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ALCHESTER Oxfordshire, England.

A Roman walled town 17 km NE of Oxford at the point where the Roman Akeman Street was joined by a branch road from Watling Street. The area bounded by defenses, ca. 10 ha, is almost square. The earliest defenses consisted of a gravel rampart and one or more ditches; later, a stone wall was added to the rampart. The dating of these two phases is obscure. Circular mounds are still visible at the NE and SE angles and partial excavation of that at the NE corner has demonstrated that these were external towers. Their plan remains uncertain. Part of what appeared to be an internal turret was also partially excavated.

The buildings of Alchester have not been thoroughly excavated. The planning of streets approaches a rectangular grid, uncommon in the smaller Romano-British towns. Along the main street, air photography has revealed the presence of numbers of narrow, rectangular strip buildings. Near the center of the town lay a building with a central court, surrounded by a portico on three sides. Outside the W defenses, excavation in 1766 of what was then a prominent mound known as the Castle uncovered a sizable bath.

Iron Age settlement is attested close to the later Roman town, and Roman occupation of the site began in the Claudian period, possibly in the form of a fort. After the 5th c. A.D. the place was deserted.


Archaeologia Oxoniensis 1 (1892) 34; AntJ 7 (1927) 154; 9 (1929) 105; 12 (1932) 35; VCH Oxfordshire 1 (1939) 281.


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