Norfolk Archeological Trust have published a completely new edition of their booklet Venta Icenorum: A brief history of Caistor Roman Town.

In July 1928, an RAF aerial reconnaissance flight captured a remarkable series of images showing the streets and buildings of a vanished town appearing as pale lines in the arable fields at Caistor St Edmund, to the south of Norwich.  This was Caistor Roman Town, also known as Venta Icenorum, the largest Roman town in East Anglia and one of only a small number of major Roman towns in the country not buried beneath later successors.

When it was first established in the AD70s, the town was unenclosed. The banks and walls visible today were not built until the 3rd century AD. The town was laid around a grid of streets, and in true Roman fashion, there is evidence of an amphitheatre to the south of the walled area, and a temple to the north-east; this temple was in addition to those in the centre of the town. The town also boasted running water, baths, a town hall (basilica), and a central public place (forum).

The site was still occupied from the early 6th century, during the early part of the Anglo-Saxon period, but the Roman buildings and infrastructure were left to decay. Venta Icenorum was eventually abandoned in the 8th century, when Norwich became the civic centre for the county. It is one of only three Roman towns in the country that were not built over in later centuries, providing an extraordinary opportunity to explore its below-ground archaeology.

This full colour A5, 64 page booklet traces the development of the Roman town from its origins in the 1st century CE through post-Roman occupation up until the present day, bringing together recent research which has transformed our understanding of this nationally important site.

The guide has been written by Will Bowden, Professor in Roman Archaeology at the University of Nottingham, who has led archaeological research at the Town since 2006. New findings during this period include the dating of the street grid, the discovery of an early timber forum, the dating of the major early defensive earthwork, the identification of cemeteries and the first analysis of the human population of the town, as well as the identification of major phases of Anglo-Saxon settlement to the west of the town. New information is made available in the new book on diet, dress, religious practice and many other aspects of life in the town.

Wider understanding of Roman Britain has fundamentally changed since the publication of the original Caistor guidebook in 1991. Reinterpretation of existing knowledge of the town alongside the new evidence allows the new booklet to present a fundamentally different picture of the Roman town and the people who lived there.

Norfolk Archeological Trust is a local conservation charity which aims to protect Norfolk’s significant archaeological or historic sites at risk.

Venta Icenorum: A brief history of Caistor Roman Town.
Norfolk Archeological Trust 2020.  64 pages. RRP £5.99
ISBN 9781916217713