Romans Collection

Scope and Content

Extensive collection of lantern slides (ca. 2,500) and negatives (ca.1.800), together with papers (excavation notes, correspondence, texts of lectures, working notes), some published guidebooks, and a few photographic prints. The photographic collection chiefly relates to Romans' interests in church architecture, and pre-Conquest stone sculpture, particularly in the north of England, but also includes material reflecting his interest in Roman archaeology and architecture. Many of the photographs were taken by Romans himself, but the collection includes numerous lantern slides by other photographers, some obtained from friends and others probably through Romans' membership of an exchange club. The papers include material on the excavations in which Romans participated at Birdoswald, Malton, Brough by Humber and Old Durham.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Romans was born on 24 July 1876, and educated at St Peter's School, York, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Ordained in 1902, he served curacies at Haltwhistle, Northumberland, and Gateshead and Staindrop, Co. Durham, interrupted by two years war service. He was Vicar of St Mark's, Millfield, Sunderland 1922-1937, Master of Sherburn Hospital, Durham from 1937 until his death, and in 1956 was made an honorary canon of Durham Cathedral.

Romans graduated from Cambridge with a first in Natural Sciences, and developed strong antiquarian and archaeological interests. He excavated with Kirk and Collingwood at Brough by Bainbridge in Wensleydale in 1926, with Kirk and Rowland in 1927 at Malton in Yorkshire, at Birdoswald on the Roman Wall in the same year, and later with Kirk and Corder at Langton and with Corder at Brough by Humber (Roman Petuaria ). He was also involved in the 1940 rescue of the bath-house associated with the villa at Old Durham.

Much of Romans' antiquarian work was concerned with churches, particularly with structural detail and ornament. His interest ranged through the whole of English ecclesiastical architecture, with particular emphasis on the Anglo-Saxon and early medieval churches of the north. Pre-Conquest sculpture was an especial enthusiasm.

Romans published little, but he was an accomplished photographer, and it has been said that his way of describing was to photograph. He was also a member of the Architectural Details Postal Club, through which members could arrange to exchange photographs.

Romans served for many years on the Central Advisory Council for the Care of Churches, and on its local diocesan committee, and on the committee of the Society of Antiquaries' William Morris Fund for the repair of historic churches. He was made a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1932. From 1948 to 1950 he was President of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.


The collection is still in course of arrangement. It is grouped in five sections: lantern slides, negatives, photographic prints, papers, and guidebooks. Within the lantern slides section, principal groups are Roman architecture; Pre-Conquest sculpture; Fonts; Misericords; Cistercian abbeys; other monastic; Durham, Northumberland and Yorkshire churches; other English churches. There are also small sections on Belgium, France and Italy, largely concerned with ecclesiastical architecture.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the University of Durham Department of Archaeology, 1995

Other Finding Aids

Not yet fully listed; there are partial draft lists of some sections

Separated Material

Durham Cathedral Library, Romans Collection (albums and photographs)

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Custodial History

Romans apparently left this material to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who deposited it with the University of Durham Department of Archaeology.

Related Material

Romans supplied many other researchers with illustrations by gift and exchange, and copies of some of his slides are found in many other collections, including the University Library's Gibby Lantern Slides Collection.


Colgrave, B., and Romans, T., A guide to St. Paul's Church, Jarrow: and its monastic buildings (Gloucester, 19--)  Corder, P., and Romans, T., Excavations at the Roman fort at Brough-on-Humber (Hull, 1934-8)  Hastings, F., and Romans, T., Two fragments of pre-Norman cross shafts from Ovingham church, Northumberland, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th ser, 24 (1946), 177-82  Richmond, I.A., Romans, T. and Wright, R.P., A civilian bath-house of the Roman period at Old Durham, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th ser., 22 (1944), 1-21  Obituaries of Canon Romans by Eric Birley, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th ser., 36 (1958), 297- 9, and by W.E. Wright, Bertram Colgrave and I.A. Richmond, Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, 11 pts 1-2 (1958), 132-6