Essential Wessex: Roman Roads

Their proud works of war now lie waste and deserted; This fortress has fallen. Its defenders lie low, Its repairmen perished. Thus the palace stands dreary, And its purple expanse; despoiled of its tiles
The Ruin, translated by Cosette Faust Newton and Stith Thompson

Fourth century Wessex was one of the most prosperous parts of the Roman empire, noted for its agricultural wealth. The area between the capital of the Atrebates at Silchester and the legionary fortresses at Exeter and Gloucester became known as the "villa belt", due to the abundance of settlers building detached luxury homes at the expense of long-established settlements. Plus ça change.

These fortresses and civitas capitals needed straight, paved roads to connect them, to allow the legions to march by the most direct route possible. Silchester formed the start/destination point for three major roads: Ermin Way (not to be confused with the similarly-named Ermine Street), to Carmarthen via Cirencester and Gloucester; the Portway, to Exeter; and the appropriately-named Devil's Highway, to That Londinium. Meanwhile, the Fosse Way linked Exeter to Lincoln, again via Cirencester.

Sometimes, the Romans upgraded existing roads rather than building new ones. For example, Icknield Way (again, not to be confused with Icknield Street) was built over a prehistoric trackway that crossed the Thames at Dorchester, thus making it a strategically important settlement and the later capital of the Gewissae.

While most "now lie waste and deserted", a few Roman roads survive in Wessex today. The Fosse Way forms part of the A37 in Somerset, while it is still possible to drive from Newbury to Gloucester along the route of the Ermin Way.

Advertising: An Update

Further to our previous announcement about advertising, after some discussion among the officers of the Society, we have had a partial change of heart. Contrary to what we said before, viewing this blog with ads will continue to be free. However, we will ask you to register. This is purely to provide information on who is viewing our blog, and to enable us to email members with information on meetings and events. We will not sell your data to any third party, ever.

Those who want to view this blog without ads will be invited to pay a small monthly fee. This will help us cover our running costs, and we hope that many of you will opt to support us in this way.

Barnes Day 2020

At our last meeting, we agreed to hold meetings/events on the closest Saturday to Barnes Day (22nd February), St Ealdhelm's Day (25th May), and King Alfred Day (26th October). Barnes Day falls on a Saturday this year, and we will be meeting in Nailsea, where Barnes married Julia Miles in 1827.

Assembling at Holy Trinity Church, where the wedding took place, at 10.30 am, we will walk the heritage trail assembled by the Nailsea and District Local History Society. Printable PDF copies of the trail can be found here. The walk should take about 1½ hours, after which we will repair to the Royal Oak, the pub where Adge Cutler & The Wurzels played their first ever gig in 1966,

We hope to see you there. Directions to the church can be found on the Contact Us page.

Rhythm Section Want Ad

On behalf of the Ringwood and Burley Band, I write to enquire whether there are any readers interested in joining the Brass Band, in particular cornet and B♭ Bass players. Other musicians also welcome to apply.

The Band also seek sponsors to help cover their overheads. These could be from individuals or companies. All small or larger donations,  would be much appreciated.  For example, I have agreed to sponsor the Band's newsletter. in return, my logo will be published. Individual sponsors, who would like their name shown, can request that when forwarding their support. Firms could send in their logo (not advertisements) and that may be used within promotional publicity such as event programmes, or the web-site.

Potential new players, please telephone Tony Mist on 01425 473542. Sponsorship/donations can be forwarded to the Treasurer, 8. Wanstead Close, Ringwood BH24 1SJ. Email queries to:-

Further information can be found on their website.