Research Point: Local Roman Occupation

About 8 miles from where I live is a site of importance both nationally and locally. It was known as Venta Icenorum and was the major town for the northern part of East Anglia, between Colchester, Leicester and Lincoln.

Venta Icenorum translates as ‘market place of the Iceni’. According to Davies (DAVIES, 2001) the name of Venta Icenorum is known from the Antonine Itinerary which is a list of places on the major roads across the Roman Empire. The Iceni relates to the tribal group of people living in the area, best known for their queen, Boudica, and the battles fought against the Romans in AD 61.

Artefacts discovered on the site include such items as harness and tunic fittings, indicating an early Roman military presence.

Davies states “The street layout was the only major development at Venta before 100AD. There were no substantial buildings constructed during those early years. ………. Instead the first buildings were more simple timber structures, while open spaces were left for the later addition of a forum and public baths, at the appropriate locations.”

Aerial photography has revealed the layout of the town and the walls around Venta were probably built during the early 270s.

Davies (2001) gives details of everyday life in the town and how it was a focus of trading activity with workshops behind shopfronts. “A row of shops can be seen on aerial photos, along the east-west street outside the south wall. A rich variety of wares for sale would have lined the streets, including baking, clothing, carpentry, leather goods and jewellery. Livestock, too, were brought to the town for sale.”

Aerial photography has also identified an amphitheatre to the south of the town and the locations of the forum, basilica and baths is also know.

Venta Icenorum is one of very few major Roman towns that were not re-occupied and therefore the remains of the town won’t have been affected by later development.

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