Roman Conquest in Worcestershire

Julius Caesar made the first Roman military expeditions to Britain in 55 and 54 BC, but a full scale invasion did not occur until AD 43 under the Emperor Claudius. Obviously, the county of Worcestershire did not exist then. It is thought that the area fell largely within the territory of the Iron Age Dobunni tribe. It was through this territory that the Roman army passed in the 40s and 50s AD as it pushed west to reach the River Severn on its way to Wales. The native population had to adjust to a new way of life.

Roman conquest relied on building roads and forts. Since the 1950s, a number of possible forts have been suggested for the county, for example at Grimley, Blackstone near Bewdley, Perdiswell Hall and Kemerton. However, more recent investigations suggest that these sites are not forts and have other functions such as rural enclosure sites.

Brooch found at Dodderhill Roman Fort

The best excavated fort in the county is that at Dodderhill, Droitwich. This was most likely built, to secure the road junction, river crossing and the very valuable supply of salt that was produced here. Features have been discovered such as the ditch of the outer defensives with its staggered entrances and near vertical outer edge which made it comparatively easy to cross but much more difficult to retreat. A road and the possible foundations of barracks have also been found. It is thought that it was the XIV legion with their formidable archers that were stationed here at Droitwich.

It has long been assumed that a fort existed at Worcester in the area of the Cathedral though no structural evidence of it has ever been found. Excavations in the 1960s suggested that the Iron-Age defences were re-dug in this conquest period and artefacts with military associations such as brooches and coins have been found in the city, perhaps lost whilst building the Roman road through Worcester rather than the lost belongings of the garrison of a fort. More recent excavations in St Johns, Worcester have also revealed a possible native trading site which serviced the military on its advance west.

Conquest in the county is just one of the themes explored in the exhibition ‘On Tracks of Iron & Salt: Roman Worcestershire’ which runs until June 18th 2011 at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum.

For more information regarding the exhibition pease contact Deborah Fox at museumcollections@worcestershire.gov.uk or visit our website  http://www.worcestercitymuseums.org.uk/mag/magpex/on-tracks/on-tracks.htm

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