Cambridge (Duroliponte) Roman Fort

Claudian Auxiliary Fort (AD 43–54), Temple Or Shrine and Vicus

Duroliponte /Dvroliponte  (The Fort at the Bridge) was a small town in the Roman province of Britannia on the site of what is now the city of Cambridge. The earliest settlement so far discovered on the site is a Belgic settlement of the late 1st century BC consisting of a number of hut enclosures of at least three phases.

The Roman town on Castle Hill occupied a four sided enclosure of some 25 acres. The defences consisted of an earthen bank and ditch, later supplemented by a masonry wall. An earlier site consisting of a ditch containing Claudian pottery on Shire Hill was interpreted as a military camp or fort of the invasion period. The earliest settlement discovered on the site dated to the late 1st century BC, consisting of a number of hut enclosures abandoned at the Roman conquest. The earliest Roman occupation comprised two rectangular ditched enclosures on the site of the Shire Hall, possibly representing military occupation between the conquest and the beginning of the Flavian period. A planned settlement, divided into insulae, was laid out in the 2nd century. It comprised mainly timber buildings and probably did not achieve urban status. In the mid-4th century the settlement was enclosed by a stone wall and ditch. The settlement gradually declined from the early 5th although it may never have been completely abandoned.

From the positioning of other known fort sites in this area along Ermine St., being aware of the the Roman habit of leaving fortified garrisons around a days march distant along major routes, and lastly, the naming of the suburb of Chesterton on the north bank of the Cam, it can be reasonably assumed that Duroliponte started life as a civilian settlement next to a fort.

In spite of much excavation, nothing of military significance has been noted, which may mean either that the fort was actually sited south of the river, or that the garrison was soon withdrawn.

Early Claudian Auxiliary Fort?

The earliest Roman occupation comprised two rectangular ditched enclosures on the site of the Shire Hall containing Claudian pottery. It has been interpreted as a military camp or fort of the invasion period, but may only be evidence for a Belgic origin of the settlement.


Further excavations of the Ridgeons Gardens site have revealed an unusual Roman shrine. It was subterranean and appeared as a cellar with an apsidal end. It was about 8.0m long, 4.0m wide and sunk over 3.0m. below the then ground surface into the natural chalk. There is evidence that it was timber-lined and there were also some large, rectangular post-holes forming the supports for a substantial superstructure. The ritual nature of the cellar was indicated by the burial of a dog and a bull’s head. the shrine was burnt down and the cellar partly filled in, accompanied by the burials of a complete horse, bull, and three more dogs. This layer was then covered with what appears to be the remains of a great feast: a large quantity of Samian, colour coated cups, glass vessels and over 200 flagons and several thousand oyster shells, the pottery, dating from the late 2nd or early 3rd centuries. The site continued to be used for ritual purposes as a number of shaft burials were dug in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries.

Roman Roads near Duroliponte (Cambridge)

The Via Devana ran south-east towards Camulodunum (Colchester) via a possible settlement and fort near Wixoe on the Stour; and north-west to Durovigutum (Godmanchester) where it terminated, the route northwards continuing via Ermine St. through Durobrivae (Water Newton) towards Lindum (Lincoln). The Iron-Age trackway known as the Ridgeway crossed the Via Devana about 8 miles south-east of Duroliponte, leading south-south-west 6 miles to the site of the Claudian fort at Great Chesterford, and north-east towards the settlement and possible fort at Camboritum (Lackford).

Another trackway led south-west to Wimpole Lodge probably continuing to Verulamium, and north-east through the marshy-fenlands which marked the eastern borders of the Iceni, towards the ancient settlement of Snettisham on the Metaris Aestuarium (The Wash).

Classical References for Duroliponte

The only classical reference to mention the Latin name for Cambridge is the Antonine Itinerary of the late-2nd century. In Iter V of this work, which documents “the route from Londinium to Luguvalium“, the entry Duroliponte appears 25 miles from Camboritum (Lackford, Suffolk) and 35 miles from Durobrivae (Water Newton, Cambridgeshire).

Milestones from Around Cambridge

RIB 2239 - Milestone of Crispus

To our Lord Flavius Julius Crispus, most noble Caesar, son of Flavius Constantinus Maximus Pius, grandson of the deified Constantius Pius.


Crispus, son of Constantine I, was Caesar A.D. 317-26.Its origin is unknown. Ascribed by Horsley to the Carlisle area, to which it does not belong geologically. The stone is likely to have come from Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, or Yorkshire.

RIB 2236 - Fragmentary milestone

… Augustus.
… most noble Caesar.

No commentary.

RIB 2237 - Milestone of Constantine I

For the Emperor Caesar Flavius Valerius Constantinus Pius, most noble Caesar, son of the deified Constantius Augustus Pius.

Constantine I, as Caesar, A.D. 306-7, for both versions.The primary text (first interpreted by Collingwood) is cut shallow. The secondary and more deeply cut text to the same emperor.

Other Roman Remains in the Neighbourhood

There are Romano-British potteries about 4 miles to the north-east at Waterbeach (TL4963) near the south-eastern end of the Car-Dyke, and another pottery kiln about 3½ miles along the Wixoe road to the south-east at Cherry Hinton (TL4855). There are also a number of substantial Roman buildings in the area; two to the north of the Cambridge settlement itself (at TL4560 & TL4561), and another at Comberton (TL3854) near the Roman barrow at Barton (TL3954) lies about 5 miles to the south-west, about half way along the road to the Wimpole Lodge settlement. Another large Romano-British building, possibly a villa, lay about 2½ miles further upstream along the Cam at Grantchester (TL4355).

References for Dvroliponte

  • Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
  • Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);

Roman Roads near Dvroliponte

NNE (28) to Denver (Downham West, Nordelph, Norfolk) Ridgeway: ENE (28) to Camboritvm SW (10) to Wimpole Lodge SSE (13) to Great Chesterford Via Devana: SE (20) to Wixoe (Suffolk)

Sites near Cambridge (Duroliponte) Roman Fort