Wroxeter Roman City - History and Facts | History Hit

Wroxeter Roman City

Wroxeter, Lower Longwood, England, United Kingdom

Wroxeter Roman City houses the remains of what was once Roman Britain’s fourth largest city.

Amy Irvine

11 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Wroxeter Roman City

Wroxeter Roman City is an impressive Ancient Roman site in Shropshire, about 5 miles east-south-east of Shrewsbury. It houses the remains of what was once known as Viroconium, at one time Roman Britain’s fourth largest city.

History of Wroxeter Roman City

Roman Wroxeter was a key frontier position lying on the bank of the Severn river, whose valley penetrated deep into Wales, and also on a route to the south leading to the Wye valley.

Viroconium was initially a 1st century garrisoned fort for a Thracian legionary cohort, and evolved into a city which once spread over nearly 200 acres. The 14th and 20th Legions are known to have been based at Wroxeter, firstly used as a fighting base and later a less important fortified store depot.

Many trades flourished here including tanneries, leather works, bone works, pottery, glassware and metal jewellery, and many public buildings were constructed, including thermae and a colonnaded forum. Indeed around 5,000 people lived in Viroconium at its peak, making it a city almost as large as Pompeii.

A fascinating aspect of Wroxeter Roman City is actually its existence at the end of Roman Britain and beyond. The ruins include sites erected and rebuilt after the Romans had left, yet in typical Roman style. This has led archaeologists to believe that those who lived in Viroconium after the Romans abandoned it around the 7th century wanted to carry on living in the same way.

Discovered in 1859 when workmen began excavating the baths complex, Wroxeter Roman city was one of the country’s first archaeological visitor attractions.

Wroxeter Roman City today

Today visitors can learn about Wroxeter’s citizens’ lives through an audio guided tour as well as through the artefacts exhibited in its museum. However, perhaps the most evocative elements of Wroxeter Roman City are its extensive ruins which can still be seen.

Standing proud over Wroxeter’s ruins is the iconic Old Work – a surviving 7 metre high basilica wall is the largest piece of free-standing Roman wall in the country. From the exercise hall to the enormous bathing complex and walls, visitors can view the buildings in which its population of mostly traders and ex-soldiers lived, worked and were entertained. There is also a reconstructed Roman Town House, created in 2010 and built using only the tools and materials available to the Romans.

Most of Viroconium still lies unexcavated, but what can be seen offers a glimpse into how this great city would have looked. Wroxeter Roman City is an English Heritage site.

Getting to Wroxeter Roman City

Ideally it’s best to travel to Wroxeter by car. Wroxeter Roman City is situated 5 miles South-East of Shrewsbury, on a minor road signposted from the B4380 (near its junction with the B4394). There is free parking for approx 25 cars. The nearest train station is Shrewsbury (just over 5 miles away) or Wellington Telford West (6 miles away). By bus, take the Arriva 96 Telford – Shrewsbury route.

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