Palace and Pottery
The Praetorium was a monumental Roman building which stood proudly on high ground on the northern edge of the Nene valley – on a site since occupied by the parish church of Castor.
It had commanding views to the south across the industrial suburbs of Normangate Field and onwards to the Roman town of Durobrivae in the distance. It was located close to two major Roman roads – Ermine Street and King Street.
It was built around 250AD and was on a grand scale. The structure was raised up on two great terraces. The building(s) covered an area of 290m by 130m and had at least 11 rooms with tessellated floors and mosaics, two bath-houses and several hypocausts.
The term Praetorium was used by Edmund Artis in the 19th century. This suggests some public administrative function but the building could also be seen as a luxury residence or Palace.
The Castor-Ware Potteries
The pottery industry hereabouts was mainly in the hands of small local establishments supplying in the main a purely local demand, and retaining local characteristics. With the formation of the Castor-ware potteries in the late-2nd century, a British-designed substitute for the declining Samian-ware industry was made in sufficient quantity, and with sufficient demand to trade outside the immediate area. The existence of the road system established by the military, coupled with water-borne cargoes by barge from wharves found nearby, enabled the distribution of this distinctive pottery throughout Britain. (Collingwood and Myers)
“[Property of] the Ninth Hispanic Legion.”
Archaeological Evidence for the Roman Potteries
TL125985 – The Roman building complex underlying Castor village was described by E.T. Artis in 1828 as a ‘praetorium’, but when investigated in 1970 proved not to be the case. The buildings described by Artis were relocated. The stone foundations were completely robbed-out, but must have been about 4 feet (c.1.2 m) thick. The central panels of the mozaic floors in every room had all been lifted in antiquity. Pottery sealed beneath the floors of this building give a date of construction no earlier than c. A.D. 250. (Britannia, 1971)
TL116979 – Excavations in Normangate Field in 1970 revealed a series of 2nd-century “dumb-bell” kilns which were replaced by a rectangular “shed” measuring 20 x 44 feet (c.6.1 x 13.4 m) at the beginning of the 3rd. This building was converted for some undetermined special use by the installation of a white tessellated floor and fresh wall plaster which was painted predominantly red. At the same time an apsidal niche was installed in the middle of the western long side, opposite a door in the centre of the eastern side; an external portico was also added to the west. (Britannia, 1971)
The Castor Classical Temple
This suspected ‘Classical’ temple was investigated by Artis in 1828 and the remains have been classified as “the scattered parts of a single large villa.” This is now thought not to be the case. The massive stone podium or base measures about 60 ft. by 37½ ft. and stood about 4 ft, high, approached from the south-east end by a flight of three steps. The cella was enclosed by 4 ft. thick walls at the rear and sides, with the front wall only 1½ ft. thick. The weight of the facade of the temple was taken upon the columns which must once have stood along the front. No trace of these columns have survived, however, so no estimate as to the original height of the temple may be made, nor the number of columns which fronted it. The floor of the cella was sunk about 2 ft. into the podium and there was a square stone base at the centre, no doubt for an altar. (Lewis)
The Suspected Villa at Castor
At Castor,[51 Artis, Durobrivae 1828, pls. 16, 17 and 20] (Northants.), in the Mill Field (TL 126973) ½-mile south-east of the village, buildings partly excavated by Artis early in the nineteenth century have lately been visible again as crop marks. They appear to be two wings of a large house established on a gravel terrace of the R. Nene just. across the river from the Roman town known as Chesterton (Water Newton). It is to be expected that when crop conditions are favourable some of the other numerous buildings identified by Artis in this part of the Nene valley, and now lost, will come to light once more.” (J.R.S., 1953, p.95)
References for Castor
- Britannia ii (1971) p.264;
- Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966);
- Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xliii (1953) pp.81-97;
- Roman Britain and the English Settlements by R.G. Collingwood & J.N.L. Myers (Clarendon, Oxford, 1937, 2nd ed.);
- The Romans in Britain An anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Oxford 1932 p.4);
Map References for Castor
Roman Roads near Castor