Irchester Town

Town

The Roman Town of Irchester  has long been identified on the south-east bank of the River Nene, underlying the present town of Irchester. Due to the paucity of Roman road evidence, it is highly likely that most traffic with the Roman town and its surrounding potteries was by means of the River Nene, which communicated upstream to Duston in the south-west, and downstream to Thrapston in the north-east.

Irchester Northants. Yranceaster 973, Irencestre 1086 ( D.B. ). ‘Roman station associated with a man called Ira or *Yra’. OE pers. name + ceaster.” (Mills, p.197)

Only occasionally do buried details of the town at Irchester [38 VCH Northamptonshire I, 1902, 178-184] (SP 916665) appear, but part of the street-plan, including a central north to south road, and to the west of this road, three rectangular buildings, have been recorded. …” (J.R.S., 1953, p.92)

The only known Roman road leaves the site in a southerly direction towards the crossing of the River Great Ouse at Turvey, if we extrapolate this road in the opposite direction towards the north, we find that the minor Roman settlement at Kettering lies just a few hundred yards off the line of the postulated road to the west. Though no evidence of such a northern road has been confirmed, the possiblility that there was one here during the Roman period must not be ruled out. It is possible that another trackway to the west of Irchester on the opposite bank of the Nene communicated south-west, linking up with other potteries on the way to Duston.

RIB233 - Funerary inscription for Anicius Saturninus

Sacred to the departed spirits: Anicius Saturninus, strator to the governor, made this memorial to himself.
D M S
ANICIVS SATVRN
STRATOR COS M S F
A strator was the officer in charge of the establishment of horses for an important official, here the provincial governor. See Huebner (ed.), Ephemeris Epigraphica Vol. iv, addit. tertia (1881) p. 406. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): Another strator consularis is now attested at Dover: Brit. viii (1977), 426, No. 4.

An inscribed tombstone (vide RIB 233 supra) indicates that a Strator Consularis was buried at Irchester. His exact duties were uncertain but perhaps related to the supply of transportation for the consular governor, thus he was possibly on the governor’s personal staff. On the other hand, it is possible that Strator was the official title of the manager an imperial mansione, and that the one buried here was the manager of one such establishment at Irchester, perhaps the “satellite villa” mentioned below.

On the opposite (north-west) bank of the Nene there are potteries at North Lodge (SP8264) and Hardwick (SP8767), and a pottery kiln at Mears Ashby (SP8366); another kiln has been uncovered to the east at Boundary Avenue (SP9466). Within a couple of miles to the south-west of the walled town, lies a substantial Roman building at Wollaston (SP9064), perhaps a so-called “lone satellite villa” which phenomenon seems to occur at several small towns in Roman Britain. They are thought to be a part of the Imperial Posting System, taking on the role of mansiones where a meal and a nights rest could be had for those on imperial business.

… the fact that Irchester has produced three or four coins of Cunobelin does not prove it a Belgic centre, …” (Rivet, p.73)

The Irchester Romano-British Temple

This square temple lies within a temenos enclosure inside the Roman town. Antiquarian reports establish its Romano-British usage. The outer “portico” measured about 38 feet square, the inner cella around 17 feet square, all wall were an almost-uniform 2 feet thick. The temple faced south-east. The original temple, built in the early-2nd century was destroyed and its statues smashed. The temenos and statuary of the temple was later restored. (Type Ia or Ib)

References for Irchester

  • Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills (Oxford 1998);
  • Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966);
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
  • Town and Country in Roman Britain by A.L.F. Rivet (London, 1958);
  • Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xliii (1953) pp.81-97;
  • The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930). 

Roman Roads near Irchester

Possible road: WSW (12) to Dvston NE (10) to Thrapston (Northamptonshire) Possible road: SW (20) to Lactodvrvm (Towcester, Northamptonshire) Probable road: S (9) to Tvrvey