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There is much evidence locally dating back to the period of Roman occupation (AD43 - c.410).
The great Roman empire under Claudius, expanded across the English Channel in AD43, and soon overran southern Britain. Such was the organization of the Romans that very quickly military bases were established across the country, joined by fine-quality roads. Within a few years, most of the southern part of Britain was living a reasonably peaceful life under Roman rule. Many of the more important roads are distinguishable today.
A road from the area capital of Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) passed west and slightly north, crossing the Kennet at a ford near Thatcham. It passed on just north of Newbury to the military station of Spinae (Speen), and then north-west towards Durocornovium (Wanborough) and Corinium (Cirencester). This road is today called Ermine Street, going through Wickham, Shefford Woodlands, and Baydon.
- Archaeologist Bryn Walters talking to site visitors at the Orpheus mosaic, Littlecote, July 1981.
In October 1978 a huge hoard of Roman coins was found by metal detectorists in Black Field at Mildenhall, just west of Ramsbury. This was known to be the site of the Roman military station Cunetio. The hoard comprised over 55,000 coins, weighing 3½ cwt (about 175kg), and was in an earthenware jar and lead box. See "Black Field yields Roman 'mint'" - Marlborough Times, 20 Oct 1978, The hoard was later declared "Treasure Trove". See "Treasure Trove verdict on Roman jackpot" - Marlborough Times, 6 April 1979.
Nearby Roman roads:
A branch off the road at Wickham, took a westerly route towards Aquae Sulis (Bath). Its line can still be traced passing Orpenham Farm, Clapton and Radley, to the junction of Wantage Road with Gipsy Lane (Folly Crossing) just north of Hungerford. From here its exact position is not clear, but it continued its westerly course, fording the river between Hungerford and Chilton Foliat, and then ran on the southern bank until it reached the military station of Cunetio (Mildenhall), where several roads met.
Littlecote Roman villa:
At Littlecote Park, a mile to the west of Hungerford, excavations in 1976-1991 rediscovered the famous Orpheus mosaic, which was originally found in 1727, but covered soon after by the owner of the estate to avoid publicity. The mosaic, which is itself very unusual in this part of the Roman Empire, lies in an elaborate chamber at the end of one wing of an extensive Roman building. Follow the link to Littlecote Roman villa for much more on this important Roman site.
Roman field systems on Hungerford Common:
Evidence of Roman field systems have been found on Hungerford Common following an extensive and detailed survey carried out in 2005 as part of the Urban Commons Project by English Heritage. For the full report see Hungerford Common, Freeman's Marsh and Environs, Aerial Survey and Investigation Special Project AER/5/2005, English Heritage (pdf 6.7Mb).
The end of the Roman era:
The end of the Roman occupation of Britain: The Roman occupation of Britain lasted nearly four hundred years.
During the fourth century there were repeated incursions by the Picts and Scots, as well as invasions from across the Channel by the Saxons. The first decade of the fifth century saw Roman imperial frontiers progressively failing under the pressure of various uprisings, especially in Europe. In response, the army in Britain set up its own emperor Constantine III, but while he was on the Continent with the island's army, repelling invading barbarians and quelling renegade Gauls, he left Britain vulnerable to attack. Raids by Saxon pirates in their emperor's absence led the British to reject his authority. In 411 Constantine III was finally defeated and killed in southern Gaul.
In 406 the Roman troops in Britain were transferred back to the continent, and when Rome itself sacked by the Visigoths (an East Germanic tribe) in 410, the imperial authorities were too weak to re-impose control in Britain. By 410 the withdrawal was complete.
The occupation had lasted the equivalent of 12 generations - the same span of time from Queen Elizabeth I to the present day. Despite this, the Britons themselves appear to have learned little about government and organization.
Appeals went to Rome for reconsideration of the evacuation, but the empire was collapsing, there were greater problems elsewhere, and the last appeal dated 446 was ignored like the others before. British history drifted reluctantly into the period known as the Dark Ages, although recent knowledge and research is shedding some light upon it.