Petuaria was the name used by the Romans for the small settlement on the north bank of the Humber at the site that is the modern day Brough. Petuaria was occupied by the Roman army from around 70AD and a fortress was built which covered about 4.5 acres. The area had been previously inhabited by the Parisi tribe, who were Celts, and Brough had been their capital since around 150BC. The name Brough is thought to have come from the Gaelic ‘burh’ meaning ‘fortified place’. Evidence has been found of Bronze Age settlement, but finds of worked flints,including a Neolithic flint knife, suggest earlier habitation.
The Haven at Brough – or Petuaria as it was – provided a strategically important harbour for the Romans and was used as a naval base. At the time it was also possible to ford the Humber on foot, something that is no longer possible even at low tide since the excavation of the deep water shipping channel. A road was constructed from the Haven, out along what is now Cave Road, to York (Eboracum) which was the Roman’s provincial capital. The ferry from Brough across the Humber was an integral part of the Romans’ Ermine Street for 400 years.
In 125 AD the Roman army left and by 270 AD the prospering town of Petuaria covered about 12 acres and was surrounded by a 9 foot thick stone wall. The present day Burrs playing field covers about a third of the old Roman site, and was excavated to a depth of 5 feet in the 1930s. The dig on Bozzes Field (as it was known at the time) revealed a number of artifacts including a stone inscription indicating the presence of a theatre. Today the stone is on display in the Hull & East Riding Museum.
By the 4th Century the town had begun to decline with the increasing importance of York, and the tidal Humber waters had destroyed much of the southern fortress wall. Until this time the Haven came further inland, to the present day site of the Ferry Inn, but the changing shoreline and constant flooding left the Haven silted up with mud. Eventually much of the fortifications were demolished, with the stone being used to build the growing mediaeval city of Kingston-upon-Hull.
In 1239 the local lord attempted to establish a weekly market, and a two day annual fair, at ‘Burgus-upon-Humbre’ as it was then known. He was unsuccessful and the adjacent village of Elloughton retained its importance. The township of ‘Elloughton cum Brough’ is shown in records from 1796 to have had a population of 355, which had grown to 1009 by 1905, largely following development of the railways and the opening of Brough station in 1840.
The Blackburn Aircraft Company opened its Brough factory in 1916 and as the company expanded, becoming a major employer, many more people were attracted to the village. Considerable housing developments from the 1950s onwards, the increase in vehicle ownership and improving road links with Hull have all resulted in Brough becoming the thriving urban centre it is today.
A sculpture celebrating Brough’s link with historic Roman Britain was installed at Brough crossroads in 2013. The Centurion was created by local artist Rodney Wilson and was installed after a licence was granted by East Riding of Yorkshire Council following an application by Elloughton-cum-Brough In Bloom.