6. Roman

43 AD – 410 AD

Samian Ware bowl (about AD 70-90) probably from a burial. London Road, Staines. Image: David Bird

Samian Ware bowl (about AD 70-90) probably from a burial.
London Road, Staines.
Image: David Bird

Emperor Claudius successfully conquered Britannia in AD43. Rome was a super power, with the first full-time professional army. The Emperor in Rome appointed a Governor to control the province, to deal with the chiefs of the British tribes. The army was used to crush opposition to their newly imposed way of life. A soldiers life was desirable. They were highly skilled and well looked after. After the Conquest, times would have been hard for the British, until they began to adopt the conquerors way of life.

The Romans saw towns as important in the way a country was run, so they built towns near existing tribal centres or built new forts and towns, like Staines, which they called Pontes because it had bridges over the rivers. The towns contained market places, government centres, baths and amphitheatres. The army constructed roads across the country to link up the towns of the province. London became the capital for the first time after Boudicas revolt in AD60, and was a centre of activity and administration during the occupation. Local farms had to supply the growing town centres, which benefited some farmers who became very rich.  These people built luxurious villas (big country houses), which had underfloor heating and mosaic floors.  Most villas were the centres of farming estates, but the one at Ashtead had a big tile-making factory next to it.  The majority of people, though, probably lived as they had done in the Iron Age, with change coming only very slowly, as was seen at the village at Thorpe Lea Nurseries.

An artists impression of the Roman temple at Wanborough (courtesy of David Williams)

An artists impression of the Roman temple at Wanborough
(courtesy of David Williams)

Many people in the Empire could read and write (in Latin) and they had historians to record events. The Empires trade routes were already established across most of Europe, North Africa and the Near East, so there was no end to the exciting and exotic goods to buy. New temples were built in which both the gods of Rome and native gods were worshipped, and in the 4th century AD Christian churches were constructed (Surrey’s oldest standing church is St Mary’s in Stoke D’Abernon which dates to the late 7th or early 8th century but includes earlier building materials).

The province went through many times of peace and unrest for some 250 years after the conquest. But when nearly all of the Empires frontiers were under threat from barbarian raiders in 410 AD, Britannia became independent, either because the Romans left, or, as some people believe, we threw them out!

Roman Surrey

    • Staines was important as a crossing point of the Thames, a military base, and may have been a centre for medical treatment. Finds include a collyrium stamp used to mark eye remedies, and a group of surgical instruments (spoon-probe, scoop-probe, double-ended spatula/probe and a scalpel handle).
    • An Iron Age and Roman period settlement was found during excavations at Thorpe Lea Nurseries.
    • A farmstead was found during excavations at Broad Street, Worplesdon. It included a house or villa, a series of ancillary buildings and enclosures, surrounded by open pasture and woodland.
    • A 1st and 2nd century villa and bathhouse was excavated at Ashtead

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