|Roman Britain shewing the chief Roman Roads.|
THE TOWNS OF ROMAN BRITAIN
Rev. J. O. Bevan,
Fellow of the College of Preceptors and
Examiner, Sometime Prizeman, Exhibitioner and
Foundation Scholar of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
"The Genesis and Evolution of the Individual Soul"
"Egypt and the Egyptians"
"University Life in the Middle Ages"
"Handbook of the History and Development of Philosophy"
"Archæological Map of Herefordshire"
and numerous other Works.
Chapman & Hall, Ltd.
[All Rights Reserved]
411A HARROW ROAD
The Author writes the last line of this book with a sigh at the incompleteness of his work. He is conscious he has touched but the fringe of the mantle covering the form of the silent Muse of History, but his efforts will be justified if he succeeds in persuading even a single student to persevere and lead the fair Clio to disclose the full story of which broken whispers are here recorded. No one can doubt the fascination of this page of our nation's development, dealing as it does with the dawn of that day of which, please God, the complete effulgence will shine more and more to the perfect end.
In this brochure attention has been chiefly directed to the towns of Roman Britain, as it would have required a volume of stupendous size to formulate a record of sites associated with isolated settlements, camps, burrows, "and bowers," or grounds whereon sports were conducted. Again, there are spots of interest more or less connected with Roman occupation, in tradition or in fact, such as Alderney,1 Porchester,2 Glastonbury, Avebury, Arbow Low in Derbyshire, Stripple Stones, on Bodmin Moor, in Cornwall, the hill-fort in Parc-y-meirch Wood, Dinorben, Denbighshire. The line we have been compelled to draw necessarily excludes such as these. The present work is intended to furnish a compendious guide to readers who desire to study the fruits of the Roman occupation, to trace out the roads they laid down, and to possess themselves of the position and essential features of the centres where they congregated for commerce, pleasure, or defence. The Author has long been attracted to the elucidation of the early history of Britain, and this feeling was intensified by the work he undertook some years ago in connection with the compilation of an Archæological Map of Herefordshire, on lines laid down by the Society of Antiquaries. His experience at that time made him aware how such an undertaking might serve to quicken the curiosity, and to whet the expectation of the student of old time as to the wonderful secrets which await the skilful use of such humble implements as the shovel and the pick in almost any quarter of our island home.
1 Alderney (Ald, old; Ey, island). This, the most northerly of the four Channel Islands seems to have been known to the Romans as Riduna. Remains of ancient dwellings have been found there.
2 To the north of Portsmouth Harbour is situated Porchester Castle, a ruined Norman fortress, occupying the site of the Portus Magnus of the Romans.
The Author desires to convey his acknowledgments to Messrs. Philip and Son, Ltd., of Fleet Street, for their kindness in permitting him to make use of the blocks for the two Maps which appear in this volume.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents
Introduction of Christianity
Influence of Roman Occupation
List of Roman Towns
Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum)
Bath (Aquae Solis, or Sulis)
Caerleon (Isca Siluvum)
Caerwent (Venta Silurum)
Caistor Castle (Venta)
Chester (Caerleon Vawr)
The Wall of Hadrian
The Wall of Antonine
Dorchester (Dorsetshire) (Durnovaria)
Dorchester (Oxfordshire) (Dorcinia)
Exeter (Caer Isca; Isca Damnoniorum)
Isle of Wight (Vectis)
Lancaster (Castra ad Alaunam)
Lincoln (Lindum Colonia, or Lindocolina)
Silchester (Calleva Atre-batum)
St. Albans (Verulamium)
Winchester (Venta Belgarum)
Wroxeter (Uriconium, or Viroconium)
TABLE OF MAPS.
Roman Britain showing the chief Roman Roads
The Roman Wall
The earliest notice of Britain is in Herodotus (B.C. 480-408); but he mentions the Tin Islands (Scilly Islands and Cornwall), only to confess his ignorance about them. More important is a passage in Aristotle (B.C. 384-322), who (writing a century later) is the earliest author who mentions the British Isles by name, as he does in the following passage: "Beyond the Pillars of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar) the ocean flows round the earth, and in it are two very large islands (Nesoi Britannikoi), called in British Albion and Ierne, lying beyond the Keltoi." The application of the name Britannia to denote the larger island, is due to Julius Cæsar (B.C. 100-44), who is the first Roman writer to mention Britain. The name itself may be derived from Welsh, brith, mottled, tattooed, or from brithyn, cloth, cloth-clad, as opposed to the skin-clad Celts.
The history of Britain would be a very long one if we only knew it. It is clear that a considerable interchange of commerce was carried on between the south-eastern parts of the island and Gaul, and that even the remoter regions of the Mediterranean were largely dependent upon Britain for their supplies of tin from the Cornish mines, of lead from Somerset, and of iron from Northumberland and the Forest of Dean.
Politically, Britain consisted of a number of independent bodies, united in a federation of the loosest kind, in which the lead was taken by that tribe which happened at the time to be the most powerful or to have the bravest or most astute leader.
About B.C. 56 Caius Volusenus was sent to this country by Julius Cæsar to examine the coast preparatory to an invasion. The step was threatened, because it was alleged that the Britons had aided and abetted some of the Gaulish tribes in their resistance to the Roman domination. On August 26th, B.C. 55, Cæsar himself set sail from Portus Itius, near Boulogne, with two legions, and effected a landing, presumably near Deal. A good deal of discussion has taken place relative to this point, and much has been said as to the action of the winds and tides in determining his landing place. Probably he would have made a feint at Dover and one or two other places, under cover of which the main body would land at a spot weakly defended. At all events, the resistance offered by the British was soon overcome, easy terms being imposed on their submission. Soon after, Cæsar left, but early in the following summer he again invaded these shores with five legions and two thousand cavalry. He landed in the same neighbourhood as before, and advanced 12 miles inland to the river Stour before meeting with the islanders. Ultimately he decisively defeated Cassivelaunus, the leader, either near London or his capital, Verulamium. The conqueror departed at the fall of the year, without leaving behind any garrison, but, at the same time, taking away hostages to ensure the carrying out of the terms imposed.
Then ensues a period during which direct Roman influence of a dominant or military character fell into abeyance, so that one is required to take up the tale at a much later period, viz., the accession of Claudius, in A.D. 41. That emperor determined to carry out the intention of Augustus to exact the promised tribute from Britain. In 43 he despatched Aulus Plautius with four legions, who obtained an easy victory. Claudius himself received the submission of the tribes. In 42, Vespasian also—who afterwards became emperor in 69—was warring against the Silurian chief, Caradog, or Caractacus (a son of Cunobelin). The latter was defeated in 50 by P. Ostorius Scapula, and found refuge in the country of Cartismandua, queen of the Brigantes, who, however, ultimately gave up her prisoner.
There is a tradition embodied in the Welsh Triads that Caradog and his wife were taken to Rome, and that three hostages accompanied them, by name Bran, Llin, and Claudia, respectively the father, son, and daughter of the brave British chieftain. It is further surmised that Llin and Claudia were the Linus and Claudia referred to by St. Paul in 2 Tim. iv, 21, and that Bran, after seven years banishment at Rome—where he embraced Christianity under the influence of the great Apostle of the Gentiles—returned to his native land to proclaim the new religion to the people.
In 61, Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, revolted against the Roman yoke, sacked London and Colchester, but was defeated near the former city, and took poison rather than fall into the hands of the victors. Agricola became governor in 78, and subjected to his rule the Ordovices Nivales. Not long after, he attacked the Brigantes and Galgacus. In 120, Hadrian was engaged in building the Roman or Pict wall between the Tyne and Solway Frith, which has for so long borne his name. Nineteen years later, Tollius Urbicus constructed the rampart, called the Wall of Antonine (Antoninus Pius 86-161), along the line of Agricola's forts, built between the Forth and the Clyde, to overawe the wild tribes to the north. This wall is now known by the name of Graeme's Dyke. In 207 onwards, Severus built a new wall along the line of Hadrian's rampart. He died at York in 211. The years 287, 288, saw the reigns of Carausius and Allectus. In 296, Constantius Chlorus regained Britain for Rome. He also died at York in 306. In 307 the Picts and Scots overran the country as far as London. The General Theodosius was sent to oppose them, and drove them back beyond Valentia, the fifth Roman division northwards. The title of Emperor was assumed by Maximus in 383, but he was put to death in 388. Stilicho, the general of Honorius, transferred one legion from Britain into Gaul. This weakened the defence of the land against the northern tribes, as the legion never returned. At this epoch ever-growing confusion and division manifested themselves within the Roman Empire, whereupon its hold on distant provinces grew weaker and weaker. At one period there were as many as six Emperors contending with one another for the sole authority; and in 410, the year in which Rome was sacked by the Goths under Alaric, the Roman occupation was terminated according to the terms of a letter addressed by Honorius to the cities of Britain.
Nothing very specific can be said about the settlements of the Celtic inhabitants of these islands before the coming of Cæsar. The country must have been largely covered by forests and intersected by fens. Different tribes occupied different centres and were nomadic according to the season of the year. Barter was common, and there must have been facilities for the distribution of those goods which had their origin in Gaul. An export trade, too, was actively carried on in regard to such metals as tin, which were borne in rude conveyances along well-defined trackways wrought out along the sheltered sides of hills.
Certain spots—woods, hills, wells—from their size, shape, position, or some accidental association, were regarded as sacred, and became the centres of religious worship, of sacrifice, and of schools of priests. Thus we have—then, or in somewhat later times—Bangor, Mona, or the Isle of Augury, Stonehenge, Avebury, etc.
The coming of the Romans led to the opening up of new roads, and caused the building of walls of defence against predatory tribes. It also accentuated the position of many of the camps, centres of population, and strategic posts.
In the reign of Claudius (B.C. 41-A.D. 54), the country south of the Solway Frith and the mouth of the Tyne formed one Roman province under a consular legate and a procurator. Ptolemy (fl. 139-162) (who flourished at Alexandria, and was one of the greatest of ancient geographers) mentions 17 native tribes as inhabiting this district. The Emperor Severus (146-211) divided the whole into two parts, Britannia Inferior, the south, and Britannia Superior, the north. In the division of the country under Diocletian, Britain was made a diocese in the prefecture of Gaul, and was governed by a vicarius, residing at York. It was split up into five provinces, of which the boundaries, though somewhat uncertain, are supposed to have been as follows:
Britannia Prima—the country south of the Thames and of the Bristol Channel.
Flavia Caesariensis—the country between the rivers Thames, Severn, Mersey, and Humber.
Maxima Caesariensis—the rest of England, up to the wall of Hadrian.
Valentia (soon abandoned by the Romans), Scotland south of the Wall of Antoninus.
To ensure the obedience of the natives, various Roman legions, composed of Gauls, Germans, Iberians, rather than of pure Romans, were stationed in Britain, viz., at such places as Eboracum (York), Deva (Chester), Isca (Caerleon), and Magni, or Magna (Kenchester).1
1 In the Itinerary, as in the Ravenna Geographer, we have only the form Magnis, presumably from a nominative Magni, or Magna.
The population of Roman Britain was, in the main Celtic; the Cymric division predominating in the south and east, the Gaidhelic in the north and west. There existed, besides these, remnants of two earlier races—a small dark-haired race, akin to the Basques, or Euskarian (found in S.W. England, S. Wales,2 and parts of the Scotch Highlands), and a tall, fairhaired race.
Under the Romans, many towns (coloniae and municipia) were founded. In several cases their position had been occupied, as winter or summer quarters, by the aboriginal inhabitants; the choice of the site being determined by the contour of the hills, the convergence of trackways, or the proximity to the sea or rivers. Fifty-six Roman towns are enumerated by Claudius Ptolemy (fl. A.D. 139-162). They formed centres of Roman authority, law, commerce, and civilization; the conquerors, to a very limited extent, were able to introduce their own literature. Amongst others, the free inhabitants of Eboracum and Verulamium enjoyed the coveted rights of Roman citizenship. The Ravenna Geographer gives a list of towns—the names of some of which being difficult to identify. Principally to ensure military dominance, the conquerors made many main roads, mostly centering in London. They also developed the land into a corn-growing country.
The history of the towns that became Roman is known to us very imperfectly and unevenly, in respect of elements earlier than the conquest of A.D. 43; of the beginnings, whether official or personal; of their size, original planning, character and composition of the buildings, of the language, degree of civilization, and comparative wealth of the inhabitants; of the relation of the town-life to the life of the adjacent country-side. Further, great mystery shrouds the particulars of their overthrow when the aegis of the Roman authority was withdrawn. There are but few survivals of towns to the present day, and parallels must be sought rather in Pannonia3 and North Africa than in the Western European Empire.
3 Now Illyria, a part of Hungary; finally subdued by Tiberius, A.D. 8.
The site of a Roman town always occupied a commanding position as to elevation, the confluence of roads, or the proximity of rivers. It was surrounded with walls, which were pierced with gates defended by towers and bastions. The houses of the well-off were unpretentious outside, but were fitted inside with comfort and even elegance. The rooms were built around a courtyard. In the villas at Brading and Chedworth tesselated pavements have been found, and traces of baths. Each city was furnished with a Forum, a Basilica, a Temple, and a series of Public Baths. Outside the walls were a Theatre, an Amphitheatre, and a Cemetery.
A goodly proportion of articles recovered constitute treasure-trove in its purest form—objects buried, perhaps, by the owners in expectation of a raid, and never recovered owing to the incidence of death. Many finds have been simply fortuitous, but tombs have been the most valuable repositories. The objects recovered therefrom are in very different states of preservation. Fashioned iron implements have suffered the greatest from natural decay, often merely suggesting the fine smith's work lavished upon them; bronze articles are the less corroded. Gold, the purest of metals, has defied the ravages of time, and ornaments can be reproduced in the form and semblance they possessed when they left the hands of the maker. It is tolerably certain that women formed a part of the early Saxon and Danish raiders; and it is no less certain that a few women, at various times, came over with Roman soldiers or immigrants. To the graves of women especially we look for the recovery of numberless articles of use and adornment. Probably, at the first, there were also surface memorials over the graves so closely jumbled together in the cemeteries, but the violence of man and the inroads of the weather would combine to sweep them away at an early period.
The Baths at Bath furnish the best example of the kind in England; London also has the remains of a Bath of Roman times in the Strand. It is stated that the church of St. Mary the Virgin at Dover is built on the site of a Roman bath, and that the market square there occupies the position of the Roman Agora. Pits used for tanning or dyeing are to be seen at Silchester, and various other industrial occupations are indicated from what may be seen at that city, at Wroxeter, and at various other centres.
INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY.
Before Christianity was planted in Britain, the religion of its inhabitants was Druidism. Julius Cæsar described this form of devotion as it existed in Gaul. The history of the beginnings of Christianity in this country is obscure. Most likely the faith was originally proclaimed in Britain by various independent agents, in different parts of the island. There are indistinct echoes of apostolic origin—of contact with the East and with Spain; but probably the new doctrine was introduced by merchants from Gaul or by soldiers in the Roman legions who were sent into the island by Claudius Cæsar under Aulus Plautius in the year 43 A.D. In the following pages mention will be made of the martyrdom of certain of these early saints at St. Albans and Caerleon.
It may be said that the first Christian institution in Britain, i.e., the church of the garrison towns, was Roman in its origin and atmosphere; and that the second was founded by the followers of S. Germanus of Vienne, in France, whose Christianity was probably derived from Ephesus. Also that the origins of Celtic Christendom contained distinctively Greek elements. In the Romances,4 too, there are various obscure but significant indications of certain influences derivable from Egyptian Christianity; but, vitally and essentially, the Celtic Church constituted itself. Like that of Ireland, it was tribal and monastic, not diocesan; and, in both cases, this loose organization proved to be a source of great weakness.
4 Compiled by such men as Robert of Gloucester (temp. Henry III).
INFLUENCE OF ROMAN OCCUPATION.
Roman remains found in different parts of the island include foundations of towns (such as Silchester, Wroxeter), streets, milliaria, parts of walls and gates; baths, furnaces, flues, wooden and leaden water-pipes (London, Bath); villas with mosaic pavements, painted walls (London, Chedworth, near Cheltenham, Brading, Carisbrooke); altars, votive inscriptions, sculptures, bridges, weapons, tools, implements, pottery, domestic utensils, gold, silver, and bronze ornaments and toilet articles, and coins.
The Romans laboured to render permanent their conquest of Britain. They introduced their native refinement, and greatly improved British arts. To this fact testimony is furnished by the tumuli, barrows, earthworks, monoliths, cromlechs, cairns, and such like remains, which are continually revealing secrets concealed ever since the debâcle which followed the departure of the Roman hosts from our shores. Even as these words were being written, the Author read in The Times of the day an account of Nonsuch Palace at Ye Well, or Ewell, in Surrey, in which it was stated that in the course of recent excavations for the creation of a Japanese garden and lakes, Roman silver coins and pottery were found, testifying to the fact that Ewell was a Roman settlement, being, in fact, identified with Noviomagus.5
5 About the same time, the discovery of a Roman pavement was recorded at Filey, and of coins and a Roman bath at Templeborough Camp, Yorkshire.
So true is it that below us on every side there have been hidden for centuries by the dull, heavy soil, innumerable traces of the life, working, and death of the different races of men successively inhabiting this island. What a wonderful story would not these remains be able to disclose if each claimant were granted a voice, and if each voice could unfold its own narrative!
The method of the construction of the Roman roads largely varied with the nature of the country traversed; but they were uniformly raised above the surface of the neighbouring land, and ran from station to station in a straight course, almost regardless of hills. The more important lines were elaborately constructed with a foundation of hard earth, a bed of large stones, sometimes two more layers of rough stones and mortar, then gravel, lime, and clay; and, above all, the causeway was paved with flat stones. The width was generally about fifteen feet, and at regular intervals were posting stations. The distance was regularly marked off by milestones (mille passuum—a thousand paces). The principal roads were four in number, viz., Watling Street, the Fosse Way, Icknield Street, and Ermine Street.
Originally, Watling Street probably ran from London to Wroxeter. Its northward and westward continuations proceeded from Wroxeter into Wales; its southern continuations between London, Canterbury and the parts about Dover seem also to have received the same name.
Drayton, in his Polyolbion, XIII (1613), says:
|"Those two mighty ways, the Watling and the Fosse ... the first doth hold her way|
From Dover to the furth'st of fruitful Anglesey;
The second, north and south, from Michael's utmost mount,
To Caithness, which the farth'st of Scotland we account."
The Fosse ran from the sea-coast at Seaton, in Devonshire, (R. Maridunum) to Leicester, with a continuation known as High Street, to the Humber.
The Icknield Way seems to have extended from east to west from Icilgham, or Icklingham, near Bury St. Edmunds, underneath the chalk ridge of the Chilterns and Berkshire Downs, to the neighbourhood of Wantage, thence to Cirencester and Gloucester.
The Ermine Street ran north and south through the Fenland from London to Lincoln.
Besides the four great lines there were many scarcely subordinate ones. There were, e.g., several Icknield Streets. Akeman Street ran from Bath, north-east by Cirencester, through Wych-wood Forest and Blenheim to Alcester and Watling Street. A high-road ran from Exeter to the Land's End in continuation of the Fosse. Another route ran from Venta Silurum to St. David's Head; another to the Sarn Helen up the western Welsh coast to Carnarvon (Welsh, sarn—a road).
To a certain extent the conqueror enters into the entail of the conquered. Nevertheless he must obey the conditions of life which the natural features, or the climate of the country of which he has possessed himself, have compelled the aborigines to adopt. Occasionally, as in the case of Greece and Rome, the conquered enslave their masters in regard, at all events, to literature and art; but this did not obtain in the case before us, for the Roman occupation of Britain was largely military, and the Britons had little enough to impart either in literature or art. It is observable, however, that the Romans either did not seek to impose, or were unable to impose, their religious ideas on the Britons. In this connection it must be remembered that the composition of the Roman legions was largely cosmopolitan.
The moral and religious influence brought to bear upon the native Britons by reason of the Roman occupation of close on four centuries can easily be overestimated. A section of the people in the vicinity of Roman towns were humanized and civilized, but the sequel proved that (to a certain extent) the fibre of the hardy and courageous Briton deteriorated and his faculty of resource and fighting diminished; so that when he was deserted by his Roman masters and deprived of his leading strings, he fell a prey—though not until after a protracted and sanguinary struggle—to the Pict and Scot and Saxon, who were able to combine for the attack, and who were regardless of ease and privation and love of life. Although the days of this old time are far away, and the face of the land has changed, this lesson is not without warning to the ignorant, indifferent, pleasure-loving sections of our England of the twentieth century, and this lesson is even now being brought home to us in no uncertain way in our death-grip with a cruel and relentless foe.
LIST OF TOWNS
Here follows an alphabetical list of the Roman towns described in the following pages:
Aldborough (Yorkshire), Aldborough (Suffolk), Bath, Caerleon, Caerwent, Caistor, Canterbury, Cardiff, Chester, Chesterford, Chichester, Cirencester, Corstopitum, Dorchester, Dover, Exeter, Gloucester, Isle of Wight, Kenchester, Lancaster, Leicester, Lincoln, London, Lympne, Maldon, Manchester, Portsmouth, Reculver, Richborough, Rochester, Silchester, St. Albans, Winchester, Wroxeter, York.
LIST OF TOWNS
ALDBOROUGH—(A.S. burh, buruh, byrig—an earthwork) is situated in the West Riding of Yorkshire, 16 miles W.N.W. of York. It is now remarkable only for its numerous ancient remains.
It was the Isurium Brigantum (the capital of the Brigantes) of the Romans, and here and there in the neighbourhood the remains of aqueducts, spacious buildings, and tesselated pavements have been found, as well as numerous implements, coins and urns. The Museum Isurianum is in the grounds of the Manor House.
ALDEBURGH, or ALDBOROUGH—is situated in the county of Suffolk, 25 miles E.N.E. of Ipswich.
The borough was incorporated by a charter of Edward VI, and in former times was a place of considerable extent, but the old town known to the Romans was gradually submerged by the encroachments of the sea.
BATH.—107½ miles W. by S. of London. On the banks of the Avon.
Aquae Solis, corrupted by the Anglo-Saxons to Akemannes-ceaster—the invalids' city—reached by the Akemannes Way.
For many centuries it has been known by its truly descriptive name of Bath.
Tradition says it was founded by the British King Bladud, 863 B.C.; but there is no real evidence of an early British settlement, though the hot springs must have been known from the beginning. However, the name of Aquae Solis is thought to point to a British goddess, Sol or Solis, somewhat equivalent to the Roman Minerva. It was never a Roman military station, being used apparently solely as a Spa.
The remains of the Roman Baths were first uncovered in 1755, when the Duke of Kingston pulled down the old priory to form the Kingston Baths. The remains disclosed included a bath, hypocaust, channels and pipes for the passage of water and hot air, and tesselated pavements. But very little use was made of the discovery for, though some antiquaries took an interest in it, and a few relics were removed and preserved, the spot was filled in and the site covered with buildings for another 120 years. In 1878, however, public interest was aroused, a number of houses were removed, and a large area (of which that opened in 1755 was only a small part) was cleared, with the result that an extensive system of baths in a remarkable state of preservation was laid bare.
The great bath, some 70 feet long and 28 feet wide, was found to be floored with lead two-thirds of an inch thick, in a perfectly sound condition. The service-pipe being cleared out, the bath still held water as it had done 1,500 years before.
What a find this lead floor would have been to the builders of the houses above it had they but laid their foundations a few inches deeper! It would have gone the same way as Alfred's coffin at Winchester.
Several other baths—one circular—and hypocausts were opened out, and—perhaps as interesting as anything—the culvert was discovered for drawing off the waste water, an excellent piece of masonry, and high enough for a man to stand upright in it. The remains of these old Baths of the Romans are not mere traces of walls, intelligible only to the antiquary, but are the actual basins, capable still of use, and one can ascend by the same steps and tread the same pavement as did the Roman bather of old.
On the Romans leaving Britain, the baths were for a long time deserted, and were soon buried under alluvium by the flooding of the river; but the hot springs never ceased to pour forth their abundant stream. The waters are impregnated with calcium and sodium sulphates and sodium and magnesium chlorides, and we must not forget the metal which called forth Mr. Weller's description: "I thought they'd a very strong flavour o' warm flat-irons." They are in greater vogue than ever now that radium has been found to be one of the constituents.
Bath was a place of resort even in Saxon times; for our forefathers—before the days of goloshes, mackintoshes and umbrellas—must have been sad sufferers from rheumatic affections.
It is also clear that the brine-springs, or wyches, of Droitwich, in Worcestershire, were also known to the Romans, as well as Spas in other parts of the country. That there was a Roman station at Droitwich is evidenced by the remains of a villa, containing interesting and valuable relics, discovered some years ago during the construction of the Oxford and Wolverhampton Railway.
CAERLEON, IN MONMOUTHSHIRE.
This is the Isca Silurum of the Romans. It is situated on the right bank of the Usk, and is the Old Port, in contradistinction to the New Port, some 3½ miles distant, lower down the river. Caerleon seems to be a corruption of Castrum Legionis. The place was one of the great fortresses of Roman Britain, and constituted the station of the Second Augustan Legion in the first century A.D. It ranked as a Colony, and as the capital of Britannia Secunda during the period of Roman domination. Its position was favourable for the coercion of the wild Silures. No civil life or municipality seems to have grown up outside its boundaries; like Chester, it remained purely military. There remain fragments of the walls, and outside these limits there is a grass-grown amphitheatre, 222 ft. by 192 ft., in which the tiers of seats are distinctly visible. The hamlet on the opposite bank preserves in a modified form the Roman name of Ultra Pontem. It is probable that the connecting bridge was a pontoon similar in character to that which survived to the close of the last century. The local Museum is rich in objects of archaeological interest.
On the hill-side, which formed the burial place of the ancient city, fragments of slabs and memorial urns are even now often exhumed. Giraldus Cambrensis, or Gerald de Barry, Archdeacon of Brecknock (1147-1220), borrowing from Geoffrey of Monmouth (1130-1140, Bishop of St. Asaph, author of Chronicon sive Historia Britonum), says that "its splendid palaces, with their gilded roofs, once emulated the grandeur of Rome," which testimony we receive with a certain amount of incredulity; nevertheless, it bears witness to the reputation it enjoyed in his day.
The city is connected with the romance of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It is said that hither Arthur came at Pentecost to be crowned, and that here he often took council with Dubric, or Dubritius, "the high saint."
The keep of a castle is mentioned in Domesday Book, the ruins of which, now limited to a solitary bastion on the river's side, were very extensive, even in Leland's time (1506-1552). Caerleon was a place of great ecclesiastical importance and the seat of an archbishopric. It is noticeable as the place of martyrdom, according to Giraldus Cambrensis, of two saints, Aaron and Julius. Their bodies were buried in the city, each afterwards having a church dedicated to him. There is good reason for regarding these as historical personages, but as Caerleon-upon-Dee was also called "the City of the Legions," there is some doubt whether their martyrdom occurred at the former, now called Chester, or at the latter, which still retains its British name.
Around the church of S. Cadoc there are abundant remains to show the important centre Caerleon-upon-Usk constituted in Roman times. There is a tradition that its bishop was one of three who attended the Council held at Arles, in 314, to discuss the validity of ecclesiastical orders conferred by such bishops as in time of persecution had delivered up to be burnt their sacred writings.
CAERWENT.—This place is on the Chepstow side of Caerleon, near Severn Tunnel Junction.
It was a military station, and important discoveries of Roman remains have been made here.
CAISTOR CASTLE, or VENTA.—4½ miles from Yarmouth. Caistor Village is 3 miles distant.
This place occupies the site of a Roman camp, which, in conjunction with Burgh Castle, guarded this part of the coast. No remains of the camp now exist, but Roman urns, pottery, and coins have been found in and near the village. A field west of the church, styled "East Bloody Furlong" has been fixed upon as the site of the Castrum.
CANTERBURY.—Cant-wara-byrig—the burgh of the men of the headland. (Hence, Archepiscopus Cantuariensis).
Before the invasion of Cæsar, a tribe of the Belgae from Gaul had taken possession of a large portion of South Britain, including Kent.
The principal Roman road was the Watling Street, between Dover and London, which followed much the same course as the modern highway. This road was joined at Canterbury by two others, proceeding respectively from Lympne and Reculver. Two other important Roman stations may be distinguished, Durolevum and Vagniacae, the one probably by Faversham, the other by Springhead, near Gravesend. The important position of modern Canterbury is affirmed by the fact that no fewer than 16 roads and railway routes now converge upon the city. So, too, in the olden time, it was a great nerve-centre, and the mid-point of the important Roman fortresses of Dover, Richborough, Reculver, and Lympne.
The Roman remains found throughout Kent are numerous and important. There were potteries of purple or black ware at Upchurch, on the S. bank of the Medway. Leaden coffins, elaborately ornamented glass and bronze vessels, and gold and silver ornaments, have been found in Roman cemeteries. The city itself occupies the site of the Roman Durovernum (Celtic, dwr—water), and was established upon that ford of the Stour at which the roads from the four harbour-fortresses before mentioned became united into the one great military way through Britain, which became known as Watling Street in later times. The Romans do not seem (at least towards the end of their occupation) to have made the city a military centre, or given it a permanent garrison, but rather to have used it as a halting place for troops on the march. In a commercial sense (lying, as it did, in the direct path of all the south-eastern continental traffic of Britain) its importance at this epoch must have been considerable. The Cathedral stands on the site of a church founded in Roman times, and given by King Ethelbert (together with his own palace adjacent) to Augustine and his monks. St. Pancras (the foundations of which have now been uncovered) was originally Ethelbert's "Idol-house"; and St. Martin's, the sanctuary where the King's christian queen, Bertha, worshipped under the tutelage of Bishop Luithard. The structures existing in Ethelbert's day were destroyed, and ultimately the cathedral was entirely rebuilt by Lanfranc (1005-1089); to this additions were made by Anselm (1033-1109), and by succeeding builders even as late as 1495, when the addition of Goldstone's Central Tower left the Cathedral as we have it to-day.
St. Martin's Church cannot be dismissed in a summary manner. It is said by Bede to have been built whilst the Romans still occupied Britain. It is dedicated to the well-known Bishop of Tours (371-397). Certainly the nave shows evidences of Roman workmanship and plaster. A high arch has recently been discovered in the west wall, on each side of which is a window, apparently Roman in its origin, but which has been subsequently lengthened out by Saxon or Norman builders. The chancel, originally but 20 feet long, is variously conjectured to be Roman work or to have been built by St. Augustine. There is a square-headed Roman doorway and a round-headed Saxon one, in the south wall; also an early English sedile, bordered by Roman tiles on the same side, eastward.
The writer, the present Rector of Chillenden, feels a peculiar pleasure in recalling the fact that two of the Priors took their names from his parish, viz., Adam de Chillenden (d. 1274) and Thomas de Chillenden (d. 1411). The name of the latter, in the Diocesan Calendar, is distinguished by bold type, by reason of the fact that between 1370 and 1410, the present nave and transepts of Canterbury Cathedral, with the middle part of the present central tower, were built upon Lanfranc's old foundations by the Convent under his superintendence, assisted as he was by King Richard II and Archbishops Courtenay and Arundel. The Chapel of St. Michael, the Warriors' Chapel, was also added to by him. Moreover to him is due the building of most of the cloisters, the great Dormitory windows, the vaulting here and along the north alley, as also the foliated window-like screens in the latter alley.
The house in the precincts, known as Chillenden Chambers, was used in mediæval times for the reception of pilgrims. It has been occupied for some years by Dr. Walsh, Bishop of Dover.
CARDIFF.—Castle on the Taff, in the County of Glamorgan.
The position between the rivers Taff and Rhymney, as also between the mountains and the sea, marked out this site, probably to the Romans, certainly to the Normans, as a favourable position for a fortified station. The remains of the Keep of the Castle still exist, and the church of St. John has venerable memories. The buildings of the Blackfriars and Greyfriars have long ago disappeared. The old church of St. Mary, too, was washed away by the sea. To the west, beyond the suburb of Canton, the foundations of Roman buildings have been uncovered and various objects of interest found and lodged in the National Museum.
CHESTER.—Otherwise Caerleon Vawr, or Caerlleon ar Dyfyrdwy.
Here was situated the great camp of the renowned Twentieth Legion on the Dee, the Deva of the Roman Itinerary. It stood at the head of the then most important estuary on this part of the coast, and at a point where several Roman roads converged. It is doubtful whether the city constituted a Colonia. It boasted a fine Basilica. There may still be seen the remains of a Roman arch impinging upon the Keep, or Cæsar's Tower, in the Castle.
CHESTERFORD.—In Essex, 47½ miles N. of London.
To-day the Great Eastern Railway crosses the Cam, or Granta, near a Roman station. Great Chesterford is the ancient Iceanum, once thought to be Camboricum. The foundations of walls enclosing about 50 acres are known to have existed a century and a half ago. The site was thoroughly explored between 1846 and 1848, under the superintendence of the Hon. R. C. Neville, afterwards Lord Braybrooke. Many Roman remains were recovered and are preserved at his seat, Audley End—one of the finest examples of Jacobean architecture now remaining in England. In this neighbourhood, at Heydon, two miles N.W. of Chrishall, and in the extreme angle of Essex, there was discovered, in 1848, a chamber cut in the chalk. It contained a sort of altar and an abundance of Roman fibulæ. Its purpose has not been clearly made out.
This city is built on a Roman site, near a line of road now known as Stane Street. It is usually identified with Regnum, a town of the Belgae, mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary. A slab of grey Sussex marble, now at Goodwood, discovered in 1713, on the site of the present Council House, bears an inscription which gives rise to an hypothesis which represents Chichester as the seat of the native king, Cogidubnus, mentioned by Tacitus as possessing independent authority. It is further conjectured that this king was the father of Claudia (2 Tim. iv, 21), whose husband seems to have been Pudens, mentioned in the same verse (traditionally said to have been a Roman Senator, who became a Governor of Britain). Cogidubnus appears to have taken to himself the more euphonious name of his imperial patron, Tiberius Claudius, hence, too, Claudia. It would appear from this slab that Chichester was the abode of a considerable number of craftsmen, and that they erected a temple to Neptune and Minerva under the patronage of a certain Pudens—in his unregenerate days, doubtless, if this be the same as St. Paul's Pudens. In the early Saxon occupation, the town was destroyed by one Ella, but restored by Cissa, hence Cissa's Castra, or Chichester; hence, also, the Bishop's signature, Cicestriensis.
CIRENCESTER, or CORININUM.—In Gloucestershire, 93 miles W.N.W. of London, on the river Churn, a tributary of the Thames.
This was a flourishing Romano-British town, a cavalry post, also a civilian city. At Chedworth, 7 miles, N.E., there has been unearthed one of the most interesting Roman villas in England.
COLCHESTER.—51 miles N.E. of London, on the right bank of the Colne, 12 miles from the sea.
Colonia Victricensis, Camolodunum, or Camulodunum. (This colony is on the River Colne, even as another stream of the same name flows by the colony of Verulamium).
Before the Roman conquest it was the royal town of Cunobelin, the Cymbeline of Shakespeare. When Claudius had conquered the south-eastern part of the island, he founded a colonia here, which may be said to be the first in time of the Roman towns of Britain. Even now, the walls of Colchester are the most perfect Roman walls in England. There are other remains, including the guard-room at the principal gate. A large cemetery has been disclosed along the main road leading out of the town. A valuable collection of sepulchral remains has been made and placed in the local museum. The city was refounded and ultimately developed into a municipality, with discharged Roman soldiers as citizens, to assist the Roman dominion and spread Roman civilization.
Under Boadicea, the Iceni burnt the town and massacred the colonists.
CORSTOPITUM, or CORCHESTER.—In Northumberland.
This important station lies half a mile west of the little town of Corbridge, at the junction of the Cor with the Tyne, which is here crossed by a fine bridge of seven arches, dating from 1674. It has been suggested that the name Cor is associated with the Brigantian tribe of Corionototae. In regard to building operations hereabouts extensive use has been made of materials derived from Corstopitum. This—in its day—occupied a commanding position as a Roman Station, inasmuch as it furnished a storehouse for grain and a basis for the northward operations carried on about the time of Antoninus Pius. When these operations became unsuccessful, Corstopitum ceased to be a military centre, though it still furnished a basis of civilian occupation. The town was brought to desolation early in the fifth century, and was never again occupied. It was only to be expected that valuable finds should be unearthed from the remains. Many have been found by accident, as e.g., in 1734, a silver dish was dug up weighing 148 oz., and ornamented with figures of deities. Again, much later, in 1908, there was recovered a hoard of gold coins, wrapped in leadfoil, and thrust into the chink of a wall by a fugitive who was fated never to return and recover his treasure. The first-rate importance of the city in its relation to the Roman Wall, and military operations based on Corstopitum as a centre, was only fully revealed by systematic investigations begun in 1907. There were then uncovered, the foundations of several structures fronting a broad thoroughfare, one of which is the largest Roman building found to the present in England, with the exception of the Baths at Bath. Two of these warehouses were evidently granaries. All testified to the importance attached to Corstopitum as a storehouse and distributing centre.
|The Roman Wall.|
It may be of interest to insert here a few directions for any investigator who wishes to track out the Roman Wall. Such a traveller might profitably visit first the Museum at Newcastle, where many memorials are preserved. There might be included the Castle Keep and Chapel, with its richly-moulded Norman arches and the Black Gate, with the collection of Roman inscribed and sculptured stones from the eastern fortresses on the Wall between Bowness and Wallsend. The numerous carved altars are especially noticeable. From Newcastle the road can be taken alongside the Wall to Chollerford, by way of Denton Burn, Wallbottle, Heddon on the Wall, Vindobala, Harlow Hill, Wallhouses, Halton Shields Hunnum, Stagshaw Bank, and so, by a steep descent, into Chollerford. If the train be taken, it is expedient to break the journey at Prudhoe to view the ruins of the Castle, built in the reign of Henry II. The curious old bridge over a ravine is one of the oldest in the North. From Prudhoe to Corbridge is twenty minutes or so by rail. The buried city of Corstopitum lies to the west of Corbridge. There can be traced the Forum, streets, granaries, baths, and fountain. The excavations conducted during 1908 and the two following years are deeply interesting. There are Roman altars and monuments to be seen at Hexham. Close to Chollerford are the remains of the remarkable Roman bridge over the Tyne. Cilurnum (Chesters), the largest station on the Wall, lies on the river bank. In the Museum by the gates are deposited sculptured stones, vases, etc., discovered hereabouts. Journeying from Brunton to Limestone Bank, one finds the fosses and vallum exceptionally perfect. On the whole there are said to have been about 23 important stations on the Wall, named as follows:—Segedunum (Wallsend), Pons Ælii (Newcastle), Condercum (Benwell Hill), Vindobala (Rutchester), Hunnum (Halton Chester), Cilurnum (Chesters), Procolitia (Carrawburgh), Borcovicus (House-steads), Vindolana (Chesterholm), Æsica (Great Chesters), Magna (Carvoran), Amboglanna (Birdoswald), Petriana, Aballaba, Congovata, Axelodunum, Gabrosentum, Tunocelum, Glannibanta, Alionis, Bremetenracum, Olenacum, and Virosidum. It is noteworthy that not a trace of the original names survives in the local nomenclature of to-day, though the exact position of most of the stations has been made out from other indications.
It will be seen that one Wall extended from Wallsend on the Tyne to Bowness on the Solway Firth, a distance of 73 miles. It would have been about 12 feet high and 6 feet thick, in parts 9½ feet thick. Probably about 10 years were expended in the building. About 10,000 men would be required adequately to garrison its stations. It is difficult to believe that it was constructed de novo, or all at one time. Probably a line of stations, suggested by the lie of the country, existed here before Roman times, which line was extended and consolidated by successive Roman generals and emperors.
The Wall now bears the name of Hadrian, Emperor from 117 to 138, but other names associated with it are Agricola (37-93), Severus (193-211), Theodosius (346-395) and Stilicho (d. 408).
To complete, or, rather round off, our account, a few words ought to be added as to the Northern Wall. The Wall of Antoninus, or Graham's Dyke (perhaps from C. greim—a place of strength, and that which is dug—a rampart) extends across the island from the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Forth—a distance of about 36 miles. It consisted of an immense ditch, behind which was raised a rampart of intermingled stone and earth, surmounted by a parapet, behind which ran a level platform for the accommodation of the defenders. South of the whole ran the military way—a regular causeway about 20 feet wide. Commencing in the west on a height called Chapel Hill, near the village of Old Kilpatrick, in Dumbartonshire, it ran eastwards, passing in succession Kirkintilloch, Crory, Castlecary, and Falkirk, terminating at Bridgeness, a rocky promontory that projects into the Firth of Forth, south of Borrowstonness in Linlithgowshire. A writer of the life of the Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) states that Lollius Urbicus, a legate of that sovereign, erected, after several victories over the Britons, "another rampart of turf" to check their incursions, but what has been said with reference to the builders of Hadrian's Wall may be repeated with reference to that of Antonine.1
1 Appendix C.
DORCHESTER (Dorsetshire).—130 miles S.W. from London. On the right bank of the Frome. Dorcestre (Dwr—a portion of the name of the Durotriges, or dwellers upon the dwr or water).
Dorchester was a Romano-British town of considerable size, probably successor to the British tribal centre of the Durotriges. The walls can be traced in part, and many mosaics and other remains of houses have been found. Near Dorchester may be seen at Maumbury Rings remains of an amphitheatre. Maiden Castle, 2 miles S.W. of the town, is a vast earthwork, considered to have been a stronghold of the Durotriges.2 Many other such remains are traceable in the vicinity.
2 Mai-den = Mai Dun = the stronghold of the plain. It is clearly originally the work of men of the latest Stone Age—men who lived their lives in round barrows, and who raised this entrenchment with merely their primitive picks or "celts" as tools, for a defence against their finally successful invaders, the Durotriges. In their turn, the latter used the forts against the Romans—unless, as is more probable, they submitted without fighting.
DORCHESTER (Oxfordshire).—Situated at the junction of the Thames and the Thame.
There is a Roman station near the present village, and (across the Thames) the double isolated mound known as Wittenham Hills (Sinodum), on the summit of which are strong early earthworks. In 655, this place was the seat of a bishopric, the largest in England, including the whole of Wessex and Mercia. In 1086, William the First and Bishop Remigius removed the bishop's stool to Lincoln.
DOVER.—Roman Dubris, on the Dour (dwr—water), the principal Cinque port, is situated close to the South Foreland, and is 72 miles from London.
It is the eye of England, looking over to the nearest part of the continent. It is also the gate of England, through which have come and gone in all historic ages kings and queens and lesser folk on all kinds of missions, relating both to war and peace. Geologically it is knit to the French shore, by the existence both of white and black rocks, i.e., chalk and coal. At a time when Britain was joined to what is now Europe, when the cave bear devoured his prey in Kent's cavern, and the monkey gambolled in the lofty trees, when the Thames was a tributary of some great eastern stream, the Dour might have been a considerable river, as it has worked for itself a deep erosive valley. Even in early historic times its estuary must have occupied a great part of the land on which stands modern Dover. Originally wood fires were lighted on corresponding sites on the E. and W. cliffs to guide vessels into the intermediate beach and natural harbour during the darkness of a winter's night. Even when the Pharos was reared, the primitive mode of illumination by means of wood or coal was employed. The modern form of lighthouse, with glass or metal reflectors, dates but from 1758, when the first Eddystone lighthouse was built. A common coal fire-light was continued at St. Bees Head, in Cumberland, as late as 1820. Architecturally, the Dover Pharos (so called from one erected at Pharos, Alexandria, in 285 B.C.—550 ft. high—said to have been visible 42 miles away) is interesting from the fact that the stones from which it is built are not native, but are supposed to have been brought over as ballast in Roman galleys. In some places it would appear that they were built up wall-shape, liquid cement being poured into the interstices. That the ubiquitous King Arthur built the first castle on the cliffs, 300 ft. above the sea, is a tradition—one we should like to believe. His name is also associated with sites on the Western Heights and Barham Downs. It is certain that the Roman invaders early took advantage of the position of this "key" of the island, and that amongst their five coast castles, under the control of "the Count of the Saxon Shore," Dover held a position second only to Richborough. In the Watling Street, the baths, now destroyed, the church within the Castle, the Pharos, the Romans have left clear evidence of their occupation. St. Mary's may be the first Christian church in Britain. To the beginning of the eighteenth century it was used for worship; it was then dismantled, and, after being filled with stores, at last became a coal cellar. With the greatest difficulty it was saved from destruction in 1860, and restored by Sir Gilbert Scott.
EXETER.—172 miles, W.S.W. from London.
Caer Isca of the Britons (Keltic, esk—exe—uisge—water). In Camden's time (1551-1623), the name was written Ex-cester.
Exeter is situated on a broad ridge of land, rising steeply from the left bank of the Exe. At the head of the ridge is the Castle, occupying the site of a strong British earth-work. Exeter was the Romano-British country town of Isca Damnoniorum, the most westerly town in the government of Roman Britain. Traces of Roman walls survive in mediæval walls, all the gates of which, however, have disappeared. Exeter is the nexus of a considerable number of roads.
GLOUCESTER.—114 miles W.N.W. of London. On the east bank of the Severn.
It is doubtful if it were a British settlement. The Roman municipality, or colonia, of Glevum, was founded by Nerva between 96 and 98. Part of the original walls of the town may still be traced.
ISLE OF WIGHT.—Called by the Romans, Vectis; Wight being a corruption of this word.
This island was known in early times to the ancients, and appears to have been used as a summer or sea-bathing resort. There are interesting remains of Roman villas at Brading and Carisbrooke.
KENCHESTER, or Magni, or Magna, sometimes Magnis, is situated on the Wye, about 4 miles west of the city of Hereford.
Discoveries of coins and other objects suggest that British villages existed here. The Watling Street running from Wroxeter to Caerleon passes near, communicating with Stoney Street, south of the Wye. The site has yielded considerable evidence of Roman occupation. Kenchester appears to have been a small town, in shape an irregular hexagon, with an area of some seventeen acres, surrounded by a stone wall pierced by four gates. The principal street, 15 ft. wide, ran from east to west; the houses contained tesselated pavements, hypocausts, leaden and tile drains; coins of various periods; fibulae (some of silver), glass, pottery, and the like, abound; while two inscriptions (one dated A.D. 283), lend a distinctive Roman colouring. Suburbs lay outside; and there was a villa a mile to the west at Bishopstone. The town, though small, had pretensions to comfort and civilization; it is the only important Romano-British site in Herefordshire. A legion was stationed here.
LANCASTER.—Castra ad alaunam—camp on the Lune, from Gaelic all—white. Therefore we have al—white; avn, or afon—water; which the Romans latinized into Alauna.
Before the Roman invasion, Leicester was inhabited by the Coritani. Under the Romans it formed part of the province of Flavia Cæsariensis. Watling Street,3 the Fosse Way and Via Devana converge on Leicester.
3 This does not actually pass through Leicester, but is twelve miles away at nearest.
The principal Roman stations near were:
In this region Roman remains have been found at: Leicester,4 Rothley, Wanlip, Hasby, Bottesfold, Hinckley, Sapcote, and Melton Mowbray. In 1771 a Roman milestone of the time of Hadrian (76-138) was discovered at a spot two miles from Leicester. Near Blaby, over the Soar, is a bridge locally known as the Roman Bridge.
4 There is to be seen in situ beneath the Great Central Station here a beautiful and almost perfect tesselated pavement.
LINCOLN.—Llyn—a deep pool, and Colonia. The Britons called it Lind-coit. The name Linn-dun, of which Lindum is the Romanised version, means The hill-fort of the pool.
The territory hereabouts was first settled by Belgae; who, however, at the time of Cæsar's invasion, had become a mixed race with the real Britons. The country was conquered by the Romans about 70 A.D., and formed part of the province of Flavia Caesariensis. The tribe which occupied Lincolnshire were the Coritani, who had Lindum and Ratae for their tribal centres. In this territory remains of British camps are found at Barrow, Folkingham, Ingoldsby, Revesby, and Wells. Also traces of Roman camps are discoverable at Alkborough, Caistor, Gainsborough, Gadney Hill, near Holbeach, Honington, near Grantham, South Ormsby, and Yarborough. The Roman roads in this neighbourhood are nearly perfect. There is Ermine Street on the eastern side of the Cliff Hills and the Fosse Way, running S.W. from Lincoln. There is a famous arch—the Newport—at Lincoln. It is one of the most perfect specimens of Roman architecture in England. It is sunk fully eleven feet below the present level of the street, and has two smaller arches on each side, the one to the west being concealed by an adjoining house. The Ermine Street passes through this gate, running north from it for eleven or twelve miles as straight as an arrow. Many Roman coins and ornaments have been found in the immediate vicinity of this gate. In the Cloister garden of the Cathedral are preserved a tesselated pavement and the sepulchral slab of a Roman warrior.
LONDON.—Londonum, Londinium, the Augusta of the Romans. Llyn Din—the Black Llyn or Lake, or perhaps from Celto-Saxon dun, or don—a hill fort. This fort may have been situated where abouts St. Paul's now stands, or, in a more extended form, it may have been constituted by Tower Hill, Cornhill, and Ludgate Hill; bounded thus by the Thames on the South, the Fleet on the West, and the Fen of Moorfields and Finsbury (afterwards by Hounsditch and the Tower) on the East.
It must be premised that the course of the Thames, the containing bounds, the depth of the stream, the character of the rivulets—such as the Lea, the Fleet, Wall-brook, West-Bourne, Tye-Bourne—presented marked differences in early historic days from the appearance they show to-day. The sites north and south of the line where London Bridge now stands constituted firm ground, with a tendency to an elevation in the north. These facts determined the position of the British settlement. At that part of the river the Britons had, if not a ford, at least a ferry, and finally a rough bridge—perhaps of coracles or boats—the progenitor of the noble structure now existing. The ferry went from what is now Dowgate to a similar opening still existing to the west of St. Saviour's, Southwark.
A British settlement of an early date would not now be thought to deserve the name of town. No less an authority than Julius Cæsar tells us that it was nothing more than a thick wood, fortified with a ditch and rampart, to serve as a place of retreat from the inroads of enemies. At that time, we may, therefore, imagine a clearing carved out of the forest, extending probably from the site of St. Paul's Cathedral to that of the Bank of England, the dwellings of the Britons being spread about the higher ground looking down upon the river, including Tower Hill. At the time of the revolt of the Iceni, the Roman governor, Paulinus Suetonius, being unable to make a stand, abandoned London to Boadicea, who entirely destroyed the city, after having massacred the inhabitants. We find London holding an important place in the Antonine Itinerary, Londinium being a starting point for nearly half the routes described in the portion devoted to Britain. Traditionally, Constantine the Great walled the city, at the request of his mother Helena, who is said to have been a native of Britain. Probably we should place the northern wall somewhere along the course of Cornhill5 and Leadenhall Street; the eastern in the direction of Billiter Street and Mark Lane; the southern in the line of Upper and Lower Thames Streets; the western on the S.W. side of Walbrook. About the centre of each side might be placed the four main gates, corresponding with Bridge Gate, Ludgate, Bishopsgate and Aldgate.
5 Perhaps somewhat to the north of the modern street. A portion is to be seen in the churchyard of St. Giles, Cripplegate.
The vision of Geoffrey of Monmouth of a great British city, Troy Novant, founded by Brut, a descendant of Æneas, must be relegated to the limbo of myths. A more probable story is that one Belinus formed a port or haven on the site of the present Billingsgate, though it does not follow that he built a gate of wonderful structure, still less that he built over it—as the story goes—a prodigiously large tower. It should be noted that "gate" may not mean a gate at all in the modern sense of the word, but only an opening or an entrance, even as the "Yats" leading to the harbour of Yarmouth.6 Mayhap this settlement constituted the headquarters of Cassivellaunus, which were taken and sacked by Julius Cæsar. At all events, Tacitus (61-117 A.D.) the first Roman author who mentions London by name, speaks of it as an important commercial centre. It had not, up to A.D. 61, been dignified by the name of a Colony. A temple, dedicated to Diana, appears to have stood on the site of our Eastminster, S. Paul's, and another, to Apollo, at Westminster. When Tacitus wrote, Verulamium and Camulodunum possessed mints, whilst London did not. The earliest Roman London must have been a comparatively small place, with a fort to command the passage of the Thames. Perhaps to the Romans are due the primitive embankments which were designed to restrain the vagaries of the river at the times of tide and flood. London Stone, built into another stone in Cannon Street, outside the wall of St. Swithin's Church, is generally considered to be a milliarium (to mark so many thousand paces) or central station from which to measure distances, but it may conceivably have had some more ancient and peculiar designation in connection with a public or sacred building. Old London lies 20 feet or so below the present street level, so that, when excavations are made for any purpose, Roman remains are frequently found and parts of the Roman wall uncovered.
6 In like manner we have Margate, Kingsgate, Westgate, Ramsgate, Sandgate, &c., indicating probably sites where a passage has been cut through the cliff by a stream or human agency.
Remains—pavements, etc.—are to be seen in abundance in the Guildhall Museum.
When the old General Post Office in St. Martin's-le-Grand was demolished a large series of Roman rubbish pits was disclosed. The lowest portions of 120 of these were carefully excavated. The "finds" included a few whole pots and many thousands of fragments of Samian and coarse pottery, besides building materials, whetstones, beads, knives, coins, and other small articles. It has been possible to assign dates to most of the holes—between A.D. 50 and 200. By the association in the same hole of datable with undatable pottery, light has been thrown upon many types of the latter.
Not long ago, while the buildings 3-6 King William Street were being demolished, another series of five large Roman pits was uncovered. From the fragments obtained therefrom nine Samian vessels of the first century have been pieced together, and are now in the Guildhall Museum. These include a decorated vessel, finer than any previously found in London, and two specimens of a shape unknown hitherto in England. A lamp, two coins, and other objects of pottery and bronze were also obtained from this source.7
7 Besant's London and his Westminster convey a fascinating account of what was a labour of love on the part of the author to compile. All sorts of unexpected pleasures await the wanderer in London's highways and byeways. One of these may be noticed in respect of the Roman bath in the Strand. Turning down Strand Lane (a narrow passage between King's College and Surrey Street), a few yards bring one to the baths. The lane itself is as ancient as anything in London, inasmuch as it must have been in very early times a path by the side of the stream fed by the bath spring, and perhaps by the Holy Well, which afterwards gave its name to the notorious Holywell Street, this stream finally flowing into the Thames.
It is a moot point whether the Saxon migration along the Thames waterway was checked by the presence of London, which remained a city stronghold since Roman times, but it is evident that a gap was made in the history of the city just after the departure of the Romans, and the theory of continuous occupation can hardly be maintained in face of the fact that the mediæval City streets in no case follow the Roman roads traces of which lie beneath the mediæval houses.
LYMPNE, or Lemanae.—Pevensey District, Anderida.
It is considered that Reculver was the earliest Roman coast-fortress in Kent, that Richborough was founded somewhat later, and that Lympne and Pevensey constituted the latest stations; also, that (probably even before the time of Constantine) a division of the Romano-British fleet was stationed at Lympne and a series of buildings erected by their crews. When Romney Marshes were covered by an inland sea, and many streams drained this eastern side of the Andred Forest, the Romans established the military station Lemanae, at the estuary of the chief of those streams, and defended it by the castrum, the ruins of which are now known as Stutfall Castle. Some of the stones of this castrum were used by Archbishop Lanfranc in the construction of a church at Lympne.
MALDON, Essex.—Situated on an acclivity rising from the south side of the Blackwater—44 miles E.N.E. of London, and 16 S.W. from Colchester or Camulodunum, with which it has sometimes been identified, or rather, confounded.
It is supposed to have received its name8 (Cross Hill) from a cross erected on the eminence. A large number of Roman remains have been found in the neighbourhood, testifying to the importance of the place during the time of their occupation. On the West side of the town there are also traces of a large camp, which was doubtless utilized by different bodies of invaders and settlers. The oldest historical mention of Maldon is in 913, when Edward the Elder encamped near it to oppose an incursion of the Danes.
8 Maldon may be a shortened form of a second Camulodunum. Dun would be a hill-fortress, and a cross being erected thereon would give rise to the appellation Cross Hill.
MANCHESTER.—180 miles N.W. of London. (Celtic man—a district).
It is situated in the neighbourhood of four rivers, viz., the Irwell, Medlock, Irk, and Tib. It has been conjectured that at Castlefield there stood a British fortress, which was afterwards taken possession of by the soldiers of Agricola; at all events, it would appear to be certain that a Roman Station of some importance existed in this locality, as a fragment of a wall still exists. Even up to the end of the eighteenth century considerable evidences of Roman occupation were visible in and around Manchester, and from time to time in the course of excavation (especially during the digging for the Bridgewater Canal) old-time remains have been found. The coins recovered were those of Vespasian, Antoninus Pius, Trajan, Hadrian, Nero, Domitian, Vitellius, and even as late as the time of Constantine. The period immediately succeeding the Roman occupation is largely legendary; but up to the seventeenth century there was a floating tradition that Tarquin, an enemy of Arthur, kept the castle of Manchester, but was subsequently killed by Launcelot of the Lake. The town was probably one of the scenes of the preaching of Paulinus, the celebrated Bishop of York and of Rochester (597-644), and is said to have been the residence of Ina, King of Wessex, and his queen, Ethelburga, after he had defeated Ivor, in the year 689. It suffered greatly from the ravages of the Danes. In Domesday Book, Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, and Radcliffe are the only places named in South-east Lancashire.
PORTSMOUTH.—74 miles S.W. of London.
To the north of the harbour is situated Porchester Castle, a ruined Norman fortress occupying the site of the Portus Magnus of the Romans. Portsmouth and Southampton must have been used by the Romans as a passage way to the Isle of Wight, where the remains of villas show that the island furnished a place of residence for rich and distinguished Romans.
At the time of the Roman occupation Thanet was an island, and to guard the north-west end of the important channel of the "Wantsume," which separated the island from the main part of Kent, the Romans built Regulbium, corresponding to the greater Rutupiae of the southern outlet.9 The Roman fort was probably one of the earliest in the country. It must have covered about eighty acres, and was garrisoned by the first cohort of Vetasii from Brabant. In 670, Bassa, a priest, erected a monastery and church here, which, nearly three hundred years later, were annexed by the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury. The greater part of these buildings was ruthlessly destroyed by the villagers in 1809, but the intervention of the Trinity House authorities in the following year saved the towers of the church, to serve as landmarks to the mariner. The churchyard is being slowly eroded by the sea.
9 It is possible that works now proceeding, necessitated by the Great War, may result in the regulation of the waterways close to Sandwich and in its neighbourhood in such wise as to open up again this channel, and constitute Thanet once more an island in fact as well as in name.
This furnishes one of the finest remaining relics of Roman Britain. Built somewhat later than Reculver—about the middle of the third century A.D.—the castle guarded the principal and oldest port of entry into Britain in the Roman period. The rectangular enclosure still existing was the fortress of a considerable Roman settlement which lay to the south and south-west. At a little distance is an amphitheatre with three entrances. Out of the West or Decuman Gate, the Roman road to London and the North started. In the centre of the North wall is the opening of the Postern Gate, and there were probably central gates on the east and south. The feature of greatest interest remaining is the subterranean structure in the centre. This consists of an overhanging platform on a concrete foundation. There are traces of an encircling wall, and projecting upwards from the centre is an extraordinary cruciform platform. An underground passage runs round the whole. Some antiquaries consider that all this formed part of some temporary or substitutional building raised in lieu of an original more ambitious design; others think it may have been a signal tower combined with a lighthouse. In the Liverpool Museum are to be found many objects discovered here, including mural paintings, pottery, toys, dice, a steelyard with weights, and bone spurs, used for cock-fighting.
ROCHESTER.—Durobrivæ; Horfcester, 33 miles E.S.E. of London.
Its situation on the Roman Way from the Kentish ports to the metropolis, as well as its strategical position on the bend of the Medway, gave Rochester and the adjacent places on the river early importance. It was a walled Romano-British town, though of no great size. The original bridge across the Medway to Strood probably dates from the Roman period, taking the place of a ferry.
SILCHESTER.—In North Hampshire—Calleva, 10 miles south of Reading.
A Romano-British town, which was thoroughly explored under the auspices of the Society of Antiquaries between 1890 and 1909. The whole plan of the ancient town within the walls was disclosed as successive portions were uncovered. The suburbs, and the cemeteries, which, as usual, were located without the gates, have not yet been excavated. The ruins of the Town Hall still remain. The Duke of Wellington, whose residence is at Strathfieldsaye, is the owner of the site. He has arranged that most of the objects found at Silchester shall be deposited in the Museum at Reading.
Originally within the limits of the territory of the tribe of which Cassivellaunus was, at one time, the head. Before the Roman Conquest it was a British capital. In Roman times it received the dignity of a municipium—implying municipal status and Roman citizenship for its free inhabitants. Tacitus informs us that the town was burnt by Boadicea in 61 A.D., but it soon rose again to prosperity. The site is still easily recognisable, its walls, of flint rubble, surviving in stately fragments, enclosing an area of well-nigh 200 acres. Of the buildings formerly occupying this area but little is now known. The theatre was excavated in 1847, and parts of the forum in 1898. The tower of the famous Abbey is largely built of bricks taken from the Roman buildings!
During the first three centuries ten distinct general persecutions swept over the nascent Christian Church. Owing to the remote position of Britain, it appears to have escaped these fiery trials until the time of the Emperor Diocletian, about 304. Several names among the Britons have been traditionally handed down to us as having received the honour of martyrdom, but the premier place among them has always been accorded to a young soldier who was stationed at Verulam. It appears that he was converted by an evangelist named Amphibalus, to whom, when the trial came, he gave shelter, and even facilitated his escape by an exchange of garments. When brought before the judges and charged with concealing "a blasphemer of the Roman gods," Alban avowed himself a convert to the proscribed religion and refused, in spite of torture, to burn incense upon the heathen altars. He was therefore beheaded outside the city about the year 285 (although the precise date is uncertain).10 About A.D. 785, Offa, king of that part of Britain which we call the Midland Counties, caused search to be made for the bones of the proto-martyr, and built a noble monastery and church where they were found, which possibly may be identified with the older parts of the present structure.11 Eventually his shrine was reared up in the South transept of the Cathedral. Behind and just above the shrine is the Watching Gallery, where devotees offered continual prayer and guarded the relics from fire and robbery. Close by is another shrine in memory of S. Amphibalus. The monastery attained to great eminence—its head was the premier Abbot of England—and the shrine was loaded with ornaments of enormous value. The glory departed at the time of the Dissolution under Henry VIII. The Monastic Church is now admitted to the rank of a Cathedral. The building was restored (or deformed?) at great cost by the first Lord Grimthorpe, who did things with all his right, but, as in this case, as some say, with all his wrong.
10 Appendix D.
11 These words are written within a mile of a site in Kent which bears the name of St. Albans, inasmuch as a small daughter-house was established there.
The church in the neighbourhood of old St. Albans, on the North side of the chancel, contains a monument to the memory of Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Albans, a great lawyer, an incisive thinker, the founder of the school of inductive philosophers—a man who, unhappily, was cast from his exalted legal position by the malice of his foes. How far he himself contributed to his disgrace we will not say.
WINCHESTER.—Wynton, otherwise, Venta Belgarum (Venta, a Latin form of Win, which is derived from the Celtic, gwent, a plain; hence also Venta Silurum, and Bennaventa=Daventry); 66½ miles S.W. London.
The city is situated in and above the valley of the Itchen, mainly on the left bank. Tradition ascribes its foundation to Tudor Rous Hudibras, and dates it 99 years before the first building of Rome! Earthworks and relics testify that the Itchen Valley was originally occupied by Celts, and it is certain from its position at the centre of six Roman roads, and from the relics found there, that the Caer Gwent (White City of the Celts—Ghwin—white12) under the name of Venta Belgarum, was an important Romano-British country town. Legends accumulate here around the persons of Arthur and his knights. After the conquest of Hampshire by Gervisus, the place became the capital of Wessex, then of England, when the Kings of Wessex consolidated the kingdom. Alfred and Canute resided here, amongst other English sovereigns; and here were laid to rest Alfred's remains, until—at the close of the eighteenth century—the coffin that contained them was sold by a mercenary municipality for the sake of the lead in which they were enclosed! Egbert, Edmund the Elder, and Canute were also buried here. Edward the Confessor was crowned in the Minster in 1043. Being near the New Forest, and only 12 miles from Southampton, Winchester was much frequented by the Norman Kings. William I wore the crown there at Easter, even as at Westminster at Whitsuntide, and at Gloucester at Christmas.
12 The two words gwent and ghwin probably look to each other in a common meaning. Gwent, that which is extended, as a plain; ghwin, that which presents a uniform lightish tint, such as a plain or a lake, as contrasted with dark patches or morass.
WROXETER.—(Towards the Welsh border the c. or ch. of chester becomes an x, and the tendency to elision is very strong.) The equivalent is Uriconium, properly Viroconium. The original Celtic name survives in Wroxeter and Wrekin, it being derived from Celtic rhos—a moor. Wroxeter is situated on the Severn, 5 miles E. of Shrewsbury.
It was a large Romano-British town, originally the chief town of the Cornovii. At first (perhaps about 45-55 A.D.) it constituted a Roman legionary fortress, held by Legio XIV (Gemina) against the Welsh hill tribes. However, its garrison was soon removed, and it became a flourishing town with stately Town Hall, Baths and other appurtenances of a thoroughly Roman and civilised city. It was larger and probably richer than Silchester. The lines of its walls can still be traced, enclosing about 170 acres. Parts of important public buildings have been disclosed by the excavations, which are still progressing. They are carried on under the auspices of the Society of Antiquaries.13
13 See Appendix D.
YORK.—(Celtic, contracted from eure-wic; wic, from L. vicus), otherwise Eboracum.
It lies in a plain watered by the Ouse, at the junction of the Foss stream with the main river, 188 miles N. by W. of London.
In British times the city bore the name of Caer-Ebroc. It was chosen by the Romans as an important depôt after the conquest of the Brigantes by Agricola in 79. Ultimately it became the most important Roman centre in North Britain. The fortress of Legio VI (Victrix) was situated near the site of the present Minster, and a municipality or colonia sprang up where now stands the railway station on the opposite side of the Ouse. There is a large collection of remains to be found in the hospitium of St. Mary's Abbey, derived from the cemetery and the site of the railway station. The base of the Multangular Tower, N.W. of the walls, is Roman, of mingled brick and stone work. The present names of the Bars are Micklegate, Bootham, Monk (Goodrum), and Walmgate. Of the Norman fortress erected by William the Conqueror in 1068 some portions were probably incorporated in Clifford's Tower, which was partly destroyed by fire in 1684. The Cathedral, or Minster of St. Peter, if surpassed by some other English fanes in certain special features, is on the whole the most striking and imposing specimen of ecclesiastical architecture in Britain.
The Emperor Hadrian visited York in 120. The Emperor Severus died in this city in 211, and his body was probably burnt on the hill which now bears his name. After the death of Constantius Chlorus at York, his son, Constantine the Great (who, according to an ancient but incorrect tradition, was born at York), was inaugurated in this imperial centre. The Romans withdrew in 410, and after that, scarcely is anything known of the state of things hereabouts until 627, when King Edwin was baptized and Paulinus consecrated in what then constituted the metropolitan church.
Of late years measurements and records in regard to racial characters have been made more or less thoroughly throughout Europe, partly by individual enterprise, partly by Government officials, who have mainly taken children and soldiers as the material of observation. It is thus established that there is along the Mediterranean, throughout the Spanish Peninsula, extending into the western borders of France, and as far north as the West of England, parts of Wales and of Scotland, and of Ireland (where dwell the descendants in the British Isles of the ancient Picts or long-barrow men), a predominating race which is called "the Mediterranean" or "Iberian" race, characterized by a narrow, long, skull, dark colour of the hair, eyes, and skin, and short stature.
Fringing the north and north-west border of Europe, occupying Scandinavia, and largely dominating Great Britain and Ireland (where it has overrun the earlier Iberian, or Pictish people) is the second great European race—the Nordic. It was formerly called the "Teutonic," but, as this term has been misapplied in Germany for political reasons, so as to include a large body of the last, or third, race, it is better to use the word "Nordic." The Nordic race is, like the Iberian, long-headed, but in contrast it is blond and very tall.
The third great European race occupies a vast wedge intruding between the areas occupied by the Iberian race to the South and the Nordic people to the North. It fills all but the northern border of Russia and occupies Hungary (where there are also intrusive Huns of Mongolian origin), Austria, Roumania, Serbia, and Bulgaria. It also populates Germany (except its northernmost provinces) and occupies the north and north-west of Italy, the west and centre of France and half of Belgium. It is characterized by the round head, sturdy size, and a colouration intermediate between that of the Iberians and Nordics, a colouration which may tend to brunette or blond according as either of these races is mixed with it. It is best called the Alpine race, but is also styled the Celtic, on account of its association with the Celtic culture and language; though it never occupied Ireland, and does not exist at the present day in Cornwall and Scotland, and is hardly recognisable in Wales.
The Nordic element is predominant in Great Britain and Ireland, associated with the earlier and partly absorbed Iberian, with hardly a trace of the Alpine or Celtic race, in spite of the talk about Celtic fringes and the ancient introduction and prevalence of Celtic language and culture due to the influence of small groups of Celtic immigrants.
In the course of an enquiry in Australia, having for its object the fostering a love of the country districts and stemming the exodus to the cities, which is a disquieting feature of life in the Commonwealth, medical inspectors in the schools of Victoria have come to the conclusion that blue-eyed people seek the land, and that the city populations are recruited largely from the brown-eyed. If this conclusion could be generally supported, it opens up interesting questions as to the connection of eye-pigmentation with race, and its possible modification by inter-marriage. From the uncertainty of our knowledge as to the immediate cause of eye and hair pigmentation one cannot but be faced with the alternative—either that little formal attention has been paid to the subject, or that the elements of investigation are uncertain and conflicting. What would Mendel have said to this problem?
In the course of the compilation of this History, the Author re-perused the Handbook to the Roman Wall, in the fifth edition, put forth by Mr. Robert Blair, many years after the death of the original compiler, Dr. Bruce. In the light of succeeding events it is curious to note what is said of Corstopitum, a site noted in the text as being near Hadrian's great line of wall and its defences. Thus the record runs:
This site, which lost its military importance with the retreat of the Romans, apparently became a commercial emporium, and underwent very various fortunes, culminating in its destruction by barbarians; so that, from the fifth century, it ceased to be from that day to this; no man dwelling on the site.
Mr. Blair says of the place itself:
Its form and extent gave it the aspect of a city rather than of a camp. Remains of a bridge across the Tyne are to be seen when the river is low. Excavations were made in the summer of 1906. Nothing of account was found except a few walls, an intaglio, some fragments of pottery and a few coins.
How frigid and disappointing is not this record! But listen to the story which Sir Arthur Evans related to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in his Presidential address at Newcastle last September:
The work at Corbridge, the ancient Corstopitum, begun in 1906, and continued down to the autumn of 1914, has already uncovered throughout a great part of its area the largest urban centre—civil as well as military in character—on the line of the Wall, and the principal store-house of its stations. Here (together with well-built granaries, workshops, and barracks, and other records of river life as are supplied by sculptured stones and inscriptions, and the double discovery of hoards of gold coins) has come to light a spacious and massively constructed stone building, apparently a military store-house, worthy to rank besides the bridge-piers of the North Tyne among the most important monuments of Roman Britain. There is much here, indeed, to carry our thoughts far beyond our insular limits. On this, as on so many other sites along the Wall, the inscriptions and reliefs take us very far afield. We mark the gravestone of a man of Palmyra, an altar of the Tyrian Hercules—its Phoenician Baal—a dedication to a pantheistic goddess of Syrian religion and the raised effigy of the Persian Mithra. So, too, in the neighbourhood of Newcastle itself, as elsewhere on the Wall, there was found an altar of Jupiter Dolichenus, the old Anatolian God of the Double Axe, the male form of the divinity once worshipped in the prehistoric Labyrinth of Crete. Nowhere are we more struck than in this remote extremity of the Empire with the heterogeneous religious elements, often drawn from its far Eastern borders, that before the days of the final advent of Christianity Roman dominion had been instrumental in diffusing. The Orontes may be said to have flowed into the Tyne as well as the Tiber.
This quotation has been given at length in order to sustain the contention—put forth more than once in this book—that treasures associated with the Roman epoch lie around us in every part of our island, and that all sorts of novel surprises mutely await the advent and quest of the diligent investigator.
But to return for a moment to Corstopitum. It has been realised that the city was a centre of iron-work and pottery-making to supply the needs of the troops. It furnished a base for the invasion of Caledonia by Lollius Urbicus in A.D. 140, and for the great expedition of Septimius Severus in A.D. 208. Much of the area excavated during 1906 and the following years has been filled in, but the most important buildings remain open—two large granaries, the fountain or public water-pant, and a large unfinished building, which may have been designed as a military storehouse, or as the praetorium of a legionary fortress which never came into being. The most remarkable finds made here have been the Corbridge lion in stone, which now enjoys an European reputation, and two hoards of gold coins, now in the British Museum.1
1 Vide Official Handbook to Newcastle and District, put forth on the occasion of the last visit of the British Association to that city.
The Map above gives the line of Hadrian's Wall through the two counties of Northumberland and Cumberland, viz., from Wallsend to Bowness, and indicates the principal places on the route. For further details of this absorbing subject the reader is referred to such works as the Proceedings and Transactions of learned societies, such as the Archæologia Æleana, or the Lapidarium Septentrionale. The Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, Vol. vii gives a full rendering of the inscriptions.
"The Society of Antiquaries, in conjunction with the Shropshire Archæological Society, carried on extensive excavations at Wroxeter during the years 1912, 1913, and 1914.
"Wroxeter, the ancient Viroconium or Uriconium, is situated on the east bank of the Severn, between five and six miles south-east of Shrewsbury. The lines of its walls can still be traced, enclosing an area of about 170 acres, and the town must have been an important centre in Roman-Britain, as it stood at the junction of two of the main roads, viz., the Watling Street from London and the south-east, and the road from the legionary fortress of Caerleon in South Wales. There were also other roads running from it into Wales and to Chester. The town is referred to by the Ravenna Geographer as Viroconium Cornoviorum, and was probably the chief town of that tribe which inhabited a district including both Wroxeter and Chester.
"That the site was inhabited soon after the invasion under Claudius in 43 A.D. is evident. Coins and other objects of pre-Flavian date have been met with in some quantities, and there are tombstones of soldiers of the XIV Legion from the cemetery. This legion came over with Claudius, and left Britain for good in the year 70 A.D. Wroxeter, situated on the edge of the Welsh hills and protected from attack on that side by the river Severn, would have formed an admirable base for operations against the turbulent tribes of Wales, and it is more than likely that it was used as such in the campaigns undertaken by Ostorius Scapula in 50 A.D. and by Suetonius Paulinus in 60 A.D.
"The Welsh tribes were finally subdued before the end of the reign of Vespasian, and the country became more settled. Wroxeter appears to have ceased to be a military centre and to have grown into a large and prosperous town. It is in this period—namely, the last quarter of the first century A.D.—that the occupation began on the part of the site recently excavated. Very little of the earlier buildings remained, as they all appear to have been built of wood and wattle-and-daub.
"In the second century more substantial houses were erected, and in the course of the excavations the following buildings were uncovered. In 1912, four long shops, with rooms at the back and open fronts with porticoes on the street. In 1913, a temple, which must have been of some architectural pretensions, and contained life-sized statues, of which several fragments were discovered. In 1914, a large dwelling house, consisting of a number of rooms with a large portico on the street and a small bath-house on the south side. The porticoes of all these buildings formed a continuous colonnade by the side of the street. At the back of the large dwelling-house another structure was discovered. Unfortunately it could not be entirely explored, as its west part was beyond the reserved area. It consisted of two parallel walls, 13 ft. apart, which enclosed an oblong space with rounded corners 144 ft. wide and 188 ft. long to the furthest point excavated. No other building of this form appears to have been found elsewhere, and it is difficult to say for what purpose it was used, especially as part of it is still unexcavated. It is possible, however, that it may have been a place of amusement for games, bull-baiting, etc., and that the two parallel walls held tiers of wooden seats.
"The buildings that faced the street had been altered and rebuilt several times, the mixed soil being from 8 ft. to 10 ft. deep in places, making the work of excavation very slow and laborious. For instance, in 1914 there was evidence of at least four different periods of buildings on the same site. In the early period there were wood and wattle-and-daub houses. Over the remains of these in the first half of the second century three long buildings were erected with open fronts or porticoes similar to those found in 1912. About the middle of the second century these three buildings were incorporated in one large house with corridors, two courtyards, many rooms, some with mosaic floors, and others fitted with hypocausts. A bath-house, with cold baths and hot rooms, was situated at the south-west corner. At a later period this dwelling was considerably altered, several of the rooms being swept away, and the central part of the building turned into one large courtyard with corridors on three sides. Two new hypocausts were inserted and extra rooms and a long corridor or verandah built at the back. Water was supplied to the houses by a water main at the side of the road. By shutting sluice-gates it was possible to divert the water into side channels which ran through the houses, flushing their drains, and discharging at the back into the river. Eleven wells were found during the excavations, varying from 10 ft. to 12 ft. in depth and stone-lined.
"A number of crucibles and some unfinished bronze castings, etc., have been met with, showing that metalworking was carried on on the site. There was also evidence of other industrial processes, such as enamelling and working in bone. A very large number of small objects has been discovered during the excavations, such as cameos and engraved gems (some still set in finger rings), many brooches of different metals, enamelled ornaments, and a quantity of interesting articles in different metals, bone, glass, etc.
"The great quantity of pottery found may be judged by the fact that upwards of 900 potters' stamps on Samian ware have been recorded. The coins number between 1,200 and 1,300, among them being a few British varieties. No coins later than the end of the fourth century have been, as yet, met with, and the town does not appear to have been inhabited after that date. What was the cause of its destruction or desertion is, as yet, uncertain, but it is hoped that future excavations will solve the problem.
"Detailed accounts of the excavations are printed in the Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, Nos. 1, 2, and 4."
The above has been extracted, by kind permission of the Council, from the proceedings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science for 1915; and is taken from the Report of the Committee on "Excavations on Roman Sites in Britain," comprising the Special Return made by J. P. Bushe-Fox, F.S.A.
(Rector of Chillenden, Canterbury; Sometime Prizeman, Exhibitioner, and Foundation Scholar of Emmanuel College, Cambridge).
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