From The Archives: Karl Brockett talks about historic Godmanchester

Godmanchester can trace its history back to pre-Roman times.

Godmanchester can trace its history back to pre-Roman times. - Credit: KARL BROCKETT

Godmanchester is the site of a former Roman town. A fort was built nearby shortly after the Roman invasion of AD 43 and this covered about 2.4 hectares.

Karl Brockett is chairman of the Huntingdonshire Community Nostalgia Group.

Karl Brockett is chairman of the Huntingdonshire Community Nostalgia Group. - Credit: KARL BROCKETT

It was defended by twin ditches with associated timber and earth rampart. These defences were not completed before the fort was dismantled, indicating only a very short occupation. The civil settlement that had built up around the fort remained and gradually expanded into a small town.

On the settlement site at Godmanchester, which lies below the present town, evidence of ovoid huts were found which predate the Roman period.

The mansio and bath-house were built in c.120AD. The first of three successive shrines or temples lay to the west of the mansio, dating from the second to fourth centuries. Several bronze votive feathers were found, one inscribed: ‘To the god Abandinus Vatiaucus gave this from his own resources’.

Two second century buildings were demolished when the supposed Basilica was built to the east of the mansio in the early third century.

A large hall was also built in the third century in the centre of the town. This may have been a town hall (basilica) or headquarters of an imperial estate (principia) or a tax-collection area. 

The economy of the town was largely based on agriculture and Godmanchester was a major market centre. Local industry was small-scale and included iron and bronze working and pottery.

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A number of villas have been discovered in the vicinity. A fire at the end of the third century left the inn and bath house gutted and derelict.

Traces of the defences and internal buildings of an early Claudian fort of around six acres (c.2.4 ha) have been found to the south of the civil settlement, and the east gate of a Neronian fort, which lies on a different alignment. 

Maps and photos as well as more information about the  
Huntingdonshire Nostalgia Group can be found on Facebook. We are also launching our book on December 4 at the town hall, in Huntingdon
 

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