Verulamium – Part 2 – The Museum and archaeology

In total only 10% of the whole town has actually been excavated.

The first antiquarian exploration took place in 1847 with the theatre excavations. In the 1930’s more excavations would take place between 1930-33, this time by Dr Mortimer Wheeler and his wife Tessa. Due to the number of discoveries made by the husband and wife, it was described as the British Pompeii. Many of the early finds were first displayed in a small shed while the Verulamium Museum was built. The Museum opened in 1939 and is still there today, situated on the site of the Basilica.

Some of the major finds included beautiful mosaics; the Verulamium Museum houses 49 of the finest collections of Roman British mosaics. They could be found in important rooms used for dining and reception, in addition to the bath suites. Most came from 2nd century with a second wave in the early 4th century. Early mosaics share details of designs also found at Colchester, which suggests same the same workshop was involved.

The most impressive find in relation to Verulamium is the Sandridge Hoard, housed at the Museum. It is a collection of 159 Roman coins and one of the largest hoards of Roman coins found in the UK from the 4th and 5th centuries. They were uncovered by a metal detectorist north of the district of St Albans in 2012. He originally uncovered 55 coins, and further investigations discovered a further 104. The Museum brought the hoard with the aid of a grant, funding and donations.

 “Gold coins, known as solidi, were extremely valuable and were not traded or exchanged on a regular basis in Roman Britain. They would have been used for large transitions such as buying land or goods by the shipload”  – David Thorold, Prehistory-medieval history curator at Verulamium Museum.

The Roman city of Verulamium was designated as a scheduled ancient monument in 1923 and was the first in the country. In 1929 St Albans Council acquired a large part of the town from the Earl of Verulamium for a public park, which it still is today.

The Museum goes into great detail about what life was like in the Roman city. There are a number of galleries highlighting different areas such as daily life, death and religion. Artifacts on show include items from the Folly Lane burial, a clay mold for striking coins, a helmet, burnt daub and burning on a samian bowl from Boadicea’s attack along with the extraordinary mosaics.

It is open every day from 10am-5pm, except on Sundays when it is open from 2pm-5pm. Ticket prices range from £2.50 for under 1s, £3.50 for concessions and £5.00 for adults. There is also the option to buy a joint ticket to the museum and theatre.

The Theatre is open daily from 10am-5pm from March 1st-31st October and 10am-4pm the rest of the year. For more information on either of the sites please visit the sites listed in my sources section.

Sources:

Bennett, J (1984) Towns of Roman Britain Buckinghamshire; Shire Publications

Thorold, D. (2015). Roman Verulamium. Hertfordshire: St Albans Council.

Wilson, R. J. A (2002) A guide to Roman remains in Britain (4th edition). London: Constable

Websites:

Anon, (n.d) Romans:  Architecture | English Heritage. [online] English Heritage. Available at: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/learn/story-of-england/romans/architecture/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2018].

Anon (n.d.). The Roman Theatre – The Gorhambury Estate. [online] Gorhamburyestate.co.uk. Available at: https://www.gorhamburyestate.co.uk/The-Roman-Theatre [Accessed 8 Sep. 2018].

Anon (2006). Roman Wall of St Albans | English Heritage. [online] English Heritage. Available at: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/roman-wall-of-st-albans/ [Accessed 9 Sep. 2018].

Anon (2015). The Sandridge Hoard. [online] St Albans Museums. Available at: https://www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/about/blog/sandridge-hoard [Accessed 14 Sep. 2018].

Bbc.co.uk. (2014). BBC – History – Ancient History in depth: Native Tribes of Britain. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/iron_01.shtml#eighteen [Accessed 14 Sep. 2018].

FOLLOWING HADRIAN. (2015). Exploring Verulamium, the Roman city of St Albans (UK). [online] Available at: https://followinghadrian.com/2015/02/01/exploring-verulamium-the-roman-city-of-st-albans-uk/ [Accessed 7 Sep. 2018].

Haynes, I (2018)  Hadrians Wall: Life on the Fontier [online] Newcaslte University. Avalible at:https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/hadrians-wall [Accessed 01/09/2018]

Nash Ford, D. (2012). RBP for Kids: Roman Towns in Britain. [online] Earlybritishkingdoms.com. Available at: http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/kids/romans/roman_towns.html [Accessed 17 Sep. 2018].

Images:

Anon (n.d.). [image] Available at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1637651&partId=1&searchText=Tasciovanus+coin&images=true&page=1 [Accessed 18 Sep. 2018].

Dunn, P. (n.d.). Reconstruction of the Romano-British Temple at Maiden Castle. [image] Available at: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/maiden-castle/history/description/ [Accessed 18 Sep. 2018].

Froste, P (1998) Cremation at Folly Lane, St Albans. Available at https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/cremation-at-folly-lane-st-albans-26474 [ Accessed 22/09/2018]

Malcom, M. (2015). Maiden Castle Roman Temple. [image] Available at: https://romanfootprints.com/2013/10/15/fusion-temples-for-fusion-gods/ [Accessed 18 Sep. 2018].

Ross, D (Ed) (n.d.) Roman Britain map [image] Available at: https://www.britainexpress.com/images/history/roman-britain.gif [Accessed 22/09/2018]

Tags: roman britainst albansromansarcheologyst albans museumsroman museumceltic britainmortimer wheelertessa wheelersnadridge hoardroman coins

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