Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 11 December 2020

Reinterpreting ‘post Roman’ Britain

The Independent has a good article about the scientific dating of a recently discovered mosaic at the important villa site at Chedworth in Gloucestershire. This is assigned to the mid to later fifth century, that is after Roman troops were withdrawn in 410, and what is popularly presented as being the end of Roman Britain. 

A reconstruction of Chedworth Roman Villa in the 4th Century

A reconstruction of the Chedworth Villa by Tony Kerins

Image: Wikimedia

There is a history and description of the Chedworth site from Wikipedia - which refers to evidence for estate life continuing there into the fifth century - which can be viewed at Chedworth Roman Villa

The Chedworth discovery and evidence from the important Roman town that is now Cirencester of rebuilding in the earlier fifth century clearly conveys the fact that life for some parts of Britannia at least continued much as normal for two, maybe three generations. This should not be a surprise, even if it is, but it is valuable to have modern technical research to back up theory and interpretation. 

Continuity is very much the interpretation we see today both in terms of post-Roman Britain seeking to maintain itself in a falling world and producing the Arthurian age, and also at the local level of settlement and the continuing life of estate units. Chedworth is not far from Withington, often cited as an instance of such transition rather than of rupture.

The Cotswolds are rich in villa sites and were in the Roman period, as now, clearly a desirable  area in which to live and make a comfortable living from farming. Cirencester itself was one of the main administrative and commercial centres of the province, situated at a hub of roads and in a fertile area, protected by distance from Germanic raids along the east and south coasts.

The illustrated article is well worth looking at and can be read at Mosaic discovery sheds fresh light on England’s early medieval history

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