It is clear that the Romans valued Yorkshire’s mineral assets, and lead mining began extremely early, as evidenced by two Lead “pigs” found on Heyshaw Moor, Pateley Bridge, in the 18th century, which date from AD81. It is however extremely difficult to be sure how much mining took place, in Nidderdale and elsewhere, as Roman workings were almost certainly destroyed by more recent work, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. We can be fairly confident that lead was mined in Nidderdale, probably on Greenhow, and also in Swaledale near Hurst, and it seems likely they exploited deposits near Settle and elsewhere. Another natural resource we know the Roman’s exploited was stone, and several quarries with probably Roman origin are known.
Apart from these few sites, there is little evidence of organised industrial activity in Roman Yorkshire, at least in any form we would recognise, with the notable exception however of pottery production. Claims in the media of the discovery of a Roman Industrial estate at Healam Bridge during the recent A1(M) widening programme, have been, to say the least, exaggerated. Operations such as metalworking or leatherworking tended to be small scale and unless part of military operations were probably operated by individual craftsmen and were largely restricted to vici (settlements attached to forts) and our handful of larger settlements, serving mainly the military and any Romanised local population.
Ceramics were an altogether different case. The Romans introduced the use of both the wheel and the kiln, supplanting the native traditions of hand built, coiled pottery and open "bonfire" firing, transforming a domestic craft into a true industry, with notable centres in our region including Rossington Bridge / Cantley & Cranbeck. Production was not simply for local consumption, with examples of wares manufactured at Rossington Bridge being found along Hadrian’s Wall. The interactive map shows all the known pottery kiln sites, but there were probably many many more. Pottery was needed for the considerable military presence throughout northern Britain and for it’s supporting infrastructure, and despite the fact that Roman culture in general had little impact on the native population, there was also sizeable demand from the Britons themselves.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the lowland parts of our region became very important for agriculture as the Roman occupation progressed, as evidenced by the huge numbers of “brickwork pattern” field systems revealed by aerial photography in recent years. Indeed, it seems possible that much of the land in lowland Yorkshire farmed today was utilised for agriculture in the Roman period, presumably providing food supplies for the military garrisons further north and perhaps for export to other parts of the empire. Having said all that, whether agriculture could really be classed as an organised industry remains a matter of some debate.
It used to be thought that Catterick was the site of a major Roman tannery, but that has now been comprehensively disproved in a review of the evidence by A D Hooley on 2002. Whilst the Roman army had huge demand for leather, we have no firm evidence for tanneries or major workshops in Yorkshire.