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St. Albans

Updated Tuesday, 1st August 2006

The Roman town of Verulamium lies to the south west of the modern town of St Albans. It was the third largest town in Roman Britain, and is one of the few not to have been built over since the Roman period.

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Roman soldier on horseback Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

The site of the town is now preserved as a public park, and there is a museum and well preserved theatre which can be visited too. Although part of the site has been excavated, most of it remains unexplored.

Before the Romans developed the site at St Albans there is evidence of a royal settlement established on the site by the Catuvellauni tribe in around the year AD 10. There is also evidence of Roman military activity in the area soon after the invasion in AD 43. The recent discovery of a large grave pit threw new light on the locals' response to the invasion.

The grave contained a cremation burial, dated around AD 50, possibly of a member of the Catuvellauni ruling family. This suggests that he may have been a client or puppet king, installed by the Romans. If this is the case, it suggests that the Catuvellauni accepted Roman rule almost immediately, and that the Roman occupation here would have been relatively peaceful.

Excavation has shown that the Romans laid out the town of Verulamium with straight streets, divided into blocks or insulae. It was defended by a bank and ditch, and covered an area of about fifty acres. At this stage most of the buildings were made of timber.

The developing town was hard hit by the Boudiccan revolt in AD 60/61. The town was taken and the buildings burnt, and it took twenty years for it to recover. A burnt layer of soil has been found in the central area which almost certainly comes from this period of devastation. The re-built town doubled in size, and an impressive forum and basilica (Town Hall) were built by around AD 79. The town continued to grow and develop (despite a bad fire in about AD 155), and in around AD 265 the city wall was constructed, parts of which can still be seen at the site today.

For more information visit the St. Albans Verulamium Museum website.
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