Caesaromagus or Caesaromagvs (The Field of Caesar or Caesar’s Marketplace) – The Roman town of Caesaromagus lies to the west of the crossing of the main London to Colchester road over the Rivers Cam and Chelmer, beneath the modern town of Chelmsford. The Latin name means “Caesar’s Field”, possibly indicating that it was on this site that Claudius Caesar fought and vanquished the remaining British armies prior to the taking of the British capital Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex).

Caesaromagus  was a Romano-British settlement of about 8 hectares (20 acres), developed from circa 60-65 AD, occupying the frontages of two main roads. A late 2nd century defensive ditch (160-200AD), 4 metres deep, and a rampart, which possibly enclosed the greater part of the town, was backfilled within a few years of its construction (300-325AD).

Within the settlement area was a 4th century octagonal Roman-Gallic temple. Two 4th century pottery kilns opening from a single stoke hole were found. Evidence for an earlier kiln is supplied by late Flavian kiln wasters found in a shallow excavation, presumably dug for brick earth extraction. Pits containing ash, charcoal, bronze and iron slag and scrap iron, together with domestic rubbish, indicate an iron and bronze working industry from late 1st to the 4th century were also identified. The only burials found on the periphery of the settlement were cremations.

However, in the 4th century Roman civilization declined. After the Romans left Britain in 407 this little Roman town disappeared.

The Roman Military Presence

Excavations revealed four phases of military occupation circa AD 60-100. A rampart and ditches, found by excavation lying below the level of the Romano-British town, may indicate the presence of one single or two successive Roman forts. A tessellated pavement, discovered in the nineteenth century, may have belonged to a bath-house attached to the above-mentioned fort(s). A mansio was built next to the site of the bath-house to the south-west, and can be dated to c.120AD. A courtyard building physically separate from the settlement, is thought to have been a mansio. The original late 1st century timber structure was replaced in the mid 2nd century by stone, and measured circa 66 metres square overall.

Classical References to Caesaromagus (Chelmsford)

Roman Chelmsford is mentioned in three of the major classical geographies. The second century Antonine Itinerary lists the town in two of its routes; it appears as the first road station in Iter V “The route from London to Carlisle on the Wall”, as Caesaromago, 28 miles from Londinium (London, Greater London) and 24 miles from Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex), which the itinerary names Colonia. In addition, the town appears toward the end of the Ninth Itinerary, “The route from Caistor St. Edmund to London”, which deals with the same road as the Fifth Itinerary, but in more detail. The town is again named Caesaromago but this time is listed 9 miles from Canonium (Kelvedon, Essex) on the route north to Colchester, and 12 miles from Godmanchester (Durovigutum)(Romford, Greater London) towards London in the south.

The town appears in the seventh century Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#98) as Cesaromago, between the entries for London (Londinium) and Colchester (Camulodunum), also as the ultimate legible entry in the Peutinger Table of the eleventh century. This document was an early medieval copy of an original Roman map which was cut into several pieces, and the Chelmsford entry appears on the western edge of the surviving British segment, obviously truncated on the left, the surviving letters of the name read -baromaci. The icon representing this town is shown connected to another icon above labelled Caunonium (Kelvedon, Essex), and the distance indicated between the two stations is 8 miles, which is within a mile of the measure quoted in Antonine Iter IX.

Its Roman place-name of Caesaromagus (Caesar’s Marketplace) is something of a mystery as it was, “…a great honour for a town to have the imperial prefix incorporated in its name, and no other town in Britain was so honoured…”


References for Caesaromagvs [trinovantvm]

  • The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp.207-214 & fig.94;
  • Britannia ii (1971) pp.271/2.The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp.207-214 & fig.94;

Map References for Caesaromagvs [trinovantvm]

NGRef: TL708063 OSMap: LR167

Roman Roads near Caesaromagvs [trinovantvm]

NNE (11) to Braintree (Essex) NNW (11) to Great Dvnmow (Essex) Iter IX: ENE (13) to Canonivm (Kelvedon, Essex) SW (15) to Durolitum (Harold Wood, Romford, Greater London)

Sites near Chelmsford (Caesaromagus) Roman Settlement