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Viroconium Cornoviorum

Remains of the public baths, known as "The Old Work"

Viroconium or Uriconium, formally Viroconium Cornoviorum, was a Roman town, one corner of which is now occupied by Wroxeter, a small village in Shropshire, England, about 5 miles (8.0 km) east-south-east of Shrewsbury. At its peak, Viroconium is estimated to have been the 4th-largest Roman settlement in Britain, a civitas with a population of more than 15 000.[1] The settlement probably lasted until the end of the 7th century or the beginning of the 8th.[2] Extensive remains can still be seen.


  • Name 1
  • History 2
    • Roman 2.1
    • Middle Ages 2.2
  • Wroxeter Roman City 3
  • Literature 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Viriconium is a Latinised form a native Brittonic placename reconstructed as *Uiroconion, the "[city] of *Uirokū". *Uiro-ku itself (lit. "man"-"wolf") is believed to have been a masculine given name meaning "werewolf".[3][4] The "Cornoviorum" distinguishes the site as the Viriconium "of the Cornovii", the Celtic tribe whose civitas the settlement became. The original site of the Cornovian capital (also thought to have been named *Uiroconion) was a hillfort on the Wrekin.



Roman ruins at Viroconium Cornoviorum, photographed during excavation by Francis Bedford and digitally restored.

Viroconium was established in about AD 58 as a castra for the Legio XIV Gemina during their invasion of Roman Wales. They were later replaced by the Legio XX Valeria Victrix until the fortress was abandoned by the military around AD 88 and taken over by the civilian settlement that had grown up around the fort. By 130, it had expanded to cover an area of more than 173 acres (70 ha). It then had many public buildings, including thermae and a colonnaded forum dedicated to Hadrian as shown by the remains of an inscription. Simpler temples and shops have also been excavated. At its peak, Viroconium is estimated to have been the fourth largest Roman settlement in Britain with a population of more than 15 000.[1]

Middle Ages

Following the Roman withdrawal from Britain around 410, the Cornovians seem to have divided into Pengwern and Powys. The minor Magonsæte sub-kingdom also emerged in the area in the interlude between Powysian and Mercian rule. Viroconium may have served as the early post-Roman capital of Powys. The city has been variously identified with the Cair Urnarc[5] and Cair Guricon[6] which appeared in the History of the Britons’s list of the 28 cities of Britain.[7]

Town life in Viroconium continued in the 5th century, but many of the buildings fell into disrepair. Between 530 and 570, when most Roman urban sites and villas in Britain were being abandoned,[8] there was a substantial rebuilding programme. The old basilica was carefully demolished and replaced with new timber-framed buildings on rubble platforms. These probably included a very large two-storey building and a number of storage buildings and houses. In all, 33 new buildings were "carefully planned and executed" and "skillfully constructed to Roman measurements using a trained labour force".[9] Who instigated this rebuilding programme is not known, but it may have been a bishop.[10] Some of the buildings were renewed three times, and the community probably lasted about 75 years until, for some reason, many of the buildings were dismantled.[11] The site was probably abandoned peacefully in the second half of the 7th century or the beginning of the 8th century.[12] The court of Powys is believed to have moved to Mathrafal sometime before 717, following famine and plague in its original location.

Wroxeter Roman City

The recreation of a Roman town house at Viroconium

Some remains are still standing, and further buildings have been excavated. These include "the Old Work" (an archway, part of the baths' Dai Morgan Evans, who designed the villa.



  1. ^ a b Frere, Britannia, p.253
  2. ^ Archaeological assessment of Wroxeter/Viroconium p.5
  3. ^ Delamarre, Xavier (2012). Noms de lieux celtiques de l'europe ancienne. Arles: Editions Errance. p. 273.  
  4. ^ Wodtko, Dagmar (2000). Wörterbuch der keltiberischen Inschriften: Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum, Band V.1. Reichert-Verlag. p. 452.  
  5. ^ Newman, John Henry & al. , Ch. X: "Britain in 429, A. D.", p. 92.Lives of the English Saints: St. German, Bishop of Auxerre James Toovey (London), 1844.
  6. ^ Ford, David Nash. "The 28 Cities of Britain" at Britannia. 2000.
  7. ^ Nennius (attrib.). Theodor Mommsen (ed.). , VI.Historia Brittonum Composed after AD 830. (Latin) Hosted at Latin Wikisource.
  8. ^ Loseby, Simon T. (2000). "Power and towns in Late Roman Britain and early Anglo-Saxon England". In Gisela Ripoll, Josep M. Gurt. Sedes regiae (ann. 400–800). Barcelona. p. 339. The likes of  
  9. ^ White, Roger; Philip Barker Wroxeter: Life & Death of a Roman City Tempus Publishing, 1998 ISBN 978-0-7524-1409-6 pp.121–128
  10. ^ White, Roger; Philp Barker Wroxeter: Life & Death of a Roman City Tempus Publishing, 1998 ISBN 978-0-7524-1409-6 p.125
  11. ^ White, Roger; Philip Barker Wroxeter: Life & Death of a Roman City Tempus Publishing, 1998 ISBN 978-0-7524-1409-6 p.136
  12. ^ Archaeological assessment of Wroxeter, Shropshire
  13. ^ Reconstructed Roman villa unveiled at WroxeterBBC News Shropshire –
  14. ^ English Heritage – Properties
  15. ^ Daily Mail: "Channel 4 series build Roman villa using ancient methods"
  16. ^ Uriconium An Ode | The Wilfred Owen Association
  17. ^ – Mary Webb : ViroconiumRepresentative Poetry Online


  • Aston, Michael; Bond, James (1976). The Landscape of Towns. Archaeology in the Field Series. London:  
  • Anderson, J. Corbet. The Roman City of Uriconium at Wroxeter, Salop. – Illustrative of the History and Social Life of Our Romano-British Forefathers. London: J. Russell Smith, 1867.
  • Atkinson, Donald. British Archaeological Society: Report on the Excavations at Wroxeter (the Roman City of Viroconium) in the County of Salop, 1923–1927. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.
  • Barker, Philip, Ed. Wroxeter Roman City: Excavations 1966–1980. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1980.
  • Barker, Philip, and Webster, Graham. From Roman Viroconium to medieval Wroxeter: recent work on the site of the Roman city of Wroxeter. Worcester: West Mercian Archaeological Consultants, 1990. ISBN 0-9516274-1-4
  • Barker, Philip, and White, Roger. Wroxeter Roman City (English Heritage Guidebooks). Swindon, Wilts.: English Heritage, 1999. ISBN 1850746982
  • Bushe-Fox, J. P. Excavations on the Site of the Roman Town at Wroxeter, Shropshire, in 1912 (Society of Antiquaries of London. Research Committee. Report no. 1). Oxford: Society of Antiquaries, 1913.
  • Bushe-Fox, J. P. Excavations on the Site of the Roman Town at Wroxeter, Shropshire, in 1913: Second Report (Society of Antiquaries of London. Research Committee. Report no. 2). Oxford: Society of Antiquaries, 1915.
  • Bushe-Fox, J. P. Excavations on the Site of the Roman Town at Wroxeter, Shropshire, in 1914: Third Report (Society of Antiquaries of London. Research Committee. Report no. 4). Oxford: Society of Antiquaries, 1916.
  • De la Bedoyere, Guy. (1991). The Buildings of Roman Britain.
  • Ellis, Peter. The Roman Baths and Macellum at Wroxeter. Swindon, Wilts.: English Heritage, 2000. ISBN 978-1-85074-606-5
  • Ellis, Peter, and White, Roger. 'Wroxeter Archaeology Excavation and Research on the Defences and in the Town – 1968–1992.' in Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 78. Shrewsbury, Shrops.: Shropshire Archaeological Society, 2006. ISBN 0-9501227-8-5
  • Fox, George E. A Guide to the Roman City of Uriconium at Wroxeter, Shropshire. Wellington, Shrops.: Shropshire Archaeological Society, 1927.
  • Frere, S. S. Britannia: a History of Roman Britain. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1987. ISBN 0-7102-1215-1
  • Gaffney, V. L., and White, R. H. (2007). 'Wroxeter, the Cornovii, and the Urban Process: Final Report on the Wroxeter Hinterland Project 1994–1997', Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series, No. 68.
  • Jackson, Kenneth (1970). "An Appendix on the Place Names of the British Section of the Antonine Itinerary". Britannia 1. 
  • Kenyon, Kathleen M. Excavations at Viroconium, 1936–1937. Shrewsbury, Shrops. Shropshire Archaeological Society, 1937.
  • Rivet, A. L. F., and Smith, Colin. (1979). The Place-Names of Roman Britain.
  • Urban, Sylvanus. 'The Roman City of Uriconium.' Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review, 1859. 206: 447–458.
  • Webster, Graham. The Cornovii. London: Sutton, 1991. ISBN 0-86299-877-8
  • Webster, Graham. The Legionary Fortress at Wroxeter: Excavations by Graham Webster, 1955–1985. Swindon, Wilts.: English Heritage, 2002. ISBN 9781850746850
  • Webster, Graham. The Roman Army. London: Grosvenor Museum, 1973. ISBN 0-903235-05-6
  • Webster, Graham, The Roman Imperial Army: Of the First and Second Centuries A.D. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8061-3000-8
  • Webster, Graham, and Barker, Philip. Viroconium, Wroxeter Roman City. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1966 & 1978. ISBN 0-11-670323-7
  • White, Roger, and Barker, Philip. Wroxeter: Life & Death of a Roman City. Stroud, Glos.: Tempus Publishing Ltd., 1998. ISBN 978-0-7524-1409-6
  • White, Thomas. A Guide to the Ruins of Uriconium, at Wroxeter, Near Shrewsbury. Kessinger Publishing, 2009, ISBN 978-1-120-28973-5. BiblioBazaar, 2010, ISBN 978-1-143-79640-1. Nabu Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1-143-63705-6
  • White, Thomas. Uriconium; A Historical Account of the Ancient Roman City, and of the Excavations Made Upon Its Site, at Wroxeter, in Shropshire. General Books, 2010. ISBN 1152210491

External links

  • BBC: Architectural Heritage
  • Wroxeter Roman City: English Heritage
  • Teachers'Resource pack on Wroxeter: English Heritage
  • Viroconium Cornoviorum: Roman Legionary Fortress, British Tribal City –
  • Roman Fort and Bridge, Wroxter, Shropshire –
  • Wroxeter – Roman Britain's Fourth Largest City: Article by Dr. Gareth Evans
  • Excavation report by Thomas Wright
  • Gentleman's Magazine1859 Article from
  • Wroxeter, the Cornovii, and the Urban Process
  • Report on Uriconium: Archaeological assessment of Wroxeter, Shropshire
  • Esmonde Cleary, A., R. Warner, R. Talbert, T. Elliott, S. Gillies. "Places: 79741 (*Viroconium)". Pleiades. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 

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