This slab of stone with Latin dedication has been described as a Roman milestone from the reign of Constantine the Great. It was discovered early in the 19th century in the kitchen garden of Court House, Kempsey, and used in a garden wall before finally finding a home within the Worcester City collection.
In-keeping with most Roman milestones, this slab records only the name of the Emperor, although does not offer the dates of his reign as in some instances. The word mile is derived from the Latin milia passuum, ‘a thousand paces’, for Roman miles were a thousand paces long.
Kempsey itself sits on the Roman road between Metchley and Gloucester – it was the site of a military camp, once situated close to the present church. Evidence supporting the presence of a camp was uncovered during the 19th century, including coins, tiles and the milestone itself.
A well planned and maintained road network was key in holding territory after the initial Roman conquest of Britain over three centuries before Constantine’s reign. The Roman road network connected settlements, allowing Roman trade, military might and cultural practices to spread throughout the country.
As this stone demonstrates, roads also allowed the image and name of the Emperor to travel where he could not go, stamping his identity upon new places and re-defining the boundaries of the Empire. Although the first line of text is missing from the stone, a key word in its translation is ‘INVICTO’, or ‘un-conquerable’. Whatever the stone was used for, we can assume its message was visible to the passer-by, who would have been assured of Constantine’s empiric character, and reminded of who was in charge.