Located in Shropshire, this once bustling Roman town was the fourth largest in Roman Britannia, once covering around 63 ha, it was originally built as a fort which housed 500 troops and was a major site of importance being located on Watling Street, and only 25 km from the Welsh border. It lay within the tribal lands of the Cornovii. It now lies asleep and mostly buried and has only revealed a fraction of its amazing history.
The site included a granary at the north gate, a temple located within the area of the Forum and at the western side there was an annex. Originally a civilian settlement grew up at the southern area of the fort. The site was first mentioned by Ptolemy as the city of the Cornovii.
The fort was first occupied by a Thracian Legionary Cohort, followed by the Legio XIV Gemina followed by the Legio XX Valeria Victrix. Evidence to them has been uncovered archaeologically in the form of tomb stones and building materials.
When the army left the site became a major town. The main thoroughfare was situated NW – SE, and the town was divided into distinct areas. It was defended by a wall and a double ditch, and its water source came via the Wroxeter Aqueduct – an engineering marvel – which was fed from Bell Brook located just ¾ mile form the town. The aqueduct measured 0.9 m deep, and 2.4 m wide, was lined with clay, and it is estimated that it bought around 2,000,000 tons of water a day to the town. At its height it is estimated that the population was over 15,000.
Here is a short timeline of the site….
3,500-3,000 BC Neolithic activity in the area.
c.1,500 BC Dating from: Bronze Age cup found on the site.
c.600 BC An Iron Age ditched enclosure was on the site.
47 AD The Roman Army arrived in the area.
57-66 AD Fort established with timber buildings.
66-78 Fort refurbished and possibly extended at this date.
88 AD Up until: Garrisoned by the Legio XX Valeria Victrix.
90 AD Legions left and the town was established. It was the tribal center for the Cornovii people. It included 48 town blocks, included a Forum. The Bath House was incomplete.
129-130 The date inscribed on the stone of the Forums main entrance.
c.140 Bath House constructed.
150 Bath House complex completed.
c.165-175 There was a large fire at the site.
2nd Century Defensive rampart of earth and timber constructed.
2nd Century Recorded by Ptolemy in his Geography.
4th Century The defences were refurbished and enlarged to include a double ditch.
530-570 33 new buildings were added to the town.
7th-8th C Stone from the site was robbed for the construction of the nearby Saxon churches of Atcham and Wroxeter
1788 Thomas Telford first recorded the Roman ruins accurately with measurements and plans.
1828 A 4th Century mosaic recorded – it was then robbed by visitors to the site.
1850’s A colonnade of square based columns were uncovered north of the Forum. Henry Dryden and Charles Roach-Smith recorded remains which had recently been uncovered.
1859 Excavated by Thomas Wright. Visited by Charles Dickens, the novelist.
1890’s Excavated by George Fox.
19th Century The first Roman site in Britain which was opened to the public with a permanent custodian in residence.
1912-1914 Excavated by J. P. Bushe-Fox, Inspector of Ancient Monuments.
1920’s The defences were investigated.
1923 The Forum was excavated by the University of Manchester.
1936 Excavated by Kathleen Kenyon.
1947 The Ministry of Public Buildings and Works acquired the Bath House site from the Shropshire Archaeological Society.
1950’s-1970’s Excavated by Dr. John Haughton, a physician.
1955-1985 Excavations undertaken by the University of Birmingham.
1976-1977 Excavated by the Central Excavation Unit, the Department of the Environment.
1995-1996 Geophysical Survey.
2010 Replica Roman Villa was constructed on the site.
2011 The replica Roman Villa was completed and opened to the public.
As you can see the site has had an amazing history – one which continues toady and will continue to do so into the future as more and more of the site is investigated and its secrets are revealed!
References & Bibliography
Barker. P. 1975. Excavations on the Site of the Baths Basilica at Wroxeter 1966-1974: An Interim Report. Britannia, 1975, Vol. 6 (1975), pp. 106-117.
Casey. J.1974. A Coin of Valentinian III from Wroxeter. Britannia, 1974, Vol. 5 (1974), pp. 383-386.
Christie. N., & Augenti. A. 2012. Vrbes Extinctae: Archaeologies of Abandoned Classical Towns. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd
Grimal. P. 1983. Roman Cities. University of Wisconsin Press.
Hammon. A. 2011. Understanding the Romano-British-Early Medieval Transition: A Zooarchaeological Perspective from Wroxeter (Viroconium Cornoviorum). Britannia, 2011, Vol. 42 (2011), pp. 275-305
Hughes. D. 2007. The British Chronicles, Volume 1. Heritage Books.
Keys. J. 2010. The Dark Ages. Lulu.com
Laflin. S., Roper. A., Symonds. R. P., & White. R. H. 1993. Analysis of Pottery from Wroxeter Roman City. “Computing the Past”, proceedings of the 1992 conference on “Computer Applications in Archaeology”, edited Jens Andressen, Torsten Madsen and Irwin Scollar, published Aarhus University Press 1993, ISBN 87 7288 112 7. Paper No 43. pp.389-404.
Melrose. R. 2016. Religion in Britain from the Megaliths to Arthur: An Archaeological and Mythological Exploration. McFarland.
Millett. M. 1992. The Romanization of Britain: An Essay in Archaeological Interpretation. Cambridge University Press.
Salmon. E. T. 2013. A History of the Roman World: From 30 BC to AD 138. Routledge.
Shotter. D. 2004. Roman Britain. Routledge.
Sim. D. 2011. The Roman Iron Industry in Britain. The History Press.
Slater. T. 2017. Towns in Decline, AD100–1600. Routledge.
Todd. M. 2008. A Companion to Roman Britain. John Wiley & Sons.
Tomlin. R. S. O. 1992. The Twentieth Legion at Wroxeter and Carlisle in the First Century: The Epigraphic Evidence. Britannia, 1992, Vol. 23 (1992), pp. 141-158.
Tozer. H. F. 2013. A History of Ancient Geography. Cambridge University Press.
Webster, Graham. 1991. The Cornovii. Peoples of Roman Britain. Alan Sutton.
Webster. G. 2002. The Legionary Fortress at Wroxeter: Excavations by Graham Webster, 1955-85, Chadderton. J., Webster. G., English Heritage (2002), ISBN: 9781848021853.
Wacher. J. S. 1975. The Towns of Roman Britain. University of California Press.
White. R., & Hodder. M. 2018. Clash of Cultures?: The Romano-British Period in the West Midlands. Oxbow Books Limited.
Wright. T. 1859. The Ruins of the Roman City of Uriconium, at Wroxeter, Near Shrewsbury. J. O. Sandford.
Wright. T. 1863. On the Human Remains Found in the Excavations at Wroxeter. Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London, 1863, Vol. 2 (1863), pp. 364- 369.