Further excavation revealed that the signal had its origins in 3 large lead ingots (stamped with the Emperor Vespasian’s name) which had been deliberately hidden beneath the warehouse floor.

 

Regis House Roman lead ingotsDave Sankey getting the measure of the ingots

Photography and recording done, time to lift said ingots – which Bruce confidently asserted weighed about 70lbs each – probably based solely on having kicked the side of one of them like an old car tyre (I was certainly not in the least-bit convinced at his confident assessment). Each ingot was lifted with much grunting, effort, and a fair degree of cursing into a purpose-made container (namely a requisitioned Sunblest bread crate) – which Bruce and I then carried across a variety of obstacles and elevated walkways (with every vertebrae screaming out with each repeat journey).

Our backs and lacerated hands having somehow held out, the ingots were driven off to the conservation labs at the Museum. The timing of their arrival upstairs was not great as it coincided with a new carpet having been laid – which by all accounts sustained a fair degree of collateral damage as the sharp-edged bread crates laden with lead were dragged across it. The official weigh-in that was to follow showed that the ingots weighed around 173–180 lbs each – which translates as nearly 13 stone or 81.70kg. So nice one Bruce only a mere 100lbs out and we might as well have been carrying you around in a bread crate!..

 

Roman lead ingots MOLAS Annual Review 1996