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TIME TRAIL
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Prehistory

< AD55

Roman Fortress

55-75

Roman Town

75-400

Dark Ages

400-900

The Saxons

900-1068

The Normans

1068-1200

Middle Ages

1200-1500

Tudor/ Stuart

1500-1640

Civil War

1642-1660

Golden Age

1660-1750

Late Georgian

1750-1840

Victorian City

1840-1900

20th Century

1900-2000

 

THEMES:

The Form & Growth of the City Defence & Warfare Public Buildings & Works Church & Religion House & Household Crafts & industries Regional & Foreign Trade Dress & Display Medicine & Health Children & Education

Form & Growth of the City

The Location

The Fortress

Exeter was founded by the Roman army. Around AD 50-55 the site now occupied by the centre of the city, hitherto simply open farmland, was chosen for a new legionary fortress - the winter headquarters of the Second Augustan legion during its conquest of South-West England. The legion must have been attracted to the site by its commanding position over the lowest crossing place over the river Exe, defended on two sides by steep valleys. Its name Isca was adopted from the ancient Celtic name for the Exe; it simply means water or river. The modern name Exeter developed from this.

The new fortress was of typical ‘playing card' shape - a rectangle with rounded corners - covering an area of 42 acres whose centre was close to the modern crossing of High Street and Fore Street, South Street and North Street. It was defended by a circuit of an earth and timber rampart fronted by a deep ditch, with gates and towers at regular intervals. Within was a grid of streets and densely packed timber buildings which accommodated the 6000 or so soldiers who formed the legion. The fortress provided not only accommodation - long barracks for each century of soldiers, with separate houses for the senior officers - but like a self-contained town catered for all the needs of an army at war: granaries for the corn supply, a hospital for the wounded, a workshop where weapons and armour could be made and repaired, and a bath-house for the soldiers' leisure. Around the edges of the fortress were the barracks in which they were housed; at its centre were more vulnerable buildings, such as the hospital, workshops, granaries and the headquarters building.

Only a small part of the fortress has been excavated by the city's archaeologists, but sufficient information has been recovered to offer a reconstruction of its layout. Portions of barracks have been recovered on several sites, with parts of granaries, the workshops and other structures.

 

 

Aerial view of Exeter and Topsham

Aerial view of Exeter and Topsham

Aerial view of central Exeter with superimposed area of fortress

Aerial view of central Exeter with superimposed area of fortress

Reconstruction view of the fortress

Reconstruction view of the fortress

Location plan of the Exeter fortress and annexes, and Valiant Soldier cemetery site

Location plan of the Exeter fortress and annexes, and Valiant Soldier cemetery site

Plan of the fortress

Plan of the fortress

Restored plan of the fortress

Restored plan of the fortress

Plan of the military compound at Holloway Street

Plan of the military compound at Holloway Street

Plan of the Roman military defences at Topsham

Plan of the Roman military defences at Topsham

A Roman lamp from Lion's Holt

A Roman lamp from Lion's Holt

Coin of Nero found in Alphington Road- obverse

Coin of Nero found in Alphington Road- obverse

Coin of Nero found in Alphington Road- reverse

Coin of Nero found in Alphington Road- reverse

An early Roman coin from Topsham Road- obverse

An early Roman coin from Topsham Road-  obverse

An early Roman coin from Topsham Road- reverse

An early Roman coin from Topsham Road- reverse

Coin of Julius Caesar found at Hamlin Lane allotments

Coin of Julius Caesar found at Hamlin Lane allotments

A coin of Nero- obverse

A coin of Nero- obverse

A coin of Nero- reverse

A coin of Nero- reverse

Read about the Roman Exeter displays at Exeter Museum


see a map of this timeperiodSee a map of Roman Fortress period


Tour the Roman Bathouse Interactive Tour of the Roman Bathhouse

Dress the Roman Legionary dres the Roman Legionary

Read an overview of Form & Growth of the City for all time periods




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