Droitwich (Salinae Dobvnnorvm) Roman Fort

Claudian Auxiliary Fort (AD 43–54), Industry, Salt working and Vicus

Lying in the territory of the Dobunni tribe, astride the river Salwarpe, continuous settlement of the Droitwich site began in the Iron Age. Roundhouse buildings typical of that era were found to the north of the Salwarpe, in the area later occupied by the Roman villa in Bays Meadow. The towns natural brine springs were utilized to manufacture salt from about the 3rd-2nd century BC. Salt manufacturing sites dated to this period were found south of the river in the vicinity of Vine Street. A short branch-road connected the settlement with Ryknild Street which ran just outside its eastern fringes.

A large Roman fort was constructed on the hill to the north of the iron-age settlement at Crutch Lane, probably during the campaigns of Aulus Plautius around 46AD. Another fort was built following the Boudiccan revolt in the early 60AD’s at Dodderhill, to the north-east of the civil settlement (SO9063). This fort had a special outer ditch, designed to trap the enemy within range of the defenders on the ramparts, and it is possible that the garrison was a company of archers.

The civil settlement grew around the Roman road (now the A38) in a grid-like system of plots, the exact extent of which is not known. By the 2nd century AD, cereals (in particular, spelt) were being grown in the arable land surrounding the town and was being processed in purpose built threshing mills.

The Romans undertook serious engineering works around the brine springs in the 2nd century, when a very large plank-lined brine collection tank was constructed, re-using timbers from trees originally felled in 61-5AD. The structure was surrounded by a raised bank which prevented water from the nearby river from diluting the brine. An elaborate, heavy duty crane or winch, with a massive dual-crossbeam base, was added later in the 2nd century.

A substantial 2nd century Villa complex overlooked the settlement from the NW (in the Bays Meadow area). The main house had 18 rooms, several of which were heated by a hypocaust system. The wealth of the owners is evident in the colourful mosaics and wall frescoes throughout the Villa, and in the archaeological finds from the site which include gold and silver jewelry and a glass seal stone with the bust of Emperor Lucius Verus (161-9AD).

By the 2nd century, the salt workings were leased out to entrepreneurs. The villa was probably the residence of an imperial administrator in charge of local salt production. Alternately it may have belonged to a wealthy local business-man. When the iron-age brine tanks were filled-in during the early Roman period, the body of a boy or girl of about 15 was secretly buried in one of them.

By the 4th century, the town was falling into decline, the last datable signs of Roman civilisation being coins dated to 370s AD, found at the villa.

References for Salinae (dobvnnorvm)

  • Savouring the Past – The Droitwich Salt Industry by J.D. Hurst (Northwick Print, Worcester, 1992).

Roman Roads near Salinae (dobvnnorvm)

E (14) to Alcester N (16) to Greensforge (South Staffordshire) Ryknild Street: NE (16) to Metchley (Metchley, Birmingham) Ryknild Street: SW (7) to Worcester Salt Way: E (9) to Shvrnock Possible Road: S (29) to Spoonley Wood Possible Road: S (29) to Wadfield

Sites near Droitwich (Salinae Dobvnnorvm) Roman Fort