It can be difficult to get a real sense of what Roman Britain must have been like in this country. There are very few Roman remains that stand above ground for us to see, aside from Hadrian’s Wall. The Wall is all about a border and defense and not about every day life for the inhabitants of Roman Britain. Most of the Roman towns and cities are also today’s towns and cities, so remains are buried under places like Bath, Colchester and London. Wroxeter is unusual in that it isn’t a current town or city, in fact the village of Wroxeter is very small and doesn’t cover the main area of the Roman town.
Wroxeter (known then as ‘Viroconium’) was the fourth largest city in Roman Britain and it stands in modern-day Shropshire, not far from Shrewsbury. It started life as a legionary fortress and later developed into a thriving civilian city. Much of that city remains below ground, but you can see the seconnd century municipal baths, plus the remains of the large wall dividing them from the exercise hall or basilica.
It takes a bit of imagination to envisage the baths complex in use. There are display panels to help and there is a free audio tour. H (7 years) started out listening to the tour, but soon got fed up with that. We tried to bring it to life for him and I think he understood roughly how the baths worked. What you can see quite clearly is how the heating system functioned and that is very interesting for a budding engineer like H.
Across the quiet road from the baths site is a replica Roman house. This was built by workmen using Roman techniques and tools. This is a fairly recent addition to the site and really helps visitors understand what the city would have looked like. We enjoyed seeing rooms furnished like they would have been in Roman times. You could also see, in other rooms, how the property was constructed, as some of the walls haven’t been completed so you can see how they were made.
Another nice touch was giving children a chance to dress up as Romans. H was willing to don a toga, but he drew the line at dressing up as a Roman lady. We also had fun doing a little role play in the shop. Roman town houses often included a shop on the ground floor and in this case, it was kitted out as a butcher’s shop.
I think Wroxeter is a very interesting place to visit, but it’s helpful if your child has some knowledge of Roman times, as it can be difficult to understand otherwise. Parents will need to work quite hard with their children to help them understand the site, so you’d best brush up on your own knowledge too. There are very few places where you can get so close to Roman life and Wroxeter is good to visit if your child has an interest in that period of history. Wroxeter is run by English Heritage and entry is free for members.
Also In The Area
You could combine a visit to Wroxeter with a trip to one of the local abbeys: Wenlock Priory or Haughmond Abbey (both English Heritage). There’s also Attingham Park (National Trust) or Stokesay Castle (English Heritage). There’s also a vineyard you can visit and buy wine at in the village of Wroxeter.
We ate at The Riverside Inn, which is a few minutes drive away in Cound. It has a great position on the banks of the River Severn and has a large beer garden with great views of the river. The food is lovely as is the real ale, but there is no children’s menu, although you could order a side dish or a starter for them if something suits (check the menus online).