The Conquest of Wales and Southern England

Aulus Plautius (AD43-46)

The campaigns of Aulus Plautius general in Britain are well documented in the ancient literary sources. The original bridgehead fortifications at Richborough (Rutupiae) are well known and enclose an area of about 140 acres (c.57 ha). A military precursor to the civitas of the Cantiaci Tribe at Canterbury (Durovernum) has been postulated but the only evidence which has come to light thus far are the foundations of a number of timber buildings built in Roman military style also a re-cut V-shaped defensive ditch at another location within the bounds of the later walled town. Another fortification is suspected at Rochester (Durobrivae) at the crossing of the Medway, where the Roman invasion force met its first real opposition and a major battle was fought which lasted two days and claimed the life of the British warlord Togodumnus, the brother of Caratacus. The ditch of a large (c.75 acres, 30.5ha) Claudian camp has been confirmed at London (Londinium) near the crossing of the Thames in Fenchurch Street, and it is thought that another camp, similar in size, was positioned further to the west near Hyde Park.

Following the advance through Cantium and the surrender of the British tribes near Chelmsford (Caesaromagus), a legionary fortress was built by the Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix (The Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious) within the Oppidum of the Read more about the Trinovantes tribe at Colchester(Camulodunum), which was supplied along the River Colne via a harbour on the estuary at Fingringhoe Wick. With his rear guarded, Plautius then sent his remaining three legions to the task of pacification.

Many British tribes were brought under the yoke of Rome during the four years of this general’s tenure in Britain. Many of the Romanised civitas centres of these tribes began life outside the defences of Roman garrison forts built by the legionary troops and occupied by the auxilia, often being sited at the centre of the tribe’s territories or within oppida earthworks.

A notable omission from the above list is Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester, Hampshire) the civitas of the Atrebates tribe, who apparently continued to occupy their ancient woodland capital with no trace of a nearby Roman garrison fort.

Plautius was also active in the diplomatic arena during his governorship, installing Adminius as ‘client’ king of the Cantiaci in Cantium/Kent and recognising Cogidubnus as ‘pro-praetorian legate’ with authority over the Regnenses tribe of Suffolk and West Sussex. He also brokered treaties with two other major tribes, recognising Cartimandua of the Brigantes in Northern England and Prasutagus of the Iceni in Norfolk as ‘clients’ of Rome.

Military Installations Attributed to Aulus Plautius
Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex)TL9925legionary fortress Legio XX Valeria.
Longthorpe, CambridgeshireTL1597vexillation fortress Legio IX Hispana.
Lake Farm, DorsetSY9999fort, vexillation fortress Legio II Augusta.
Alchester, Bicester, OxfordshireSP5720fort, vexillation fortress Legio XIV Gemina.
Noviomagus Regnorum (Chichester, West Sussex)SU8604vexillation fortress of Legio II Augusta, later civitas capital of the Regnenses.
Ratae Coritanorum (Leicester, Leicestershire)SK5804probable vexillation fortress of Legio IX Hispana, later civitas capital of the Coritani.
Rutupiae (Richborough, Kent)TR3260invasion bridgehead and naval base.
Fingringhoe Wick, EssexTM0519naval base serving legionary fortress at Colchester.
Magnus Portus (Bosham Harbour, West Sussex)SU8003naval base serving the early fortress at Chichester.
Hamworthy, Poole Harbour, DorsetSZ0090naval base serving vex. fortress at Lake Farm.
Topsham, DevonSX9688naval base
Caesaromagus (Chelmsford, Essex)TL7006fort, later civitas capital of the Trinovantes
Canonium (Kelvedon, Essex)TL8618fort
Stanway, Colchester, EssexTL9622fort set in the middle of the British royal enclosure.
Combretovium (Baylham House, Suffolk)TM1152fort
Ixworth, SuffolkTL9369fort, possibly named Sitomagus.
Durobrivae (Water Newton, Cambridgeshire)TL1296fort
Great Chesterford, EssexTL5043fort
Verulamium (St. Albans, Hertfordshire)TL1307fort, later civitas capital of the Catuvellauni
Shapwick, DorsetST9402fort near the Lake Farm campaign fortress.
Dunum (Hod Hill, Dorset)ST8510fort in corner of a hillfort of the Durotriges.
Charterhouse on Mendip, AvonST5056fort protecting silver workings in the Mendip Hills.
Corinium (Cirencester, Gloucestershire)SP0201fort, later civitas capital of the Dobunni.
Great Casterton, LeicestershireTF0009fort
Causennae (Ancaster, Lincolnshire)SK9843fort
Ad Pontem (East Stoke, Nottingham)SK7550fort
Broxtowe, NottinghamshireSK5242fort
Marton, LincolnshireSK8382fort
Kirmington, HumbersideTA1011fort

Publius Ostorius Scapula (AD47-52)

The first season of this Publius Ostorius Scapula’s tenure in office was probably spent on campaign with Legio XIV Gemina who were advanced westwards along the line of Watling Street, leaving vexillation-sized camps at Mancetter in Warwickshire and Leighton near Wroxeter in Shropshire, probably also at Wall and Eaton House (Water Eaton) in Staffordshire and at Drayton Lodge in Shropshire, where there are auxiliary forts dating to this period. All of these encampments were obviously directed at the Cornovii tribe who occupied Shropshire and the Cheshire plain. Another line of forts heading westwards through Metchley in Birmingham and Greensforge in Staffordshire indicate that the Fourteenth was probably used in a ‘pincer’ movement with the focus on the prominent hillfort which crowned the Wrekin, as is the auxiliary fort at Wroxeter which safeguarded the strategic bridge over the Severn. The Scapulan fortress at Rhyn Park close to the Shropshire/Clwyd border and overshadowed by the Berwyn Mountains of North Wales, may be associated with the campaign against the Cornovii, but it is equally likely that this represents an attempt to contain the British warlord Caratacus.

It appears likely that Scapula moved Legion II Augusta further westwards along the southern coast of England, perhaps abandoning their vexillation fortress at Chichester to auxiliary forces and moving a number of legionary cohorts into a new campaign fortress at Isca DUmnoniorum (Exeter) in East Devon. The supply port at Topsham at the mouth of the River Exe may have been in use at this time, but it is unknown whether it supplied a legionary garrison or an auxiliary fort. It is thought that the small Fort at Statio Deventiasteno – ‘The Station at the Narrows of Deventia‘ – (Nanstallon) in Cornwall was established by Scapula in order to control the Dumnonii tribe who inhabited the south-western peninsula of England. Again, it is uncertain whether the legionaries of the Second Legion merely built this fort or actually formed the garrison.

In AD50 the British warlord Caratacus, who had fled south-east England for the relative safety of the foothills of South Wales, launched an attack on the Roman province. Operating from a base in the homelands of the Silures tribe of Glamorgan, he struck deep into Gloucestershire through the lands of the Dobunni, the tribe who had offered their surrender to Plautius almost as soon as the Roman invasion army had built their bridgehead. To counter this incursion Scapula mobilised Legio XX Valeria, converting their relatively new legionary fortress in Colchester (Camulodunum) into a colonia for retired citizen soldiers and bolstering the military presence in the old British capital by building an auxiliary fort at Stanway in the centre of the royal enclosure of the Trinovantes. The Twentieth were then installed in a new vexillation fortress at Kingsholm in Gloucester.

Click Here for the Campaign of Scapula against Caratacus

It is interesting that Verulamium, the ancient capital of the Catuvellauni tribe and the probable birthplace of Caratacus, was granted the status of a Roman Municipium in AD50, the same year that Caratacus decided to launch his offensive upon the Roman province.

During this period of consolidation in South-West England by II Augusta, the offensive against the Cornovii and into North Wales by XIV Gemina and the ‘cat and mouse’ campaigns of XX Valeria against Caratacus in the Welsh Marches, Legio IX Hispana appear to have been relatively inactive by comparison. It would appear that Scapula was content to leave this legion to secure the northern borders of his province while he tackled the problems in the south-west and in Wales.

The production of British lead/silver from the mines at Charterhouse-on-Mendip commenced under the jurisdiction of the Roman military during the administration of this governor, as evidenced by ingots of lead found at various sites in the Mendip Hills and date-stamped to AD49. It appears likely that the auxiliary fort overlooking these mine workings was established by the Second Legion Augusta, possibly even being garrisoned by legionary troops.

Ostorius Scapula (AD47-52)

Biography of Publius Ostorius Scapula.

Manduessedum (Mancetter, Warwickshire)SP3296vexillation fortress Legio XIV Gemina
Isca (Exeter, Devon)SX9292signal-station, possible vexillation fortress Legio II Augusta
Glevum (Gloucester)SO8318legionary fortress Legio XX Valeria
Viroconium (Wroxeter, Shropshire)SJ5607Leighton vexillation fortress Legio XIV Gemina?
Wroxeter auxiliary fort Cohors Primae Thracum?
south of the later civitas capital of the Cornovii.
Rhyn Park, ShropshireSJ3037vexillation fortress Legio XIV Gemina?
Topsham, DevonSX9688naval base serving the fortress at Exeter.
Statio Deventiasteno (Nanstallon, Cornwall)SX0356fort
Charterhouse on Mendip, AvonST5056fort guarding the silver mines in the Mendip Hills.
Corinium (Cirencester, Gloucestershire)SP0201fort Ala Gallorum Indiana?
later civitas capital of the Dobunni.
Alcester, WarwickshireSP0857fort
Letocetum (Wall, Staffordshire)SK0906fort
Drayton LodgeSJ7609fort close to the Watling Street near Vxacona.
Metchley, BirminghamSP0483fort
Pennocrucium (Water Eaton, Staffordshire)SJ9010fort
Greensforge, StaffordshireSO8688fort
Stretton Grandison, Hereford & WorcesterSO6343fort
Gobannium (Abergavenny, Gwent)SO2914fort
Cardiff, South GlamorganST1876fort
Stretford Bridge, Craven Arms, ShropshireSO4284fort
Brandon Camp, Hereford & WorcesterSO4072Roman fort in corner of Iron-Age hillfort.
Jay Lane, Leintwardine, Hereford & WorcesterSO2493Cavalry Fort
Brompton, ShropshireSO2493fort and campaign camps
Hindwell Farm, Walton, PowysSO2560fort
Clifford, Hereford & WorcesterSO2446large fort

Aulus Didius Gallus (AD52-57)

Biography of Aulus Didius Gallus.

Osmanthorpe, NottinghamshireSK6756vexillation fortress Legio IX Hispana?
Newton-on-Trent, LincolnshireSK8273vexillation fortress Legio IX Hispana?
Rossington Bridge, South YorkshireSK6399vexillation fortress Legio IX Hispana?
Letocetum (Wall, Staffordshire)SK0906vexillation fortress Legio XIV Gemina?
Pennocrucium (Kinvaston, Staffordshire)SJ9010vexillation fortress Legio XIV Gemina?
Ad Pontem (East Stoke, Nottingham)SK7550fort
Derventio (Littlechester, Derbyshire)SK3537fort
Marton, LincolnshireSK8382fortlet
Broxtowe, NottinghamshireSK5242fortlet
Lutudarum (Pentrich, Derbyshire)SK3852signal station near silver/lead mines in the lower Pennines

Quintus Veranius (AD57/58)

Biography of Quintus Veranius.

Viroconium (Wroxeter, Shropshire)SJ5608legionary fortress Legio XIV Gemina
Glevum (Gloucester)SO8318vexillation fortress Legio XX Valeria
Burrium (Usk, Gwent)SO3700vexillation fortress Legio XX Valeria.
Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter, Devon)SX9292legionary fortress Legio II Augusta.
Salinae (Droitwich, Hereford & Worcester)SO8963fort
Greensforge, South StaffordshireSO8688fort
Wall Town, ShropshireSO6978fort
Stretton Grandison, Hereford & WorcesterSO6343fort
Stretford Bridge, Craven Arms, ShropshireSO4284fort
Llwyn-y-Brain, PowysSO0492large fort
Brompton, ShropshireSO2493fort
Hindwell Farm, Walton, PowysSO2560fort
Clyro, GwentSO2243fort
Gobannium (Abergavenny, Gwent)SO2914fort
Cardiff, South GlamorganST1876fort
Cae Gaer, PowysSN8281fortlet/signal station
Erglodd, DyfedSN6590fortlet/signal station
Penmincae, PowysSO0053fortlet/signal station
Coed-y-Caerau, Bulmore, GwentST3791fortlet/signal station

Gaius Suetonius Paulinus (AD58-61)

Biography of Gaius Suetonius Paulinus .

Viroconium (Wroxeter, Shropshire)SJ5608legionary fortress Legio XIV Gemina.
Longthorpe, CambridgeshireTL1597vexillation fortress Legio IX Hispana.
Glevum (Gloucester)SO8318vexillation fortress Legio XX Valeria.
Burrium (Usk, Gwent)SO3700vexillation fortress Legio XX Valeria.
Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter, Devon)SX9292legionary fortress Legio II Augusta.
Aquae Sulis (Bath, Avon)ST7564probable fort, occupied by cohorts of Legio XX Valeria
perhaps also Ala I Thracum
Corinium (Cirencester, Gloucesterhire)SP0201fort, guarding the civitas of the Dobunni
perhaps garrisoned by Ala Gallorum Indiana
Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex)TL9925Colonia, pre-Roman capital of the Trinovantes.
Londinium (London)TQ3281Claudian administrative centre
Verulamium (St. Albans, Hertfordshire)TL1307municipium and civitas capital of the Catuvellauni.
Pennocrucium (Water Eaton, Staffordshire)SJ9010earlier fort, contemporary marching camps? later fort?
Letocetum (Wall, Staffordshire)SK0906earlier fort, contemporary marching camp? possibly of Paulinus expeditionary force returning from North Wales.
Greensforge, South StaffordshireSO8688earlier fort, contemporary marching camps? later fort?
Caesaromagus (Chelmsford, Essex)TL7006fort, later civitas of the Trinovantes.
Combretovium (Baylham House, Suffolk)TM1152fort, on the border between the Iceni and the Trinovantes.
Sitomagus (Ixworth, Suffolk)TL9369fort, on the border between the Iceni and the Catuvellauni.
Great Casterton, LeicestershireTF0009fort, on the border between the Iceni and the Coritani.
The Lunt, Baginton, Coventry, WarwickshireSP3475fort and horse-training gyrus

Publius Petronius Turpilianus (AD61/2-63)

Biography of Publius Petronius Turpilianus.

“Petronius neither challenged the enemy nor was himself molested …”
(Cornelius Tacitus Annals XIV.xxxix)

Marcus Trebellius Maximus (AD63-69)

Biography of Marcus Trebellius Maximus.

“Trebellius was less energetic, had no military experience, and kept the province in hand by a mild-mannered administration.”
(Cornelius Tacitus Agricola XVI.iv)
Glevum (Gloucester)SO8318legionary fortress Legio II Augusta.
Viroconium (Wroxeter, Shropshire)SJ5608legionary fortress Legio XX Valeria.

The most notable episode in this governor’s administration was the withdrawal of the Fourteenth Legion from Wroxeter by the emperor Nero for use in Germany in AD67. This required a re-shuffling of the British legionary forces; the Twentieth were moved from Usk to replace the Fourteenth at Wroxeter, the Second were moved up from Exeter to Gloucester, and the Ninth were later reunited in a new legionary fortress at Lincoln.

Marcus Vettius Bolanus (AD69-71)

Biography of Marcus Vettius Bolanus.

“Nor did Vettius Bolanus … distress Britain with discipline …”
(Cornelius Tacitus Agricola XVI.v
Lindum (Lincoln)SK9771legionary fortress Legio IX Hispana.

Quintus Petilius Cerialis (AD71-73/4)

Biography of Quintus Petillius Cerialis.

Eburacum (York)SE6052legionary fortress Legio IX Hispana.
Lindum (Lincoln)SK9771legionary fortress Legio II Adiutrix.
Rey Cross, DurhamNY9012camp between Brough and Bowes
Crackenthorpe, CumbriaNY6523camp SE of Kirkby Thore
Plumpton Head, CumbriaNY5035camp between Old Penrith & Braugham
Luguvalium (Carlisle, Cumbria)NY3956probable camp

Sextus Julius Frontinus (AD73/4-77/8)

Biography of Sextus Julius Frontinus.

Isca Silurum (Caerleon, Gwent)ST3390legionary fortress Legio II Augusta.
Deva (Chester)SJ4066fort
Levobrinta (Forden Gaer, Powys)SO2098fort
Mediomanum (Caersws, Powys)SO0292fort
Cicucium (Brecon Gaer, Y-Gaer, Powys)SO0029fort
Coelbren, West GlamorganSN8510fort
Castell Collen, PowysSO0562fort
Blaen-cwm-Bach, West GlamorganSS7997large camp 3 miles E of Neath
Twyn-y-Briddallt, Mid GlamorganST0098large camp 9½ miles W of Gelli-gaer
Pen-y-Coedcae, Mid GlamorganST0687large camp 6½ miles W of Caerphilly

Later Roman Troop Movements in Wales

Welsh Forts Abandoned During the Hadrianic Period
Welsh Forts Occupied During the Late-Antonine Period
Welsh Forts Occupied During the Severan Period

Gnaeus Julius Agricola (AD77/8 -83/4)

Read about the Roman Military Campaign of Gnaeus Julius Agricola (AD77/8 -83/4)

The main sources used in compiling the above information were:

  • The Roman Invasion of Britain by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1980);
  • Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1981);
  • Boudicca by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1978);
  • Britons and the Roman Army by Grace Simpson (Gregg, London, 1964);
  • Map of Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd Edition, 1956)
  • Historical Map and Guide: Roman Britain by the OS (4th Ed., 1990);
  • Historical Map and Guide: Roman Britain by the OS (5th Ed., 2001);
  • Atlas of Great Britain by the Ordnance Survey (Country Life, 1982);