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Verulamium

From Academic Kids

Remains of the city walls
Remains of the city walls

Verulamium was the third largest city in Roman Britain. It remains are beside the modern city of St Albans in Hertfordshire, on park and agricultural land.

Before the Romans it was known as Verlamion, (meaning 'settlement above the marsh') the capital of the Catuvellauni tribe. The settlement was established by their leader Tasciovanus. In this pre-Roman form it was among the first places in Britain recorded by name.

The Roman settlement was granted the rank of municipium in c. AD 50, meaning its citizens had all the rights of a citizen of Rome. It grew to a significant town, despite the attentions of Boudicca of the Iceni in AD 61. It grew steadily - by the early 200s it covered an area of about 125 acres (0.5 km²), behind a deep ditch and wall. It had a forum, basilica and a theatre, most of which were destroyed during two fires, one in AD 155 and the other around AD 250. One of the few extant Roman inscriptions in Britain is found on the remnants of the forum; see Verulamium Forum inscription. The town was rebuilt in stone rather than timber at least twice over the next 150 years. Occupation by the Romans ended between 450 and 500.

There are a few remains of the city visible, such as parts of the city walls and a hypocaust and theatre. The city was ransacked for building material when St Albans was founded. More remains are believed to exist under agricultural land near St Albans, which has apparently never been investigated by archaeologists and which for a while were seriously threatened by deep ploughing of the land.

There is a museum in Verulamium Park which contains much information about the town, both as a Roman and iron age settlement, plus Roman history in general. The museum contains many artifacts such as pottery and coins from the Roman town which have been preserved to give visitors a better idea of what the town was like and the lifestyles of the people living in it. It is one of the best museums of Roman history in the whole country for visitors of all ages, providing a fascinating introduction or filling in those gaps in your knowledge.

Within the walls of Verulam, which he took for the name of his Barony, Sir Francis Bacon, the essayist and statesman, built a refined small house that was thoroughly described by the 17th century diarist John Aubrey; no trace of it is left, but Aubrey noted "At Verulam is to be seen, in some few places, some remains of the wall of this Citie" (see the illustration).

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