Roman Forts & Architecture


Roman Forts & Architecture in England
The Roman occupation of England lasted for nearly 500 years. Roman architecture and buildings left their mark on England. Architecture is defined as the 'art and science of designing and erecting buildings' - the Romans were masters of Architecture - designing and erecting buildings! The Romans were great castle and fortress builders - the purpose of these constructions were as fortified bases. These fortified bases were built as defences \- wooden Stockades were erected, surrounded by ditches, wherever they camped - Roman Architecture at its most effective. How did they achieve this? Manpower and pre-fabricated forts! The art and science of Roman Architecture resulted in the building of fortresses, villas, temples, towns, baths, great walls and Roman roads - changing the face of Britain forever.

Roman Forts & Architecture

  • Roman Forts & Architecture in England
  • The Roman Invasion!
  • Roman Architecture - Forts & Fortresses
  • Roman Architecture - the Temples
  • Roman Architecture - the Roads
  • The famous Roman Baths

Roman Forts & Architecture in England

History of the Roman Invasion of England
The Romans invasion started in 43AD. Hillforts such as Maiden Castle were captured and the English Celtic tribes lead by leaders like Caratacus were conquered. The Iceni Queen, Boadicea, lead a revolt against the Romans in 60AD but were savagely defeated - Hillforts, Slings and War Chariots were no match for the discipline and weapon technology of the Roman Army. The Roman Occupation was to last for nearly 500 years. The Romans left of their own accord responding to a recall to Rome to defend their homeland in 410AD when the Visigoths, led by Alaric, sacked Rome.

Roman Architecture - the Forts and Stockades
Roman Architecture was often rigid - the design of their forts were tried and tested and always followed the same architectural design. The Roman Architecture of a fort included the following:

  • A strategic site was always chosen
  • A fort could hold up to 800 men
  • The fort was rectangular
  • The fort was surrounded by a wide ditch
  • A stockade was erected on top of the ditch which formed a defensive barrier made of timber posts
  • A rampart was built with the earth from the ditch together with heavy stones
  • Each fort had four stone gateways affording entrances on each side
  • Watchtowers were also a feature reaching a height of 30 feet (9 metres)
  • Roman Architecture dictated that two main streets crossed the fort
  • Wooden structures were built serving as the Commanders headquarters, houses, hospital, workshops, barracks (sometimes tents) granaries, stables and a prison
  • There was even a Fire Brigade who were stationed around the walls and gates!
  • Some of the wooden fort structures were later replaced with stone buildings

Roman Forts & Architecture - Pre-Fabricated Designs and Concrete!
The rigid requirements of Roman Architecture, especially in the construction of forts and stockade, led to the development of pre-fabricated materials and standard parts. Timbers were cut to specific sizes. Grooves were pre-cut ready for fast construction and Blacksmiths produced iron nails in all different shapes and sizes. Roman architecture was also strongly influenced by one of their great inventions - concrete! Concrete was made by mixing a strong volcanic material ( called pazzolana ) with rubble and a mixture of limes.

Roman Architecture in England - The Temples
The Romans built temples to worship their Gods. Roman architecture is based on the Greek’s style of temples and consisted of the following:

  • A gabled roof
  • A deep porch with free-standing columns
  • A frontal staircase giving access to a high platform
  • New materials were used in their construction such as concrete with brick and stone facing and marble veneers
  • Walls were painted in fresco - the frieze often depicted Roman life
  • Sculptures were used as decoration in the form of free standing statues

A Roman temple was built at Maiden Castle after the Romans conquered the Celtic inhabitants - the Durotriges tribe.

Roman Architecture in England - the Roads
The Roman roads were of major importance to the Romans and their vast Empire. They allowed fast and easy access and communication across hundreds of miles of territory. The soldiers of the Roman army provided the labour and Roman roads were built as follows:

  • Roman roads were generally laid out in a straight line ( although they sometimes followed natural curves )
  • Ancient surveying techniques using ‘Sighting Marks’ were used
  • The ground was cleared of any trees
  • A trench where the road was to go was dug and then filled with big stones creating an embankment
    • Roads were generally built on top of an embankment ( called an Agger ). Romans were the first to build roads on this foundation basis
    • The foundation, or Agger, contained a layer of rubble with stones which were laid in such a way as to provide drainage
  • A middle section consisting of a layer sand or gravel and sand was laid on the foundation
  • The top surface of the roads were paved roads with gravel or flint and small broken stones
  • There were ditches on either side so water could drain away
  • Road widths measured between 8 and 40 feet - wide enough to take a Roman chariot with two horses
  • There were even laybys allowing other chariots past!

Roman Forts & Architecture

The first great Roman Road to be built in Britain was called the ‘ Fosse Way ‘. Fosse Way extended from Exeter to Lincoln, passing through Bath, Gloucester, and Leicester. Ermine Street was the name of the road that ran from London to Lincoln and York. The third major Roman road in Britain was called Watling Street which ran from London to Shrewsbury, in central England.

Roman Forts & Architecture in England
Roman Architecture in England was important. One of the most impressive structures built by the Romans was Hadrian’s Wall which included 16 Roman Forts.

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