Verulamium was an ancient town in Roman Britain
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

. It was sited in the southwest of the modern city of St Albans
St Albans
St Albans is a city in southern Hertfordshire, England, around north of central London, which forms the main urban area of the City and District of St Albans. It is a historic market town, and is now a sought-after dormitory town within the London commuter belt...

 in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England. The county town is Hertford.The county is one of the Home Counties and lies inland, bordered by Greater London , Buckinghamshire , Bedfordshire , Cambridgeshire and...

, Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. A large portion of the Roman city remains unexcavated, being now park and agricultural land, though much has been built upon (see below). The ancient Watling Street
Watling Street
Watling Street is the name given to an ancient trackway in England and Wales that was first used by the Britons mainly between the modern cities of Canterbury and St Albans. The Romans later paved the route, part of which is identified on the Antonine Itinerary as Iter III: "Item a Londinio ad...

 passed through the city.


Before the Romans, the settlement was known as Verulamion (perhaps meaning "[settlement of] Uerulamos [Broad-Hand]" in Brittonic), the capital of the Catuvellauni
The Catuvellauni were a tribe or state of south-eastern Britain before the Roman conquest.The fortunes of the Catuvellauni and their kings before the conquest can be traced through numismatic evidence and scattered references in classical histories. They are mentioned by Dio Cassius, who implies...

 tribe. It was established by their leader Tasciovanus
Tasciovanus was a historical king of the Catuvellauni tribe before the Roman conquest of Britain.-History:Tasciovanus is known only through numismatic evidence. He appears to have become king of the Catuvellauni ca. 20 BC, ruling from Verlamion...

 and in this pre-Roman form, was among the first places in Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 recorded by name.

The Roman settlement was granted the rank of municipium in c. AD 50, meaning its citizens had what were known as 'Latin Rights', a lesser citizenship status than the colonies possessed. It grew to a significant town, and as such received the attentions of Boudica
Boudica , also known as Boadicea and known in Welsh as "Buddug" was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire....

 of the Iceni
The Iceni or Eceni were a British tribe who inhabited an area of East Anglia corresponding roughly to the modern-day county of Norfolk between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD...

 in AD 61, when Verulamium was sacked and burnt: a black ash layer has been recorded by archaeologists, thus confirming the Roman written record. It grew steadily: by the early 3rd century it covered an area of about 125 acre (0.5058575 km²), behind a deep ditch and wall. It is the location of the martyrdom of the first English martyr saint, St Alban, who was a Roman patrician converted by the priest Amphibalus. This story is recorded by the monks of the abbey of the town, notably Brother Matthew Paris
Matthew Paris
Matthew Paris was a Benedictine monk, English chronicler, artist in illuminated manuscripts and cartographer, based at St Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire...

 in his Anglo-Norman Vie de Seint Auban.
Verulamium contained a forum
Forum (Roman)
A forum was a public square in a Roman municipium, or any civitas, reserved primarily for the vending of goods; i.e., a marketplace, along with the buildings used for shops and the stoas used for open stalls...

, basilica
The Latin word basilica , was originally used to describe a Roman public building, usually located in the forum of a Roman town. Public basilicas began to appear in Hellenistic cities in the 2nd century BC.The term was also applied to buildings used for religious purposes...

 and a theatre
Roman theatre (structure)
The characteristics of Roman to those of the earlier Greek theatres due in large part to its influence on the Roman triumvir Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Much of the architectural influence on the Romans came from the Greeks, and theatre structural design was no different from other buildings...

, much of which were damaged during two fires, one in AD 155 and the other around AD 250. One of the few extant Roman inscriptions in Britain is found on the remnants of the forum (see Verulamium Forum inscription
Verulamium Forum inscription
The Verulamium Forum Inscription is one of the many Roman inscriptions in Britain. It has been reconstructed as a large dedication slab from five small fragments found in 1955 during construction work in the yard of St Michael's School, St Albans...

). The town was rebuilt in stone
Rock (geology)
In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

 rather than timber
Timber may refer to:* Timber, a term common in the United Kingdom and Australia for wood materials * Timber, Oregon, an unincorporated community in the U.S...

 at least twice over the next 150 years. Occupation by the Romans ended between 400 and 450.

There are a few remains of the Roman city visible, such as parts of the city walls, a hypocaust
A hypocaust was an ancient Roman system of underfloor heating, used to heat houses with hot air. The word derives from the Ancient Greek hypo meaning "under" and caust-, meaning "burnt"...

 still in situ
In situ
In situ is a Latin phrase which translated literally as 'In position'. It is used in many different contexts.-Aerospace:In the aerospace industry, equipment on board aircraft must be tested in situ, or in place, to confirm everything functions properly as a system. Individually, each piece may...

 under a mosaic floor and a theatre, which is on land belonging to the Earl of Verulam
Earl of Verulam
Earl of Verulam is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1815 for James Grimston, 4th Viscount Grimston. He was made Viscount Grimston at the same time. Verulam had previously represented St Albans in the House of Commons. In 1808 he had also succeeded his maternal cousin...

 - as well as items in the Museum (below). More remains under the agricultural land nearby which had never been excavated were for a while seriously threatened by deep ploughing.

Sub-Roman times

As late as the eighth century the Saxon inhabitants of St Albans nearby were aware of their ancient neighbour, which they knew alternatively as Verulamacæstir or, under what H. R. Loyn
H. R. Loyn
Henry Royston Loyn , FBA, was a British historian specialising in the history of Anglo-Saxon England. His eminence in his field made him a natural candidate to run the Sylloge of the Coins of the British Isles, which he chaired from 1979 to 1993.-Works:The Sylloge's natural emphasis is on...

 terms "their own hybrid", Vaeclingscæstir, "the fortress of the followers of Wæcla", interpretable as a pocket of Britons that remained within the Anglo-Saxon countryside.

Loss and recovery

The city was quarried for building material when medieval St Albans was founded; indeed, much of Norman abbey was constructed from the remains of the Roman city, with Roman brick and stone visible. The modern city takes its name from Alban
Saint Alban
Saint Alban was the first British Christian martyr. Along with his fellow saints Julius and Aaron, Alban is one of three martyrs remembered from Roman Britain. Alban is listed in the Church of England calendar for 22 June and he continues to be venerated in the Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox...

, either a citizen of Verulamium or a Roman soldier, who was condemned to death in the 3rd century for sheltering a Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

. Alban was converted by him to Christianity, and by his death became the first British Christian martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...


Since much of the modern city and its environs is built over Roman remains, it is still not uncommon to unearth Roman artefacts several miles away. A complete tile kiln
A kiln is a thermally insulated chamber, or oven, in which a controlled temperature regime is produced. Uses include the hardening, burning or drying of materials...

 was found in Park Street some six miles (10 km) from Verulamium in the 1970s, and there is a Roman mausoleum near Rothamsted Park five miles (8 km) away.

Within the walls of Verulam, which he took for the name of his Barony, Sir Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

, the essayist and statesman, built a refined small house that was thoroughly described by the 17th century diarist John Aubrey
John Aubrey
John Aubrey FRS, was an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer. He is perhaps best known as the author of the collection of short biographical pieces usually referred to as Brief Lives...

; no trace of it is left, but Aubrey noted "At Verulam is to be seen, in some few places, some remains of the wall of this Citie" (see illustration).

Verulamium Museum

The Verulamium Museum is a sizeable museum run by the district council in Verulamium Park
Verulamium Park
is a park in St Albans, Hertfordshire. Set in over of beautiful parkland, was purchased from the Earl of Verulam in 1929 by the then City Corporation. Today the park is ownered and operated by...

 (adjacent to St Michael's Church) which contains much information about the town, both as a Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 settlement, plus Roman history in general. The museum was established following the excavations carried out by Mortimer Wheeler and his wife Tessa Wheeler. It is noted for the large and colourful mosaics, and many other artefacts such as pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

, jewellery, tools and coin
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

s from the Roman period. Many were found in formal excavations but some, particularly a coffin
A coffin is a funerary box used in the display and containment of dead people – either for burial or cremation.Contemporary North American English makes a distinction between "coffin", which is generally understood to denote a funerary box having six sides in plan view, and "casket", which...

still containing a male skeleton, were unearthed nearby during building work. It is considered one of the best museums of Roman history in the country and has won an architectural award for its striking domed entrance.

External links

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