The link between Bromley & Ancient Rome
In 43AD the Roman army crossed the Channel and began their conquest of Britain. Within a decade the area around the Thames had transformed into a city which would grow, be attacked, be fortified, be burnt, be rebuilt, expand and evolve. However, this isn’t the story I’m here to tell (that’s what we have the Roman Gallery for). This blog is interested in the lives beyond the city.
The outer boroughs of London have some amazing archaeological remains that shed light on what was going on in Roman Britain whilst London was developing. Roads led out in all directions such as the Westward one we’re hoping to find this summer in Hounslow (want to get involved? Find out more here: Excavate Syon). As you get further away from the city, you start to come across impressive temples (like the one in Greenwich) pottery production centres (such as Haringey’s Highgate pottery) and in the South-East, villa complexes. Our previous volunteer projects have looked at the finds from the roman villa at Beddington in Sutton but our current focus is a bit further East, exploring the London borough of Bromley.
Bromley is London’s largest borough. In 1967 excavations began at a site in Keston at an area know as Lower Warbank, where archaeologists from the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit discovered the remains of a Romano-British farmstead. It was one of the largest excavations to take place in the South East, and involved over 500 volunteers.
Their findings were incredible: Iron Age settlers had been living in the area since around 600BC and gradually evolved the site into a small farmstead. As Londinium became an established city, the site embraced roman influences and slowly transformed into a villa complex with three large wooden buildings surrounding a rectangular courtyard, later to be replaced by a masonry building of about 10 rooms. The estate seems to have lasted until about AD 400, with farming and industry providing grain and pottery that was traded with Londinium and the wider empire. Following the Romans, Saxon settlers set up home, the last to occupy the site up until around AD 550.
There were some pretty special artefacts discovered such as ceramic wheels used to decorate pottery, jewellery that would have adorned those that lived here and complete animal skeletons seemingly buried as part of a religious custom. All these objects and more are stored at the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive, however, since they were found over 40 years ago our methods of storage have advanced and these objects are in need of some attention. So that’s just what we’re going to do and we’re doing it in two ways.
First, we’re aiming to get your attention fixed on these objects. Throughout March, we’re taking 2000 year old pottery back to Bromley and will be sharing these items with today’s residents. You can get up close and touch the clay that was shaped into a roman cooking pot. You can run your fingers over 2000 year old fingerprints left behind on a special mixing bowl. If you really want to you can sniff the objects too (lots of people like doing this – I’m not sure why.)
Second, you can help us out and join our team of volunteers as they show you how together we can transform the way these objects are stored and make sure they’re preserved for years to come.
Come along and find out more at the Glades Shopping Centre from Friday 8th – Sunday 10th March; Tesco Extra, Orpington on Friday 15th & Friday 22nd March; and every Wednesday at the Bromley Museum, 6th, 13th, 20th & 27th March.