Viroconium Cornoviorum

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Remains of the public baths, known as "The Old Work"

Viroconium Cornoviorum, or Viroconium or occasionally Uriconium, was a Roman town, one corner of which is now occupied by Wroxeter, a small village in Shropshire, England, about 5 miles (8.0 km) east-south-east of Shrewsbury. At its peak, Viroconium is estimated to have been the fourth largest Roman settlement in Britain, a civitas with a population of more than 15,000.[1] The settlement probably lasted until the end of the seventh century or the beginning of the eighth.[2] Extensive remains can still be seen.


Viriconium is a Latinised form the Common Brittonic place name *uiroconion "[place] of *uiro-kū", a personal name meaning "man-wolf, werewolf".[3][4] Cornoviorum means "of the Cornovii", the local tribe whose civitas ("urbanised client settlement") it became. The original site of the Cornovian capital *Uiroconion was a hill fort on The Wrekin.

Roman town[edit]

Roman ruins at Viroconium Cornoviorum, photographed during excavation by Francis Bedford and digitally restored.

Viroconium was established in about AD 58 as a castra for the Legio XIV Gemina during their invasion of Roman Wales. They were later replaced by the Legio XX Valeria Victrix until the fortress was abandoned by the military around AD 88 and taken over by the civilian settlement that had grown up around the fort. By AD 130 it had expanded to cover an area of more than 173 acres (70 ha). It then had many public buildings, including thermae and a colonnaded forum dedicated to Hadrian as shown by the remains of an inscription. Simpler temples and shops have also been excavated. At its peak, Viroconium is estimated to have been the fourth largest Roman settlement in Britain with a population of more than 15,000.[1]

Post-Roman town[edit]

Town life in Viroconium continued in the 5th century, but many of the buildings fell into disrepair. Between 530 and 570, when most Roman urban sites and villas in Britain were being abandoned,[5] there was a substantial rebuilding programme. The old basilica was carefully demolished and replaced with new timber-framed buildings on rubble platforms. These probably included a very large two-storey building and a number of storage buildings and houses. In all, 33 new buildings were "carefully planned and executed" and "skillfully constructed to Roman measurements using a trained labour force".[6] Who instigated this rebuilding programme is not known, but it may have been a bishop.[7] Some of the buildings were renewed three times, and the community probably lasted about 75 years until, for some reason, many of the buildings were dismantled.[8] The site was probably abandoned peacefully in the second half of the 7th century or the beginning of the 8th century.[9]

Wroxeter Roman City[edit]

The recreation of a Roman town house at Viroconium

Some remains are still standing, and further buildings have been excavated. These include "the Old Work" (an archway, part of the baths' frigidarium and the largest free-standing Roman ruin in England) and the remains of a baths complex. These are on display to the public and, along with a small museum, are looked after by English Heritage under the name "Wroxeter Roman City". Some of the more important finds are housed in Rowley's House Museum in Shrewsbury. Most of the town still remains buried, but it has largely been mapped through geophysical survey and aerial archaeology.

A reconstructed Roman villa was opened to the public on 19 February 2011[10] to give visitors an insight into Roman building techniques and how the Romans lived.[11] A Channel 4 television series, Rome Wasn't Built in a Day,[12] showed how it was built using authentic ancient techniques. The builders were assisted by a team of local volunteers and supervised by archaeologist Dai Morgan Evans, who designed the villa.



  1. ^ a b Frere, Britannia, p.253
  2. ^ Archaeological assessment of Wroxeter/Viroconium p.5[dead link]
  3. ^ Delamarre, Xavier (2012). Noms de lieux celtiques de l'europe ancienne. Arles: Editions Errance. p. 273. ISBN 978-2-87772-483-8. 
  4. ^ Wodtko, Dagmar (2000). Wörterbuch der keltiberischen Inschriften: Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum, Band V.1. Reichert-Verlag. p. 452. ISBN 978-3-89500-136-9. 
  5. ^ Loseby, Simon T. (2000). "Power and towns in Late Roman Britain and early Anglo-Saxon England". In Gisela Ripoll, Josep M. Gurt. Sedes regiae (ann. 400–800). Barcelona. p. 339. "The likes of Verulamium and Wroxeter ... are the best representatives of a 'post-Roman' phase of activity on town sites, a phenomenon which is not attested beyond the middle of the fifth century elsewhere." 
  6. ^ White, Roger; Philip Barker Wroxeter: Life & Death of a Roman City Tempus Publishing, 1998 ISBN 978-0-7524-1409-6 pp.121–128
  7. ^ White, Roger; Philp Barker Wroxeter: Life & Death of a Roman City Tempus Publishing, 1998 ISBN 978-0-7524-1409-6 p.125
  8. ^ White, Roger; Philip Barker Wroxeter: Life & Death of a Roman City Tempus Publishing, 1998 ISBN 978-0-7524-1409-6 p.136
  9. ^ Archaeological assessment of Wroxeter, Shropshire
  10. ^ BBC News Shropshire – Reconstructed Roman villa unveiled at Wroxeter
  11. ^ English Heritage – Properties
  12. ^ Daily Mail: "Channel 4 series build Roman villa using ancient methods"
  13. ^ Uriconium An Ode | The Wilfred Owen Association
  14. ^ Representative Poetry Online – Mary Webb : Viroconium


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°40′26″N 2°38′42″W / 52.674°N 2.645°W / 52.674; -2.645