The Romans arrived in Devon in 50AD!
For the next 30 years Exeter was a Roman garrison town called Isca. As many as 5000 Roman soldiers lived here at one point. Exeter became a large and important town and trading route, with an enormous bathhouse (built in 55AD, located in the current Cathedral Green) and market place lined with shops (called a Forum). The Romans built a large stone wall to contain and protect the town of Isca. Parts of this wall remain visible in Exeter City Centre.
Roman goods like olive oil and wine were traded in Devon before this time though. Remains of amphorae from this European trade route has been found in wrecks off Devon’s coast. It is likely the people of Devon were trading tin for these luxury goods.
Waste in Roman Britain
Our display at Exeter EfW shows examples of the waste found when excavating Roman Exeter. Terracotta roof tiles, shards of clay amphorae and Roman coins have been found.
Roman building techniques brought a huge change to how people lived in Britain. Houses or villas were built with ornate mosaics with ceramic tiles. They had underfloor heating and bathing facilities. Roofs were built using strong and durable terracotta tiles, rather than the traditional thatch made from straw or reeds.
Romans invented cement and concrete which means they also left their mark on architecture and the building world. The Pantheon in Rome still stands as an example of how strong Roman concrete construction can be. The dome of the Pantheon is the world’s largest and oldest unreinforced concrete dome.
Concrete is now the world’s most used material. Modern day humans are beginning to use Roman-style pozzolanic cemenet and concrete as it can be manufactured from fly ash from coal burning.
Exeter’s City Museum – the Royal Albert Memorial Museum or RAMM has a range of activities and online reources available online.
English Heritage has lots of fantastic information about the invasion of Britain by the Romans, including Roman remains and how Romans lived. The pages will help you discover the impact and legacy of the Roman era.
Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment. They have created a number of educational resources to help teach about history.
The University of Exeter published research in August 2023 about the extensive Roman road network across the South West. Large settlements across South West England were connected in ways never realised before these findings.