“Catreath, Cataractonium as the Romans had called it” | Catterick now | In Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Shining Company

One of the pleasures of curating this blog about Rosemary Sutcliff, the eminent historical novelist and children’s writer (who regular readers will know was a close, much-loved relative of mine) is the contributions you readers make by way of ‘comments’ on particular posts, and also the ‘You Write!’ tab. A recent 1988 diary entry mentioned  Catraeth. Jane mused about Catterick camp and Jane picked up the baton:

The Catterick Garrison is still in operation – it’s the largest BritIsh Army garrison in the world.

The old Roman fort of Cataractonium will be familiar to those who’ve read The Shining Company – it’s the setting for the last desperate stand of the Company against the Saxon forces of Aethelfrith, Lord of Bernicia and Deira.“Catreath, Cataractonium as the Romans had called it, was a double cohort fort, and so there was room enough for all of us within the crumbling defences.”

Cataractonium’s marching camp also makes an appearance: “And so, with the forest reaching up towards us, we came to the remains of yet one more fort in that land of lost forts, and made our last night’s camp. It was not much of a fort, maybe only a permanent marching camp in its time, and being on the edge of the forest country the wild had taken it back more completely than those of the high moors…. little remained of the buildings but turf hummocks and bramble domes”.

Although it isn’t one of the Aquila family sequence, there’s one of those “aha” moments in Shining Company which readers of Sutcliff work enjoy – a connection made with Frontier Wolf (set a couple of centuries earlier) when young Prosper and a couple of companions out on a training exercise camp at the (now ruined) Cramond fort where the action in Frontier Wolf takes place. Sutcliff uses the linking device very effectively as a way of emphasizing continuity.

And ,of course, as well as making me wiser about Catterick and Catraeth, and reminding me of Frontier Wolf , this prompts me to  ask all you readers and contributors – regular and occasional – please do tell us some more “Aha” moments …

Author: Anthony Lawton

Chair, Sussex Dolphin, family company which looks after the work of eminent children’s & historical fiction author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). Formerly CEO, chair & trustee of various charity, cultural & educational enterprises in UK.

3 thoughts on ““Catreath, Cataractonium as the Romans had called it” | Catterick now | In Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Shining Company”

      1. Actually RS calls Catterick “Catreath, Catteractonium…” in “The Shining Company”. “Catteractonium” does appear quite often as an alternative spelling, though these days “Cataractonium” has probably become more common.

        There seems to be some ongoing debate over the etymology of the name – one camp sees the waterfall connection as a bit of a red herring, and the area having had a similar sounding Celtic name meaning something like “[the place of] battle ramparts”.

        Like

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