Historic England Regional Timeline


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0001-12-05 14:03:57

Ancient Britons

Two thousand years ago, Barking and Dagenham was within the territory of the Trinovantes tribe. Their capital city was at Colchester. British tribes, like the Trinovantes, were ruled by a king, supported by his warriors. Most people were farmers or crafters who made things such as pottery, jewellery and metalwork. The Britons (sometimes called Celts) lived in roundhouses. The walls were made of a wooden frame covered with mud and clay. The high roof was made of straw, which allowed smoke from the fire to escape. Inside was one large room used for cooking, eating, sleeping and daily life. Traces of roundhouses have been found at Warren Farm, between Marks Gate and Chadwell Heath.

0010 BC-11-22 06:42:27

The Influence of Rome

Though Britain was still independent, the influence of the Roman Empire, which now extended to the coast of France, was very strong. Feuding British rulers turned to Rome for support in their quarrels, or fled there as refugees if defeated. Some adopted the Roman title 'rex' (meaning 'king') and imitated Roman styles for their coins. Trade with the Roman Empire also increased and Roman luxury goods, like those found in Lexden Tumulus (the burial mound of a powerful British ruler at Colchester), were valued as 'status symbols' by wealthy Britons. It is even possible that some Britons took to wearing fashionable Roman clothing.

0010-10-17 12:55:29


The area where Great Yarmouth now stands was originally a huge estuary. Out of it emerged a sand bank stretching eight miles in length from Caister to Corton. The water from the estuary initially escaped to the sea at Grubb’s Haven to the north, though this silted up, forcing its flow south. The first people to come to Great Yarmouth were fishermen who followed the herring and used the sand bank to dry and repair their nets. Gradually, permanent buildings were erected and a settlement was formed. By the Domesday survey in AD 1086, Yarmouth had established itself as a town with 70 people. The map shows east Norfolk in Roman times. The areas indicated in blue were probably similar to Breydon Water today – mud flats at low tide but open water at high tide.

0010-12-31 00:00:00


Cunobelinus, whose name means 'the Hound of Belinus' ('the Shining One', a British god) was the most powerful British ruler in the decades before the Roman Conquest. He was the leader of the Catuvellauni tribe, which had headed the resistance to Julius Caesar, from about AD 10. He extended his rule over all south-eastern Britain, from Kent to the Wash, and the Romans thought him 'King of (all) the Britons'. His 'capital' was Camulodunum (now Colchester). Cunobelinus remained friendly with Rome throughout his long reign. British corn, cattle, gold, silver, iron, pearls, slaves and hunting dogs were traded for Roman luxuries like ivory and amber jewellery, glass and wine. However, after his death in about AD 42, his sons adopted policies which helped encourage Roman invasion.

0025-04-25 20:19:43

Iron Age Houses at Mellor

At Mellor, on the western edge of the Peak District, a remarkable research project has uncovered evidence of an Iron Age settlement buried deep underground. Initially archaeologists thought the Iron Age site was a hill fort, but as digging continued it became clear that the site was a hill-top settlement. It is thought that several roundhouses were located within a deep, defensive inner ditch. Digging such a ditch would have been a massive engineering task! Iron Age people must have lived here for a long time because the roundhouses show phases of development. Finds also show that people here were importing salt and metal. A lot of Iron Age pottery has been recovered at the site; this helps us learn how pottery changed over time.

0035 BC-11-22 06:42:27

First British Coins

Caesar says that the Britons used bronze or iron rings as currency (money). However, gold and silver coins had already existed for hundreds of years in Asia, Greece and Rome, and by about 150 BC they had reached Britain. The first coins were imports from France. Not long after Caesar's raids, tribal rulers in southern and eastern Britain began producing ('minting') coins of their own. These were made by hammering an iron punch (or dye) engraved with a pattern onto discs of precious metal. Soon some British coins included the name of the ruler who ordered them. Among the earliest of these were made for Commios, at first an ally and then an enemy of the Romans, who ruled in the Hampshire-West Sussex region.

0043-07-05 03:16:44

Fawdon Hill Fort

Fawdon Hill sits within the Breamish and Ingram Valley in Northumberland. In the hills and valleys you can see traces of forts and burial mounds from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages. If you explore this area you will also see signs of ancient methods of farming that have left their mark on the landscape. Hill forts were built up mounds of earth with a settlement on the top. You can find evidence of hill forts all over Europe. At the Fawdon Hill Fort site, you can see marks in the earth where the circular huts would have stood. There is also evidence of a cairn (a pile of rocks marking a burial ground) and traces in the earth of some ramparts which were the walls around the settlement.

0043-12-31 00:00:00

The Romans Invade

People had lived in the area for thousands of years, but Leicester began as a late Iron Age settlement set up by people from the Corieltauvi tribe who were of Celtic origin. The settlement now known as Leicester was established on the eastern bank of the River Soar, close to where West Bridge now stands. Archaeological evidence suggests the people led an organised way of life. Traces of roundhouses, high-quality pottery and jewellery have been found. In AD 43, Leicester was invaded by the Romans. Its name was recorded as ‘Ratae’ meaning ‘ramparts’, and by AD 48 the Romans had built a fort. The Celtic settlement nearby prospered because the Roman soldiers provided a market for local goods. About AD 80 the Roman Army moved on, but the town of Leicester thrived.

0043-12-31 00:00:00

Roman Invasion

In AD 43 the Romans landed at Richborough in Kent with an army of about 40,000 soldiers. They defeated the Britons (led by Caratacus and Togodumnus, sons of Cunobelinus) on the River Medway, and then fought their way over the Thames. The Emperor Claudius joined them for a triumphal entry into Colchester, the British 'capital', accompanied by the first elephants seen in Britain. However, Britain was far from fully conquered. One Roman legion marched northwards from Colchester towards Lincoln, another into the Midlands, and a third fought its way into the south-west, besieging and capturing many British hill forts on the way. By AD 47 all Britain south of a line from Devon to the Humber was under Roman control.

0047 BC-12-31 00:00:00

Caesar Describes Britain

The oldest written descriptions of Britain, by Ancient Greek authors, describe a land of magical wonders beyond the known world. Although he had visited only south-east England, Julius Caesar gives a slightly more realistic account. Writing in about 47 BC, perhaps to impress Roman readers, he described the Britons as fierce barbarian warriors who shaved their bodies and dyed them blue with woad, but wore long hair and moustaches. He also wrote that they would not eat hares, cockerels or geese but kept them as pets. Caesar thought the south-eastern tribes, some of whom had only recently come from France, were the most civilised Britons. He declared that those living further inland grew no crops, ate only meat and dairy products and wore animal skins. Archaeology proves he was wrong!

0047-09-15 19:10:51

Wrekin Hill Fort Destroyed

The people in Britain in the 1st century were known as the Cornovii. It is thought that their capital was the hill fort on top of the Wrekin. From the top of this well-defended hill there are views of the surrounding area for miles and miles. Up to 1,000 people could have been housed within this hill fort, but it is uncertain if they lived there all the time. Local inhabitants may have just gone there in times of danger. The Roman invasion was one such threat. In AD 47 its army attacked the hill fort and there is evidence of extensive burning. It seems the settlement was destroyed and the leaders of the Cornovii surrendered to Roman rule. The Roman Army established a series of military camps along the expanding network of roads. A garrison near the River Severn at Wroxeter later grew into the new administrative centre for the area and Cornovii people.

0047-12-31 00:00:00

The Roman Army

The Roman army that conquered Britain was a well-equipped, uniformed and highly disciplined force. Its most effective soldiers were 'legionaries', tough armoured foot-soldiers equipped with short swords, throwing spears and big shields. Each of the four legions in Britain had about 5,000 men, divided into 'centuries' of about 80 soldiers, commanded by centurions. Legionaries were also engineers, building Roman forts and roads. Legionaries were recruited from Roman citizens, but their 'auxiliaries' (meaning 'helpers') were 'cohorts‘ (regiments) from many different parts of the Empire. Some were spear-armed infantry, others bowmen, and others made up cavalry regiments of 500 or 1000 men. There were usually more auxiliaries than legionaries in Britain. The Romans also used 'artillery‘ – machines for throwing big stones or shooting arrow-headed darts at the enemy.

0050 BC-12-31 00:00:00

Iron Age Farmsteads

During the Iron Age, the lowland areas along the Severn valley would have been scattered with farmsteads. These would have consisted of a small group of buildings protected by banks and ditches with a wooden palisade or fence. Many would also have a livestock enclosure. These settlements were surrounded by fields for crops and grazing animals. Each farmstead would probably have been home to one extended family who would have been largely self-sufficient. Excavations have revealed that they grew wheat and some barley and oats. These crops would have been stored in granaries which were raised off the ground on posts for protection from damp and mice. Very few objects have been found at these sites. It seems that the people did not use much pottery or money, but made items themselves out of wood or leather. These do not survive well when buried.

0050-09-15 19:10:51

Roman Road

Before the Romans arrived the only roads would have been rough tracks across the countryside. Soon after the Roman invasion, soldiers built roads to link important settlements, forts and ports creating Britain’s first road network. These roads were straight and wide, allowing large numbers of troops to move quickly across the country. Many Roman roads are still used today, or are visible in the landscape like on Durdham Down where a short length of original Roman road survives. Although now covered in grass, the curved surface (camber) of the road with parallel drainage ditches on either side can still be seen. This road, known as the Via Julia, was probably built in the second half of the 1st century AD and linked Aqua Sulis (Bath) and Abona (Sea Mills).

0051-12-31 00:00:00

Caratacus Captured

Caratacus, son of Cunobelinus, headed the British resistance to the Roman invasion in AD 43 and, although he was defeated, he refused to give up. He moved west to lead the fierce Silures tribe of South Wales in eight years of successful guerrilla warfare against the invaders. His acceptance by this 'foreign' tribe suggests that Caratacus had a powerful personality: his name means 'the beloved one'. Eventually, in AD 51, he was defeated again somewhere on the Welsh borders and he fled to northern England, to Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes tribe. She handed him over to the Romans and he was put on show in Rome as a trophy of victory. However, his dignity impressed the Romans so much that Caratacus and his family were pardoned.

0055 BC-04-22 02:05:19

Julius Caesar's Raids

The first Roman attacks on Britain were led by Julius Caesar, an ambitious general and politician who claimed that the Britons were helping his enemies in Gaul (France). His first raid in 55 BC was disastrous: British shoreline resistance and storm damage to his ships soon made him turn back. However, in 54 BC Caesar landed again in Kent with about 25,000 soldiers and, despite resistance led by Cassivellaunus, a British chieftain, and attacks by British chariots, he penetrated as far as Hertfordshire. Some British tribal chieftains surrendered and became allies of Rome, allowing Caesar to claim a victory. But it was clear that Britain was not easily conquered, and after two months he withdrew. Britain would remain outside the Roman Empire for nearly another century.

0060-12-31 00:00:00

Boudica's Revolt

In AD 60 Queen Boudica (Boadicea) came close to destroying Roman rule in Britain. Her tribe, the Iceni of East Anglia, had been friendly with Rome, but when her husband died the Romans not only seized their land, they also brutally ill-treated Boudica and her daughters. While the Roman governor and his troops were away fighting in North Wales, Boudica united many tribes in a fierce revolt. They destroyed Colchester, Verulamium (St. Albans) and London, massacring all their inhabitants. Tens of thousands of people were tortured and killed. Racing back, the Roman governor defeated Boudica's much larger army, and she took poison rather than fall into enemy hands. After taking savage revenge, the Romans eventually realised that less harsh rule in Britain would prevent further risings.

0071-06-03 19:39:05

Queen Cartimandua

Yorkshire did not become part of the Roman Empire until AD 71. The northern Brigantes’ Queen Cartimandua (unlike the Iceni’s Queen Boudicca and other tribal leaders) decided to cooperate with the Romans to retain her independence. When the defeated Welsh King Caratacus sought shelter, she handed him to the Romans. Many Brigantes disagreed with Cartimandua and civil war broke out between her and her husband, Venutius. The pair were still quarrelling 18 years later. When Venutius looked like winning, Emperor Vespasian sent the Roman Governor of Britain (Petillius Cerealis) to take over the north of England. Ingleborough, possibly Britain’s highest hill fort, was built by the Brigantes during this unrest and the Romans started a fort and bridge on the River Tees at Piercebridge.

0072 BC-01-01 00:00:00

Metal Out Wine In

Archaeology, including evidence from the cargoes of wrecked prehistoric ships found by divers, proves that Britain was trading with foreign lands long before the Romans came. Among its most valued exports was tin from Cornwall and Devon, a metal rare in Europe but vital for making bronze. One of the most important British trading posts was Hengistbury Head in Dorset, where locally-produced iron, copper and silver were exchanged for luxury goods (including figs, glass, tools and weapons, and especially wine) from Italy, Gaul (France) and even further away. Wine came in distinctively shaped pointed jars called 'amphorae‘. More of these have been found at Hengistbury than in all the other prehistoric sites in southern England put together.

0080-12-31 00:00:00

Development of Roman Roads

Roman Britain could not have operated without the network of Roman roads that linked cities and military bases. Many of their routes are still used as modern roads today. Unlike the dirt tracks that preceded them, Roman roads were built in stone, usually by legionary soldiers. They were paved, drained, well maintained, and they could be used in all weathers. Their routes were carefully planned by engineers, usually in long straight stretches, which sometimes changed direction on hilltops. However, in mountainous areas they took the easiest route along valleys. Villas (country houses) and small towns developed along the road network and the Roman government operated a system of roadside inns and stables. These helped the Roman officials to travel as quickly as possible throughout Britain.

0083-12-31 00:00:00

Roman Rule Expands

The spread of Roman rule over Britain, temporarily halted by Boudica's rising, began again with the conquest of northern England (AD 70-1) and Wales (AD 74-8). Then the great Roman governor Agricola invaded Scotland, totally defeating the 'Caledonian' tribes at the Battle of Mons Graupius (probably near Inverness) in AD 83. His Roman fleet sailed right round Britain, proving it was an island. Agricola's victory, completing the conquest of Britain, marked the greatest extent of Roman rule. However, soon afterwards troops were pulled out to deal with trouble elsewhere in Britain. The Romans gradually abandoned Scotland and the northern frontier of Roman Britain was eventually finalised on Hadrian's Wall.

0089 BC-06-18 05:33:44

Late Iron Age Settlements

The northern Brigantes were the largest Iron Age tribe in Britain. Their lands stretched from the Pennines and North Yorkshire to Northumberland and southern Scotland. The Brigantes built small, fortified hill crofts. Their principal fort (Stanwick near Richmond) is still visible and unique because of its vast scale and 5m high ramparts. It was probably once a ‘moot’ – a place where distant branches would meet to arrange marriages and exchange goods, livestock and tales. Excavated artefacts include a well-preserved Iron Age sword in its ash wood scabbard (sheath) and the damaged skull of a severed head. In 1843, 140 metal artefacts – known as the ‘Stanwick Hoard’ – were discovered; the hoard included four sets of horse harness for chariots.

0100 BC-04-22 02:05:19

Tribal Britain

In the period before the Roman Conquest, the people of Britain were divided into over 30 tribes with different names. For example, the Catuvellauni (meaning 'battle experts') lived in modern Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire; the Ordovices ('hammer-fighters') occupied Mid-Wales; and the Brigantes (either 'hill-dwellers' or 'mighty ones') dominated northern England. The meanings of their tribal names sometimes give hints about how they saw themselves, or how others saw them. Archaeology shows that their ways of life differed widely. Some southern and eastern tribes, including quite recent arrivals from mainland Europe, built town-like trading centres. Further west and north, tribal power centred on strongly defended 'hill forts'. None were primitive 'cavemen'. Excavated examples of their homes show that they could be well-built huts, equal in ground area to a modern bungalow.

0100 BC-12-29 13:09:50

Settlement at Eddisbury Hill Fort

Eddisbury in Cheshire is an example of a defended hill-top site called a ‘hill fort’. From pots and other finds from the site, archaeologists know it was used in the 1st century, but might have had earlier, Bronze Age, origins. Hill forts were surrounded by large walls or ‘ramparts’ and ditches. There are two concentric ramparts at Eddisbury, and excavations have revealed a defended stone gateway. Even though hill forts have strong defences, archaeologists do not know if many of them were ever attacked. The large ramparts may have been more about impressing neighbours than repelling enemies. We do know that people lived inside the hill fort and kept their animals safe inside.

0100 BC-12-31 00:00:00

Clifton Down Camp

We do not have much evidence about the people living in the Bristol region before the Romans arrived. We do know from later Roman writing that a tribe called the Dobunni (possibly meaning ‘the victorious ones’) lived here. Rarely has evidence of these peoples’ homes been found, but there are several hill-top enclosures in the area known as hill forts that date to the Iron Age. These hill forts probably had a variety of uses, such as tribal meeting places, lookout points or beacon sites where fires could be used to send warnings to other areas. On either side of the Avon Gorge in Bristol there are three hill forts very close to each other: Clifton Down Camp on the Bristol side, Stoke Leigh Camp and Burghwalls in North Somerset.

0100-03-10 16:09:58

The Romans in Barking and Dagenham

The Romans began to arrive in Barking and Dagenham 1,900 years ago. With them, they brought new building styles. Roman houses were rectangular. Larger houses (known as villas) were built in a square around an open courtyard. Villa is the Latin word for ‘country house’. Villa walls were made of bricks and the roofs were made of clay tiles. The floors were also tiled. In the richest houses, these tiles covered underfloor heating systems. In these hypocaust systems, hot air passed under the floor, heating the tiles from below. This tile was part of a hypocaust system. It was found at Rose Gate, Dagenham.

0100-12-31 00:00:00

Roman Forts Rebuilt in Stone

Roman forts secured the conquest of Britain. Roman armies were said to 'carry a walled town in their packs', and even fortified the temporary 'marching camps' where they halted when in enemy territory. Forts were more permanent army bases, controlling the surrounding area. At first they were defended by ditches and timber stockades, but from about AD 100 they were often rebuilt with stone walls. Nearly always rectangular with rounded corners ('playing-card shaped') forts varied greatly in size. Most were occupied by 'auxiliary' regiments of 500 or 1,000 infantry or cavalry. Among the best-preserved are those on Hadrian's Wall, including Housesteads. Legionary 'fortresses', each housing a whole legion of 5,000 soldiers, were much bigger. Those at Caerleon, Chester and York remained important centres of military power until the end of Roman Britain.

0110-06-03 19:39:05

Roman Roads (Wade's Causeway)

Agricola, Governor of Britain, ordered the building of a northern road network to allow soldiers to move rapidly between forts built at important junctions and river crossings. The main road in the North East was Dere Street (an Anglo-Saxon name). Wade’s Causeway is a well-preserved road on the North Yorkshire Moors. The top section has eroded leaving bare foundation stones and water gullies. The road served Cawthorn Camp (which was built in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries) where there were two forts and a marching camp. The camp most likely housed road builders and Roman garrisons on military manoeuvres as it had a clear view of coastal signal stations. Well preserved ditches and banks stand as a reminder of Roman ingenuity

0122-12-31 00:00:00

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall was begun on the orders of the Emperor Hadrian in AD 122. It is among the most famous Roman monuments in the world. It stretches 73 miles from coast to coast, across one of the narrowest parts of Britain. The 4m-high stone wall was set with small forts ('milecastles') a mile apart, with turrets between them. It was part of a wide band of defences including ditches to front and rear, outpost forts, and 15 big 'backup' forts for reinforcements. The wall complex was a barrier against enemies raiding from the north, and a means of stopping them uniting with possibly hostile tribes further south. It may also have been a springboard for future Roman advances into Scotland. However, by AD 158 this policy was abandoned, and the wall became the permanent northern frontier of Roman Britain for nearly 250 years.

0125-08-11 03:37:20

Roman Altars Built in Manchester

In 2008, two Roman altars were discovered in a rubbish pit on the site of a former garage on Chester Road in Castlefield, Manchester. We know that Roman people often set up alters and tombs on the roads into settlements. This was to show the importance of the person who set them up, and to allow them to be used or seen by people travelling along the roads. It is believed that these alters were established by Aelius Victor in the late 1st or 2nd century AD. The dedications written on them suggest that Aelius might have been from Germany and that he set them up in honour of two mother goddesses from there. Perhaps he promised to establish the alters if the goddesses brought him safely to Manchester. On top of the alters was a shallow dish into which offerings to the gods and goddesses could be made.

0127-07-05 03:16:44

Segedunum Roman Fort

In AD 122, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered a wall to be built from east to west across England from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth. In AD 127 the wall was extended further east to Wallsend. The wall stretched 73 miles and was built to defend the Roman Empire from the barbarians in the north. Before Hadrian’s Wall, Emperor Antoninus Pius built the Antonine Wall further north from stone and turf. Segedunum Roman Fort sits at the very end of the wall in Wallsend. Six hundred Roman soldiers from modern Belgium and northern France lived there. Hadrian’s Wall today is a World Heritage Site and you can visit the forts along its whole length. Segedunum includes a reconstructed Roman bath house.

0129-09-15 19:10:51

Forum Built at Wroxeter

During the early years of the 2nd century an ambitious programme of construction had begun at Wroxeter. The military barracks had been dismantled and were replaced by a huge civic centre. A forum and an extensive public baths complex were placed either side of the main access road, Watling Street. It would have been an impressive sight. The forum was the main administrative centre of the city and surrounding district. It consisted of an enormous square, where markets were held, surrounded by covered porticos and shops. To the side was a basilica where courts and tribunals were heard, and other rooms probably contained a debating chamber and the treasury. Above the entrance to the forum there was a finely carved inscription which dates its completion to the winter of AD 129-30 and dedicates the building to the Emperor Hadrian.

0150-09-15 19:10:51


Bristol did not exist in the Roman period. At this time, the most important settlement in the area was Abona (Sea Mills) at the point where the River Trym meets the Avon at modern Sea Mills/Stoke Bishop. Archaeological evidence suggests that there was a village here before the Romans arrived, but by the end of the 2nd century the Romans had turned the village into a port. Goods like wine, oil and pottery arrived at Abona by boat from Gaul (France) before being transferred to smaller river craft to be taken to places inland, such as Aqua Sulis (Bath). During this period, Abona was probably also an important place for supplying the Roman legion at Caerleon in South Wales with food and materials.

0150-12-31 00:00:00

The Romans Make Leicester Home

The streets of Roman Leicester (Ratae) were changed to a grid pattern, with a central space for a market (called a forum). The forum was lined with shops and had a building similar to a town hall – known as a basilica. Many houses were rebuilt in stone with tiled roofs. The Romans also dug drains under the streets. In front St. Nicholas’s Church stands Jewry Wall, the only upstanding remains of the public baths. Arches formed the entrance to the bath complex, built around AD 150. It is one of the largest remaining pieces of Roman masonry in Britain. People entered the baths through the arches after exercising in the gym (palaestra), now lying beneath St. Nicholas’s Church.  The remains of the Roman baths were discovered in 1936 when, by coincidence, a new swimming baths was being built. 

0155-06-12 23:21:16

Verulamium Rebuilt (Roman Towns Develop)

The biggest change the Romans made in Britain was to introduce towns and cities. The Romans thought the best way to 'civilise' (which means 'townify') the Britons was to focus their lives on imitations of Rome. The towns built in Britain had Roman-style 'forums' (squares where public events took place) and 'basilicas' (courtrooms and town halls). They also had 'amphitheatres' for gladiators, public baths for exercise and steam baths for gossip. Towns varied in size and origin. Some, like Verulamium (now St. Albans), which was rebuilt in AD 155 after an accidental fire, were the 'capitals' of Romanised British tribes. Others (like Colchester, Lincoln and York) started as settlements for retired soldiers or (like Wroxeter in Shropshire) developed from forts. Country people visiting such towns could see and imitate 'citizens' dressing and behaving in Roman ways

0158-06-12 23:21:16

Housesteads Fort Fully Re-Occupied

When Hadrian's Wall became the permanent frontier of Roman Britain in about AD 158, its forts like Birdoswald, Chesters and Housesteads were fully garrisoned. The soldiers at Housesteads came from what is now Belgium, but other garrisons came from warmer parts of the Roman Empire, and may have had trouble coping with the harsh weather of northern England. To make them more bearable, forts contained not only barracks for soldiers and a house for the commander, but also 'comforts' such as bath houses with saunas, which were also soldiers' club-rooms. Some forts even had amphitheatres. Of course they also needed toilets, as in the famous example at Housesteads. At many forts, like Housesteads, a village for traders, pub-keepers, retired soldiers and their families, grew up outside the walls.

0180-06-12 23:21:16

Benwell Roman Temple Built (Roman Religion)

Like almost all the world's peoples at this time, the Romans worshipped many gods. Apart from the gods and goddesses they brought with them (such as Jupiter, King of the Gods, and Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom) the Romans also adopted local gods. For example, they sometimes merged British war gods with their own war god, Mars. The temple at Benwell, built in about AD 180, was dedicated to the purely British god Antenociticus, but its altars were given by Roman officers from the nearby Hadrian's Wall fort. 'Official' Roman religion also included worship of the Emperor, but individual regiments and even families, often also had their own private gods. As long as their worship did not conflict with loyalty to Rome, nobody minded. However, those following supposedly anti-Roman religions, like Druidism and later Christianity, were persecuted.

0180-12-07 15:19:43


Though Britain had the largest occupying Roman army of any province in the Roman Empire, it was not always able to control the British tribes to the north and south of Hadrian's Wall. In addition, the size of the army sometimes tempted Roman governors to use it to make themselves Emperor – with disastrous results. In about AD 180 'Pictish' invaders from Scotland defeated a Roman legion and may have broken through Hadrian's Wall. There was more trouble around AD 197, when governor Clodius Albinus stripped Britain of troops in order to support his unsuccessful bid for imperial power. During his absence hostile tribes in Yorkshire and Wales rebelled, and some Roman forts were destroyed. Perhaps because of these troubles, at about this time, Roman cities defended themselves with earthwork banks and ditches.

0200-03-03 16:07:58

Manchester Roman Fort Rebuilt

The Roman fort at Castlefield was built in AD 79, when Manchester was known as Mamucium or Mancunium. In around AD 200, when Emperor Severus came to the north to help stop a revolt, the fort was refaced in stone. The fort was the home of auxiliary soldiers (non-Roman soldiers who were recruited from Roman-controlled tribes from all over the world). The soldiers were stationed at the fort to guard the road running from Chester to York. This was an important road between two major Roman settlements, and the army needed to control it. A ‘vicus’ (civilian settlement), made up of traders and the families of the soldiers, grew outside the fort and this was an area of industrial activity. There is evidence of buildings, probably including shops, pubs and blacksmiths.

0200-03-10 16:09:58

Roman Graves

By the 3rd century, British Celtic people had mixed with the cultures of people arriving from across the Roman Empire. Before the Romans, most people were cremated and their ashes buried in simple pots. They didn’t usually have gravestones. The Roman style was to bury people with ornate monuments to mark their graves. These were built along the main roads into towns so people could see them. This Roman coffin was discovered in the garden of a house on Ripple Road, Barking. The coffin is very heavy and would have been decorated with carvings. It would have cost a lot of money to buy.

0200-10-17 12:55:29

Caister Roman Fort

Caister-on-Sea Roman Fort was built around AD 200 as a base for the Roman army and navy. It was occupied until the end of the 4th century when the Roman forces were withdrawn from Britain. The fort occupied a small island on the north side of the Great Estuary. Its main purpose was to safeguard ships carrying valuable cargo to and from other parts of the Roman Empire. During archaeological excavations between 1951 and 1955, part of the fort defences and a building inside the fort were revealed. The main structures were left exposed but the remainder of the site now lies under modern housing. Finds during the archaeological excavation included mid-4th-century Roman coins as well as seven small hoards, the remains of wattle and daub walling, pottery, glass and part of a pewter plate.

0208-06-03 19:39:05

Yorkshire Roman Towns

Two thriving Roman towns grew in North Yorkshire: Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum) and York (Eboracum). As the ‘capital’ of the Romanised Brigantes, Aldborough became a high status town. Two mosaic pavements still exist and a museum has an outstanding Roman collection. York was the largest and most important town from where the Roman emperors governed. The first, Emperor Septimius Severus (208-11), the ‘African Emperor’, arrived with a huge number of civil servants, including the Praetorian Guard (special bodyguards). The Multangular Tower in York’s Museum Gardens was probably built during Severus’s reign. It has 10 sides and is 9m high. Originally there were three towers on either side of a central gateway. It is one of Britain’s grandest examples of Roman military architecture.

0208-12-07 15:19:43

Emperor Severus in Britain

In the early 200s, rebellions and invasions in northern Britain had got so bad that in AD 208 the Emperor Severus (elderly, but a famous soldier) came with a large army to restore order. For the next three years the whole Roman Empire was ruled from Britain. Severus marched deep into Scotland to punish hostile tribes, but achieved little there before his death at York in 211. However, in his time, many northern Roman forts, including some on Hadrian's Wall, were strengthened or rebuilt. Severus also divided Britain into two provinces: Upper Britain ruled from London and Lower Britain ruled from York. This made individual governors less powerful and less likely to rebel against Rome. For the next 70 years, Roman Britain was relatively peaceful.

0209-04-12 04:14:44

St. Alban Martyred

By AD 200, a few people in Britain were already Christians, but they had to worship in secret. The government thought their refusal to worship the 'official' Roman gods (which Christians regarded as 'idols') or 'divine’ emperors made them traitors to Rome. If discovered, they were often killed. History suggests that in AD 209, Alban, a Roman citizen of Verulamium, sheltered a fleeing Christian priest, changing clothes with him to help him escape. Alban was himself beheaded, becoming the first known British Christian 'martyr'. His (probably) true story became surrounded by fantastic legends, and much later a great abbey church was built on the supposed site of his execution. Verulamium then became 'St. Albans'.

0211-07-05 03:16:44

Pons Aelius Rebuilt

The Norman Castle Keep in Newcastle now stands where a Roman fort and settlement called Pons Aelius once was. Artefacts from the site, including alter stones, are in the Great North Museum, Hancock collections. ‘Pons’ means bridge and ‘Aelius’ comes from the family name of the Emperor Hadrian. The fort dates from AD 122 but was rebuilt in stone during the reign of Emperor Septimius Serverus (AD 193-211). A Roman bridge connected Pons Aelius to the central Cade Road, an important route to York. It was the first major bridge to cross the River Tyne and the only Roman bridge outside Rome to be named after an emperor, suggesting it was very important. In 1872, remains of the bridge were found where the Swing Bridge now stands.

0211-12-31 00:00:00

Roman Leicester Thrives

Roman Leicester prospered, suburbs grew up outside the walls and villas were built. Excavated coins show that there was a real money economy. Leicester was at the hub of the Roman road network, reflecting its high status. Its public buildings – baths, macellum (market) and temples – also showed its importance. Leicester was the civitas (favoured provincial community) capital of Corieltauvi (a tribe of people living in Britain before the Roman conquest). However, the tribes of what are now southern Scotland and northern England had never been fully pacified by the Romans, and there were violent outbreaks. In an effort to subdue Britain, a plan to split the province was thought up by Emperor Septimius Severus. This plan was put into place in AD 211 – the southern province was named Britannia Superior (Upper Britain) with its capital at Londinium (London), and the northern province called Britannia Inferior (Lower Britain), with its capital at Eboracum (York).

0215-12-06 15:19:42

Citizenship Extended

Before AD 212 there was a big distinction between Roman 'citizens', who had many rights and privileges, and other people within the Roman Empire. However, from that year all 'free' men (those who were not slaves) throughout the Empire were made citizens and all free women given the same rights as Roman women. From then on there was less and less distinction between 'Britons' and 'Romans'. Many Romans from other parts of the Empire, merchants and administrators, as well as soldiers, also lived in Britain, which was a really international community. Though they came from places such as North Africa, Syria or the Balkans, these people were also 'Romans'. The different races mixed freely. Regina, a former British slave from the Hertfordshire area, married her master Barathes, a Roman Syrian living in South Shields.

0220-09-15 19:10:51

Wroxeter Roman City

The city of Viroconium (Wroxeter) grew to be the fourth largest in Britain. There had never been development on this scale in the area before. This artist’s impression shows how the city may have looked. The whole 180-acre site is surrounded by defences, with the large public buildings in the centre and residential areas beyond. The city is divided into blocks or insula by straight roads. The city became a thriving commercial centre. There was a market where goods could be traded, and lots of shops selling foods and luxury items imported from the rest of the Roman Empire. Justice would be administered and taxes paid at the basilica. People could also worship or make offerings at one of the temples, or relax in the public baths.

0250-09-15 19:10:51

Stone Buildings at Abona

The first houses, shops and warehouses at Abona (Sea Mills) were built in timber. By the middle of the 3rd century these buildings were being replaced by the first stone buildings that we know of in Bristol. There have been several Roman buildings excavated at Abona, however, none of these had the mosaics or hypocausts (underfloor heating) that are often found in Roman villas. This suggests that though Abona was an important place of work, most of the houses were quite basic. The only visible remains of Abona are the foundations of a stone building that was excavated in the 1930s at the junction of the Portway and Roman Way. It was probably a house, although we have little evidence to say what this building was used for.

0250-12-06 15:19:42

Great Witcombe Villa Built

Wealthy Roman citizens, including some who were British-born, owned country houses called 'villas'. Many of these have been found within reach of Roman towns, and in prosperous farming areas like the Cotswolds. Some villas (such as Great Witcombe Roman Villa – built in about AD 250 – and Lullingstone Roman Villa) were luxurious mansions, with underfloor 'central heating', one or more 'bath-suites', shrines to local gods, and floors covered with colourful and expensive mosaics. Others were more akin to farmhouses, and most were the centres of large farming estates. These were the homes of communities, including not only the owner's extended family, but also his servants, farm workers and slaves. Villas were at their wealthiest peak during the relatively peaceful 200s and 300s. Along with their comfortable lifestyle, they declined towards the end of Roman Britain.

Historic England Regional Timeline

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