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  • Writer's picturePhil

What did the Romans ever do for us?

Last week saw Coventry City in action against Lincoln City. Lincoln has a long heritage including that as a Roman garrison and (like Coventry) an important medieval town - indeed medieval charters giving rights to citizens of Coventry followed the example of those given to Lincoln.

The Roman Fosse Way streched fom Exeter to Lincoln and intersected with Watling Street (Dover to Wroxeter) reasonably close to Coventry. Extensions to Watling Street stetched to Hadrians Wall (marking the - albeit shifting - northern boundary of the Roman Empire). During the early years of Roman Occupation Hadrian's Wall was one of the barriers to invaders from the North but Watling Street also saw resistance from the native Britons further South. One of the most significant battles in the history of resistance against the Romans is thought to have taken place in Warwickshire around 60 AD.

Although Roman artefacts have been found in central Coventry (and reports of a Roman soldier's ghost haunting the toilets of a city centre pub!) there is little of evidence of settlement in the city centre area before Anglo-Saxon times (which I shall be looking at in my next post).

However areas within the boundary of modern Coventry and in nearby Warwickshire did see Roman settlement and influence. A recent BBC story - reveals finds from recent excavations close to the Lunt Roman Fort at Baginton.

It is believed that the fort was partly used to house and train horses captured from Boudicca's rebellious army of native Britons and provide a garrison close to both Watling Street and the Fosse Way in case of a revival of British resistance to Roman rule. Images of the fort and a short description of its history can be viewed here

Boudicca's forces had destroyed Roman settlements at Colchester, London and St Albans but were ultimatlely defeated. The site of the final battle is often cited as being in the Atherstone / Mancetter area close to Watling Street. There was a Roman Fort and settlement known as Manduessedum in the area which is believed to be a probable site for the Battle of Watling Street.

Watling Street forms the basis for the modern A5 - part of which forms the Leicestershire / Warwickshire boundary. Some centuries after the Romans had abandoned Britain the street roughly divided Anglo-Saxon rule from the Danelaw (where Viking traditions and culture held sway). This is reflected locally with Anglo-Saxon place names such as Keresley, Allesley, Pinley, Henley ("ley" meaning a clearing - in our case clearings in the Forest of Arden) typically lying to the West of settlements which had taken on names with Viking roots such as Princethorpe and Rugby. In my next post I'll be looking at Saxon settlement, Viking invasion and what that meant for the development of Coventry.....

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