(Wroxeter) Shropshire, England.
Roman site on the Severn, dominated by the Wrekin hill 3 km away. On the crest of the hill is the Iron Age fortress of the local chieftains,
and a large Roman fort and several marching camps lie near its foot.
Apart from the conquest of the local Cornovii, the
Roman army was mainly concerned in the mid 1st c.
with the tribes of Wales under Caratacus, and later
with the reduction of the whole of Wales. Wroxeter was
strategically situated for this purpose, at the point where
the Severn emerges from the Welsh foothills. The earliest occupation was probably ca. A.D. 50 under Ostorius
Scapula; a little later Legio XIV was moved here, and
remained until replaced in 69 by Legio XX from Gloucester. Tombstones from the military cemetery to the N, identifying both legions, are now in Rowley House Museum, Shrewsbury, with other material from Viroconium.
Aerial surveys have shown a number of military sites
in the area including large march camps and large and
small permanent forts. Excavations in the baths insula
have uncovered military structures of several phases: evidently successive legionary fortresses lie buried under the
later city. The army remained until ca. 90, although
Legio XX had moved to a new base at Inchtuthil in
Scotland. This fortress was never finished and apparently
part of the Wroxeter unit, perhaps the administrative
staff, did not move. But Wroxeter had now ceased to have
much strategical significance; and the Viroconium site
passed into civil hands and became one of the largest and
most prosperous cities of Roman Britain.
Below the forum, a bath of a large and elaborate type
was discovered, built at the end of the 1st c. when the
town was first laid out, but it was never completed. In ca.
120 a forum was erected. This has been precisely dated by
the finely cut inscription found in scattered fragments:
the building was dedicated in A.D. 129, in the reign of
the emperor Hadrian and under the auspices of the Civitas
Cornovii. The forum was a large open market, surrounded
by shops and a great aisled basilica for public assemblies
and the law court. Attached to the rear were the administrative offices. Excavations in 1923 below the forum uncovered the 1st c. bath already mentioned.
In 1912-14 excavations on the W side of the main N-S
road S of the forum disclosed simple rectangular shops
of the early 2d c., which had been replaced after a fire
ca. 155 by more substantial and complicated structures.
These included a temple, which may have had a priests'
house and a sacred enclosure at the rear. Outside the
forum stood the bath, and beneath it an earlier and unfinished building of uncertain purpose. The bath was not
finished until the second half of the 2d c.; by the early
3d c. an additional suite was added, and the original
piscina no longer used. Early in the 4th c. use of the
baths ceased. Aerial reconnaissance has recovered an almost complete street plan, and has identified houses and temples.
The end of Viroconium is puzzling. At one time it was
thought that the Saxons took the city by storm and burnt
it to the ground (skeletons found in the bath were cited
as evidence), but excavation has produced no destruction
layer. A tombstone found in 1967 in ploughing bears an
inscription to Cunorix. The use of the word macvs
“son of” is an Irish form and dates the stone to the late
5th c. or later. Probably the man was an Irish mercenary
employed by the citizens to protect them from wandering
bands of brigands. At some time in the 6th or 7th c.,
however, the town was abandoned by all but a small community.
Summary to 1908: VGH Shropshire
(1908); “The Cornovii,” Culture and Environment
(1963) 251-62; excavations: T. Wright, Uriconium
(1872); Soc. Antiquaries Research Reports
1916); forum: Excavations at Wroxeter
(1942); bath house: ArchJ
54 (1897) 123-73; Archaeologia
88 (1940) 175-228; AntJ
46 (1966) 229-39; town
defenses: Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc
. 78 (1962) 27-39; town plan: Trans. Shropshire Arch. Soc
. 57 (1962-63)
112-31; aqueduct: ibid. 56 (1959) 133-37; Cunorix stone:
48 (1968) 296-300.