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Genealogy Places of Interest

The Romans In Britain

This paper is written to try to follow the progression of the Romans when they conquered and occupied Britain from 41 A.D. until 410 A.D., when their withdrawal came to an end.

In 55 B.C. Julius Caesar was the ruling Emperor of the Romans and was seeking to expand, so deciding to invade what they then called Britannia. He failed, so in 54 B.C. he set sail again for these islands with a further 66 shiploads of men and equipment, later describing the British as “a strange people - wild and painted blue”. Again he failed to make much impression.

In 41 A.D. Claudius became Emperor of the Romans and decided to show his people what he could do and how much better than the famous Julius Caesar he could expand his lands. The Romans were already trading with the British and he knew the land was rich with tin, copper, lead, iron, etc., and it would pay him handsomely to take control.

He landed at Richborough in Kent with four Legions of soldiers and their first battle was at the River Medway, lasting two days, which was a long time for a battle in those days, where they were victorious. Caraticus was the leader of the main opposition but his forces were small and not too keen on battle anyway. From here they progressed by working as four separate legions into modern England and Wales with a small intrusion into Scotland. At this time the whole country was virtually one Celtic nation.

Cair is the Roman word for fort but it was also used to mean castle or city, as anywhere with a castle was also classed as a city in those days. Only very much later, after the Romans left, did a city need a cathedral. In those days religion had not really got off the ground and many objects like sun and moon were worshipped.

The following list and the drawing shows the progress of their domination of the country, remembering that Britain was split into many kingdoms at that time, who, although they traded together quite often were at war with each other over land, kidnapped each others women and slaves and generally were not the best of neighbors.

Most Roman forts were built two days march apart so that by the end of the campaign there were a total of about 150 over mainland Britain, but this initial invasion set up 33 forts and more were built later. Forts were built for protection and as a command area, so consisted of a protective wall and ditch and living quarters with easy access to water and food. The first Roman capital was at Colchester but it did not take them long to realize how important the River Thames would be both as a port and as a link to Europe, resulting in the building of Londinium (London).

The first batch of forts are shown on the map with numbers to show the estimated progress of the Romans in Britain. As stated earlier four Legions took part in this first assault and were thought to be the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 20th. They were all together until they had established a foothold at Colchester, then somewhat divided as they progressed. A probable order in which the forts were made is listed, showing the Legion or Legions responsible, their original name and the present location, as near as possible. In the following L will stand for Legion and 2, 4, 9 or 20 the number of that Legion.

The list of numbers are the places on the map where the forts were located. A and B represent the original landing place and the island of Anglesey, where they were bound to have visited very early but where it is not known that a fort was erected.

A. L 2, 4, 9, 20 Landed at Richborough in Kent, originally called Rutupice.

  1.  All progressed to Cair Cient, Canterbury where first capital was established. L 2 and 20 followed south coast whilst 4 and 9 followed Thames estuary and Thames.
  2.  L 2 and 20 to Cair Pensavelioit, Suffolk, now Pevensey.
  3.  L 4 and 9 to Cair Londein, later Londinium, then London.
  4.  L 2 and 20 to Cair Peris, later Porchester, now Portsmouth.
  5.  L 4 and 9 to Cair Segeint, Silchester, then cross Thames and 4 goes North East and 9 North
  6.  L 2 and 20 to Cair Dauri, Dorchester. 20 and part of 2 go North, rest of 2 West.
  7.  L 20 + part 2 turns North to Cair Celemion, Camalet in Somerset.
  8.  L 4 to Cair Collon, Colchester.
  9.  L 2 to Cair Tiem, Teyn-Grace, Devon.
  10.  L 20 + part 2 to Cair Britoc, Bristol.
  11. L 4 to Cair Grant, later called Grantchester, now Cambridge. A later legion went on to Caister, East Anglia.
  12. L 2 to Cair Mencipit, Verulam, Cornwall. Some turned back to establish other forts.
  13.  L 20 + part 2 to Cair Ceri, Cirencester.
  14.  L 20 and part 2 to Cair Gloui, Gloucester. L 2 turns West into South Wales.
  15.  L 4 to Cair Guin Truis, Norwich, East Anglia.
  16.  L 20 follows River Sabrina, Severn, to CairGuoranegon, Worcester.
  17.  L 2 to Cair Guent, Caerwent, Monmouthshire.
  18.  L 2 to Cair Lion, Caerleon-upon-Usk.
  19.  L 20 to Cair Guoranegon, Worcester.
  20.  L 2 to Cair Gurnos, Port Talbot, South Wales.
  21.  L 2 to Cair Guorthegern, north of Carmarthen on the River Towy.
  22.  L 9 to Cair Lerion, Leicester.
  23.  L 20 to Cair Urnahc, Wroxeter, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
  24.  L 2 to Cair Merdin, Carmarthen.
  25.  L 20 to Cair Meguaid, Meirvod, then Meifod, Powys.
  26.  L 2 to Cair Guorcon, Worren or Woran, Pembrokeshire.
  27.  L 9 to Cair Loit Coit, Lincoln, meeting 4 who stay there.
  28.  L 20 to Cair Ligion, Derva, now called Chester. Here they remained, this being developed into the main fort of the North West.
  29.  L 20 to Cair Mauiguid, Manchester with part of Legion.
  30.  L 9 to Cair Ebrauc, York, at which was built a major fort.
  31.  L 9 to Cair Caratanc, Catterick, Yorkshire.
  32.  L 20 to Cair Custeint, Carnarvon, North Wales.
  33.  L 9 to Cair Luilid, Carlisle.

B L20 probably went over to Mon, Anglesey, but not sure if fort was built there.

Whilst in the above list every effort has been made to take into account such items as the terrain and the hostility of the people, with the distances between the forts, it can only be a best estimate as I was not there.

Rome was in need of many of the minerals that could be found in this country including gold, lead, silver, copper, tin, iron, pottery/brick and tile clay, and surprisingly, salt. Coal was not used in great quantity as smelting, etc., was done by using charcoal and there was a surplus of wood to spare. It did, of course, take many years to find many of the minerals that were required, so while the map shows many mines they were developed slowly, with the map showing the total Roman mines during their occupation.

The metals, wools, pottery clay, etc. required by the Romans were in abundance in various parts of the country. The use of metal was in its infancy to the population of the majority of this country and more blue wode was worn than clothes, sight of the Roman weapons and clothing was one of the first lessons. Later skins were tanned and skins worn more than previously. A great number of pigs and cattle were kept but mainly as one per family or community with a large number of sheep on hill-land and being the favourite meat. It was a full-time and important job to be a herdsman as the community relied on him or her for the safekeeping of a majority of their food.


The Romans taught the natives how to grow crops, smelt metals, make and bake pottery, bricks and tiles, and to make cloth and leather. This was the first industrial revolution for the British as people changed from being simple hunter/gatherers to farmers, herders, potters, wood craftsmen, smelters, etc.

It is also obvious from the map that the extent of the Roman industries brought about not just the subjugation of the people but an involvement with the population so that they took part in the building and manufacturing process. By the time this became operative the number of Romans had increased to supervise the building of roads and the villas that were occupied by the senior Centurions.

All roads were started from London, as it is now called, and were built in virtually straight lines from this central point. An example of this is Watling Street, now the A5, which was built from London to Wroxeter, later being extended to Dover in the south and Derva (Chester) and later Holyhead in the north-west. Later, when the Romans had withdrawn from Britain, for a long time the locals refused to use the roads that were built and returned to their old system of moving by ancient pathways and cart tracks across country, which meant going around trees and hills in a very haphazard fashion.

It must be fairly clear that without Roman aid the people of Britain would not have reached anywhere near the level of progress that the occupation afforded them.