HeritageGateway - Home

Login  |  Register
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Cambridgeshire HER Result
Cambridgeshire HERPrintable version | About Cambridgeshire HER

CHER Number:00857
Type of record:Monument
Name:Durovigutum Roman town, Godmanchester

Summary - not yet available

Grid Reference:TL 247 703
Parish:Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

Associated Finds:

  • HOARD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Associated Events:

  • Excavation at Pinfold Lane, Godmanchester, 1949
  • Excavation at Pinfold Lane, Godmanchester, 1958-1959
  • Excavations at Pinfold Lane, Godmanchester, 1958/1959

Full description

3, 4, and 10., Roman Godmanchester was a walled town serving an agricultural area. It was partly surrounded on the N, S, and E sides by a suburb, the extent of which is probably indicated by cremation burials at Green End, Porch Farm and Anderson Crescent. The sequence of occupation is as follows: 1, A late C1 Claudian or Neronian fort, the ditch of which was found underneath the mansio. 2, A civil settlement on either side of the Roman roads. 3, Part of the centre of the town was levelled c 120 AD, and a mansio with associated bath house was erected. 4, During the C3 Godmanchester was given town walls, of which the S and W gates have been excavated. The mansio was gutted by fire in c 296 AD (probably the result of a Saxon raid) at which time a hoard of Roman jewellery and C1 - C3 coins was buried behind the bath house. The N end of the bath house was rebuilt in the late C4 and with the site of the mansio was enclosed in a ditched compound

9. A Claudian fort at Godmanchester has been located in the centre of the later Roman settlement. Twin ditches with associated rampart have been traced for nearly 100m, and form the S defences of a fort whose full extent has yet to be ascertained, although it may have covered an area of some 2,4 hectares. The ditches are 2m to 3mwide, and a section of the outer ditch shows it to be of the Punic type, separated from the fastigiate inner ditch by a 1,5m ravelin. The rampart is 4m wide and the post hole settings of a timber revetment at 0,6m centres are similar to the palisade at Lincoln. The rear of the bank appears to have been turf revetted. A break in the ditch line and a gate post indicate that the S gate lay beneath a later mansio, and eastwards the site of a four post interval turret may indicate that the long side of the fort lies E - W. In various places the foundation slots of internal timber buildings have been found in general alignment with the defences, and one timber building sealed beneath the mid C1 route of Ermine Street dates the fort to the Claudian period. The settings of a grid of timber posts near the S gate probably belong to a granary. Another feature of the same period is the foundation trench of a large ovoid hut some 10m in diameter, situated close to the estimated site of the N gate of the fort. Mid C1 pottery was recovered from the foundations, and it is thought the hut may represent part of an extra-mural settlement associated with the fort.

5. Godmanchester's importance during the Roman period was that it controlled the river crossing of Ermine Street and the junctions of two minor roads from Cambridge and Sandy. The original crossing place appears to have been a ford N of the town. A fort was built nearby shortly after the Roman invasion of AD 43, part of a network of forts and roads built to subjugate the native Catuvellauni. The roads to Sandy and Cambridge are also of this period. The fort covered about 2,4ha and was defended by twin ditches with associated timber and earth rampart. The ditch was found underneath the mansio. These defences were not completed before the fort was dismantled, indicating only a very short occupation. The civil settlement that had built up around the fort stayed and gradually expanded into a small town. The town was burnt during the Boudiccan Revolt of AD 60-61, but was quickly rebuilt. The new town shows evidence of regular planning, dating to the late 60s of C1. Occupation was concentrated along Ermine Street and the crossroads in the town centre. The roadside settlement near Park Lane (TL/245-/709-) is probably of the Claudian period. Early in C2 Ermine Street was re-laid on an embankment and realigned N of the settlement to take an eastward route across the Ouse. This headed away from the ford to a deeper part of the river by the bend which could only be crossed by a bridge. The town continued to expand during C2 despite a major fire about 150 AD. Shortly after120 AD the W side of the town was cleared to accommodate an inn(mansio). When eventually completed, the mansio complex was of considerable size, the second largest known in Britain, with an overall length of 100m. S of the inn lay the bath house which was fed by water brought by aqueduct from the Stonyhill Brook, S of the town. Both the inn and bath house were substantially built structures, with masonry walls, plastered inside and out, tessellated pavements and mosaics. W of the inn, and possibly associated with it, lay the shrine of a native god, Abandinus. The earliest town defences date back to early C2 and took the form of a deep ditch which has been traced on three sides of the town. This was superseded in C3 by a defensive circuit which covered a larger area (c 11ha) and was an irregular hexagon in plan. The exact line of the defences in the SW quadrant of the town have yet to be established by excavation. The defences consisted of a masonry wall, 3m wide, backed by a clay rampart. In front was a ditch, re-cut in mid C4. Corner towers were built to carry ballistae. The N and S gates have been located. A large hall was also built in C3 in the centre of the town. It may have been have been a town hall (basilica), suggesting the town had achieved self-government, or a 'principia' or headquarters of an imperial estate or of a tax-collection area. The economy of the town was largely based on agriculture and it was a major market centre. Local industry was small-scale and included iron and bronze working and pottery. A number of villas have been discovered in the vicinity. A disastrous fire occurred at the end of C3 when the inn and bathhouse were gutted and left derelict. This was probably as a result of a AS raid; a hoard of Roman jewellery and C1 to C3 coins was buried behind the bath-house. The town was reoccupied in C4 but on a reduced scale. The north end of the bath-house was rebuilt, but the mansio and basilica were pulled down and their materials used in strengthening the defences. Occupation appears to have continued at the end of the Roman occupation and into the AS period. The Roman name of the town can almost certainly be identified with the Durovigutvm of the Ravenna Cosmography. There are no extant remains of the Roman town with the exception of a few road alignments. The town has been excavated as sites become available, almost continuously since 1951, mainly by Green.

18. Test pitting and a recording brief revealed three medieval pits cut into a late or possibly post Roman layer. Partial reopening of past excavation trenches (C. & M. Green's) revealed evidence for possible structural features from the Romano-British period. These structures are on the same alignment as the adjacent bath house and mansio, with the exception of a beam slot relating to a timber-framed construction following a different alignment. Evidence for medieval agriculture was also noted.

19. During ongoing investigations and excavation in and around the centre of Roman Godmanchester, HJM Green undertook an architectural survey of the Roman baths. A detailed discussion of the bath house architecture using the architectural remains observed during Green’s excavations on the site, included the roofs, vaults, heating and thermal insulation along with the water supply and drainage of the buildings.

20. The town of Godmanchester developed around the Claudian fort on the river crossing, and began to expand along Ermine Street. It grew rapidly during the late 1st century, centred on Ermine Street and the corssroads within the town. The 2nd century was a period of growth for the town, and the 3rd century was marked by three significant building projects- the town walls, the basilica and the market place. The town walls enclosed an area of over 11 hectares, and have been dated to approximately 270 AD. Godmanchester appears to have had regular planning in the town centre,with land laid out in broad strips, delineated by ditches which extended beyond the town into the farmland. The town was open plan, unlike many of the larger Roman towns, and the buildings were placed lenghtways to the street as opposed to the more familiar gable end fronting. Godmanchester appears to have fulfilled a more administrative role than many other small town sites, with the discovery of a principia dating from the 3rd century and the importance of the town wall. The amenities at Godmanchester appear to be greater than expected for a small town , which may reflect the wealth of the site. Small towns are viewed as rural rather than urban sites, and this appears to be the case with Godmanchester. Evidence for agricultural activies has been found both within the town and the surrounding hinterland, and the town would have been self-supporting.

21. The Roman town at Godmanchester, where Ermine Street crosses the river Ouse and is joined by two other roads, from Cambridge and Sandy. Extensive excavation here has produced no evidence of pre-Roman occupation, and the Duro element is most likely to refer to the early Roman fort which preceded the development of the town.


Green, M., 2008, Durovigutum: Situation report 2008 (Unpublished report). SCB46572.

<1> Green, H.J.M., 1957, Romano-British Hoard from Godmanchester. PCAS 50: 85-8 (Article in serial). SCB6171.

<2> Green, H.J.M, 1960, Roman Godmanchester. PCAS 53: 8-22 (Article in serial). SCB17733.

<3> Green, H.J.M., 1961, Roman Godmanchester, Part II: The Town Defences. PCAS 54: 68-82 (Article in serial). SCB6174.

<4> Green, H.J.M, 1969, Current Archaeology 2, 16), 133 - 138 (Article in serial). SCB6167.

<5> Green, H.J.M, 1977, Godmanchester, p. 6-23 (Bibliographic reference). SCB16185.

<6> RCHME Hunts, I, 25 2 -254, II, 286 - 296 (Bibliographic reference). SCB13219.

<7> Richmond, I A & Crawford, O.G.S., 1949, British section of the Ravenna cosmography. Archaeologia 93: 1-50, p. 33 (Article in serial). SCB13899.

<9> Rodwell, W. and Rowley, T. (eds), 1975, Small Towns of Roman Britain. British Archaeological Reports British Series 15, 183-210 (Bibliographic reference). SCB1382.

<10> Various, 1962, Journal of Roman Studies 52, 174 - 175 (Bibliographic reference). SCB14628.

<11> Wacher, J., 1978, Roman Britain, p 98 - 99 (Bibliographic reference). SCB15629.

<12> Wilson, D.R., 1970, Roman Britain in 1969: sites explored. Britannia 1: 268-305 (Article in serial). SCB1553.

<13> Wilson, D.R., 1971, Roman Britain in 1970. I. Sites explored. Britannia 2: 243-88, p. 243 - 289 & 296 (Article in serial). SCB1547.

<14> Wilson, D.R., 1972, Roman Britain in 1971. I. Sites explored. Britannia 3: 298-351 (Article in serial). SCB1562.

<15> Wilson, D.R., 1973, Roman Britain in 1972. I. Sites explored. Britannia 4: 271-323, p. 250 - 253 (Article in serial). SCB15703.

<16> Wilson, D.R., Hassall, M.W.C., Tomlin, R.S.O. and Wright, R.P., 1975, Roman Britain in 1974. I, sites explored. II, inscriptions: Britannia 6: 221-94 (Article in serial). SCB15714.

<17> Wright, M. and Hassall, R.P., 1973, Roman Britain in 1972. II. Inscriptions. Britannia 4: 324-37, p. 325 (Article in serial). SCB15761.

<18> Hinman, M., 1998, Romano-British remains relating to the Bath House and Mansio at Pinfold Lane, Godmanchester (Unpublished report). SCB17228.

<19> Green, H.J.M., An Architectural survey of the Roman Baths at Godmanchester: Part two, Roofs, Vaults, Heating and Thermal Insulation, Water Supply and Drainage (Article in serial). SCB20938.

<20> Mersey, D.S., Roman Godmanchester: A reassessment of a Romano-British "small town". (Unpublished document). SCB16768.

<21> Rivet, A. L. F. & Smith, C., 1979, The Place-Names of Roman Britain, p.348, 354 (Bibliographic reference). SCB21772.

Sources and further reading

---Unpublished report: Green, M.. 2008. Durovigutum: Situation report 2008.
<1>Article in serial: Green, H.J.M.. 1957. Romano-British Hoard from Godmanchester. PCAS 50: 85-8.
<2>Article in serial: Green, H.J.M. 1960. Roman Godmanchester. PCAS 53: 8-22.
<3>Article in serial: Green, H.J.M.. 1961. Roman Godmanchester, Part II: The Town Defences. PCAS 54: 68-82.
<4>Article in serial: Green, H.J.M. 1969. Current Archaeology 2. 16), 133 - 138.
<5>Bibliographic reference: Green, H.J.M. 1977. Godmanchester. p. 6-23.
<6>Bibliographic reference: RCHME Hunts. I, 25 2 -254, II, 286 - 296.
<7>Article in serial: Richmond, I A & Crawford, O.G.S.. 1949. British section of the Ravenna cosmography. Archaeologia 93: 1-50. p. 33.
<9>Bibliographic reference: Rodwell, W. and Rowley, T. (eds). 1975. Small Towns of Roman Britain. British Archaeological Reports British Series 15. 183-210.
<10>Bibliographic reference: Various. 1962. Journal of Roman Studies 52. 174 - 175.
<11>Bibliographic reference: Wacher, J.. 1978. Roman Britain. p 98 - 99.
<12>Article in serial: Wilson, D.R.. 1970. Roman Britain in 1969: sites explored. Britannia 1: 268-305.
<13>Article in serial: Wilson, D.R.. 1971. Roman Britain in 1970. I. Sites explored. Britannia 2: 243-88. p. 243 - 289 & 296.
<14>Article in serial: Wilson, D.R.. 1972. Roman Britain in 1971. I. Sites explored. Britannia 3: 298-351.
<15>Article in serial: Wilson, D.R.. 1973. Roman Britain in 1972. I. Sites explored. Britannia 4: 271-323. p. 250 - 253.
<16>Article in serial: Wilson, D.R., Hassall, M.W.C., Tomlin, R.S.O. and Wright, R.P.. 1975. Roman Britain in 1974. I, sites explored. II, inscriptions: Britannia 6: 221-94.
<17>Article in serial: Wright, M. and Hassall, R.P.. 1973. Roman Britain in 1972. II. Inscriptions. Britannia 4: 324-37. p. 325.
<18>Unpublished report: Hinman, M.. 1998. Romano-British remains relating to the Bath House and Mansio at Pinfold Lane, Godmanchester.
<19>Article in serial: Green, H.J.M.. An Architectural survey of the Roman Baths at Godmanchester: Part two, Roofs, Vaults, Heating and Thermal Insulation, Water Supply and Drainage.
<20>Unpublished document: Mersey, D.S.. Roman Godmanchester: A reassessment of a Romano-British "small town"..
<21>Bibliographic reference: Rivet, A. L. F. & Smith, C.. 1979. The Place-Names of Roman Britain. p.348, 354.

Reports

Roman Baths © Green, M. Click to open in a new window (0.94 MB).

Roman Baths © Green, M. Click to open in a new window (0.94 MB).