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Caistor St Edmund

Caistor St Edmund lies approximately four miles south of Norwich. It is a small village today but was once the location of Venta Icenorum - one of the the largest Roman settlements in East Anglia.

Venta Icenorum

The site, which has been excavated on a number of occasions, once contained temples, baths, a forum and an ampitheatre. Aerial photographs taken by the RAF in 1928 first revealed the extensive street pattern under the soil and in the following year an archaeologist from Manchester University named Donald Atkinson began to unearth the secrets of the site.

Ninety years later a second excavation was undertaken by Professor Will Bowden from Nottingham Univeristy and a large team of volunteers. They worked for 10 years and the excavation finally ended in 2012. Their evidence suggested that the town was much larger than was originally thought.

Inside the south-east corner of the walled town lies St Edmund's Church.

The tiny River Tas flows past the walls of the Roman Camp. Originally it was thought that the Tas was much larger during Roman times and that barges unloaded commodities here - but recent research suggests that it was probably the same size that it is today - though its channel may have shifted.

Today the site is used to graze sheep but is easily accessible and there are noticeboards providing information about the town and its history.

There is a sonnet about Venta Icenorum by the Norwich poet Ron Nevett.

On Caistor St Edmund

Caistor was a city when Norwich was none,
Norwich was built of Caistor stone 

On wildflower walls a fading legionary
Observes the Norwich-London train's straight line
Unseen by sheep who chew the greenery
Inside their quadrant's crumbling flint and lime

One year the barley glowed with road and alley
And showed the airman Venta Icenorum
Was not an idle story of the valley
But clay and timber: temple, baths and forum

And citizens, like Nase who scratched a lead scroll
To offer Neptune leggings for a thief
Or those who gamed with bones or broke a red bowl
Or wore the sunlight on them as gold leaf

And heard an empire passing with a shiver
And turned to grass and earth beside Tas river

I have also written a villanelle about the Roman Camp.

Venta Icenorum

Under this field, the old street patterns lie
But all the legions have now marched away
And cawing rooks above the treetops fly

Beneath an ever changing Norfolk sky
And only crumbling walls remain today
Under this field, the old street patterns lie

And the London train passes by on high
And only grazing sheep are here to stay
And the tiny Tas runs quietly by

No vendors in the busy market cry
No worshippers to Mars and Venus pray
Under this field, the old street patterns lie

No boats upon the river now untie
No actors in the ampitheatre play
And the tiny Tas runs quietly by

For in the end, all empires fall and die
And time moves forwards without delay
Under this field, the old street patterns lie
And the tiny Tas runs quietly by.


More photographs of Caistor St Edmund




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