Addison Lee is proud to sponsor the Ancient World in London series.
“Apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water
system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”
Last week we found out what the Romans did for us. But
it wasn't the first place to get an Italian Job!
So we sent Jamie down to have a little nosey, to see what
he could find out about Colchester – the first Roman city.
Today we're in Colchester, and we're going to be hanging out with a
guy called Howard Brooks, and he works for Colchester Archaeological Trust.
When I was a young teenager, I came here to work on a dig, as an archaeologist. It's
a thrill to be a digger working on a site as rich as this in Colchester.
We're approaching the Roman town walls and we're going to go look at those
first with the Roman Balkerne Gate, built in the first century AD.
Howard? What is this?
This is one of two Roman guardrooms on the gate – there's
a South guardroom where we are now, and a North guardroom.
So this is where the guards would have been stationed, in theory, to
say 'Halt! Who goes there?' as people go through the gate.
The first thing on the site was the remains
you can see here, this grey masonry.
This is part of a triumphal archway which was built fairly quickly so the Emperor
Claudius could come to Colchester and receive the submission of the British Kings.
Later on, this is the Roman town wall; the red brick is the later town wall, built
in around AD61 after Queen Boudica had come into town and burnt the town down.
There seems to be a pattern emerging with this – the coarseway,
stones, coarseway, stones. Is that unique to a Roman wall?
You're absolutely correct – the local stone, as you can
see, is not very good – it's very crumbly.
So the red bricks give a reinforcement, also of
course, it looks visually attractive as well.
This is a Roman Christian church.
When were people becoming Christians in Roman times?
In Britain, not until AD313, so it's really almost 300 years
after the Roman invasion that we became officially Christianised.
What was the big deal about becoming Christian then?
What would have suddenly changed things around?
It was the official recognition from the emperor, who became Christian himself.
Before that, there were Pagans worshipping Mithras or other Roman gods, and also of
course, worshipping the Roman emperor who was officially a god until that time.
I stopped Howard here because as we were walking up the hill,
I noticed this church looked very Roman, but it's not Roman
at all! Howard – tell us what it really is?
It's a Saxon church tower. It's built out of Roman material – Roman brick
and tile – which has been recycled from the Roman houses around here.
And this doorway with a particular pointed arch is particularly late Saxon.
Did the Saxons always use recycled stone?
Where it's available, they reused it. Otherwise they built in wood.
Behind us is a piece of the Roman Theatre, where they had gladiatorial combat
and also public addresses and meetings with the council and so on.
What is it doing inside a house?
What happened was, when this road was relaid back in the
80s, we found some very large bits of foundation.
We weren't sure what they were at all, but when this was being built here for sheltered
housing, the same thing was found again inside – a very large bit of Roman masonry.
So at that time, the penny dropped because it was a
big curved building which must have been a theatre.
So the borough council very wisely left this building unoccupied to
show the remains of the theatre to visitors like ourselves.
We found only three or fours years ago, really,
the first Roman circus identified in Britain.
It's like Ben-Hur – it's a place the Romans
raced chariots competitively around a long circuit.
Howard – I've really enjoyed the day with you.
Good, thank you.
I've had so much fun in Colchester today. You know, having Howard with me showing all
the like little ancient sites around the place has just bought it to life!
If you want to learn more all the ancient
sites in Colchester, then log onto Heritage-Key.com
If you were a crazed Briton revolting against the
Romans, what would you burn down first?
Just tell us in the comments below!
See you on our next adventure!