Postgraduates from the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage share their thoughts on their trip to Wroxeter Roman City.
‘There is a huge difference between learning something in a class room and going out to see it in action. The Wroxeter trip gave us an insight into English Heritage’s approach to school trips and educating their younger audiences. The site is remote and parking seems limited, but the quality of the educational offering despite limited space is very high. The contrast of the ruins and the replica villa is visually stunning and makes our Roman ancestry seem very real. My trip was made by the brilliant tour guide who made this visit enjoyable as well as educational. A personal favourite was the ability to play dress up!
I went from this trip feeling like I knew more about the Roman Empire and heritage interpretation than I did upon arrival, so ultimately this trip has done its job! I will be recommending this site to friends and family as I think it is a hidden little gem.’
By Lucy Bickley, MA International Heritage Management
‘Wroxeter Roman City was the fourth largest town in Roman Britain. On arrival, this was difficult to see as most of the ruins were in situ beneath the ground, however there were open archaeological remains which we were able to walk around. The aim of this trip was to have a tour which would usually be given to 8-year-olds, where we could analyse the motives and messages which English Heritage try to incorporate into their school tours. Considering the context of the day, our tour guide played his role extremely well, and whilst I cannot speak on everyone else’s behalf, it was a very fun trip to have. The seminar which we had the week after seemed to bring everything together as we could discuss what we learnt in a more academic environment, and how it related to our learning.’
By Cameron Arthur, MA World Heritage Studies
‘Wroxeter and the Romans: Civilising the Extremities of the Empire (or, What Did the Romans Ever Do For Us?)’
“Looking at those great works of Western man, and remembering all that he has achieved in philosophy, poetry, science, law-making, it does seem hard to believe that European civilisation can ever vanish. And yet, you know, it has happened once. All the life-giving human activities that we lump together under the word ‘civilisation’ have been obliterated once in Western Europe: when the barbarians ran over the Roman Empire. For two centuries, the heart of European civilisation almost stopped beating. We got through by the skin of our teeth.”
So speaks Kenneth Clark in the introduction to his series Civilisation. The Romans, through their conquests, spread remarkable architecture, technology and art across Europe. These were advancements on an inconceivable scale. It was not simply a case of the native populations not having the skills to create such constructions before the Romans got there; they were also unable to replicate them once the Romans had left.
The Roman town of Wroxeter, as much as it is visible, stands as testament to this. These are the crumbling ruins at the outskirts of the Empire. How much intellectual progress crumbled away too? This is not to say that Wroxeter was a centre of any great thought, nor would anywhere in distant Britain be considered as such. After the land was conquered, Roman historians made little reference to it.
However, Wroxeter was a settlement of 15,000 at its peak, the fourth largest in Britain, thus quite considerable given its isolated situation. Rome itself, of course, peaked at almost ten times that. Originally a military fort, Wroxeter later became a civilian settlement with all mod cons, notably the bathhouse, which can be seen exposed today.
The reconstructed villa, not so very different in appearance from Mediterranean country houses of the modern era, would clearly have been more at home in a warmer climate. Perhaps many of the Romans stationed at Wroxeter would have been too. One cannot help but think of another television series, Chelmsford 123, for which the synopsis runs as follows:
“A young Roman general is found guilty of failing to grovel sufficiently to the Emperor. His punishment is governing Britannia, when it was a cold, miserable dump, populated by beer-swilling hooligans.”
In the age of Brexit, it is tempting to ask how much has changed.’
By Sophie Dowden, MA World Heritage Studies