In Roman times, Cirencester, known as ‘Corinium Dobunnorum’, was the second-largest settlement in Britain after London. During the 6th century fortunes changed, the Saxons destroyed the town and it was renamed ‘Coryn Ceasre.’ It later became a prosperous wool town in the Medieval period.
The town of Cirencester did not exist before the Roman invasion. There was a tribal settlement at Bagendon, near the present site of Cirencester, which imported and produced goods and minted its own coinage. When the land of the Dobunni tribe was occupied by the Romans, around 43 or 44 AD, a fort was built a few miles away from Bagendon to guard an important road junction and the crossing of the River Churn. The site of this fort later became the Roman town of Corinium.
The military occupation of the town was only temporary, troops were withdrawn around 70 AD and a new Roman town was planned and built.
The new centre, now known as Cirencester, was formally called Corinium Dobunnorum in Roman references. By the 2nd century, it was the second largest town in Britain, covering 240 acres, compared with the 330 of London with a population of up to 15,000.
There were at least four gates in the encircling walls of Corinium through which the great Roman roads passed, crossing in the centre of the Roman town.
In the early 3rd century the earthwork defences were rebuilt in stone. The new stone walls stood 6m high with a walk at the top protected by a parapet. At intervals along the walls were polygonal stone towers, and bastions projected from the wall.
The only exposed section of the Roman wall that can be seen today stands at the western edge of Abbey Grounds, a public park formed from the medieval lands of the Augustinian Abbey of St Mary.
There are a variety of places to visit and sites to enjoy within Cirencester such as the Abbey Grounds, St. Michael’s Park, Cirencester Park, the Roman Amphitheatre, New Brewery Arts, and the Corinium Museum.
Visitors to the Abbey Grounds In Cirencester today can find the remnants of the Roman Wall. This section has been excavated by English Heritage. Access is free and unrestricted.
The Abbey Grounds can be found behind the Church of St John the Baptist in central Cirencester. The Roman Amphitheatre and Cirencester Park are nearby.
Cirencester also has an open air swimming pool that dates back to 1869.
Getting to Cirencester
Cirencester is 80 miles north west of London and is the largest town in the Cotswolds. Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud and Swindon have bus connections to Cirencester. Kemble railway station is the nearest rail link.
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