Roman Swindon

The Roman legacy around this part of the world centres on the town of Cirencester on the crossroads of Ermine Street and the Fosse way. As far as Swindon is concerned there are probably not that many people who associate the road called Ermine Street that runs through the Stratton district of the town with the Romans, but its dead straight line ought to be a bit of a giveaway to anyone with a little knowledge.

These days Ermine Street is no longer the main road up to Ciren, it having been by-passed by a dual carriageway to the East of the town back in the 1970s, the A417/419, commonly called the latter. However that road is partially built over a large Roman settlement called Durocornovium that extended across from what is currently the Eastern edge of Swindon through to the village of Wanborough and straddled Ermine Street.

The industrial area of Swindon know as Dorcan is probably named as a corruption of its Roman forerunner. As the town expands Eastwards much more of the old Roman settlement will be built over for housing and it seems that there is little enthusiasm for celebrating its presence. The town’s council appears to almost wish it had never existed rather that try to add that heritage to the better know one as the home of the Great Western Railway.

It seems that the Saxons scavenged must of the stone from Durcornovium when they built their settlement on Swindon hill, where the Old Town is now and away from the flood plain where the Romans had built. It had been a significant industrial centre for the Romans with iron and pottery works amongst others, but all was abandoned when the Romans swanned off back South to warmer climes in the 5th century.

Swindon is far from the boring town that comedians like to take a swipe at. From where I sit now I can see the profile of a Bronze Age hill fort just outside the town and this is one of several such settlements nearby. The Ridgeway path, an ancient path often described as Britain’s oldest road, runs from the ancient stone circle at Avebury across to Ivinghoe in Buckinghamshire and passing just outside of the town. There is a lot of history in these parts and it is a shame that is largely ignored.

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