Good communications and trade routes were as essential
for Roman Caistor as they are for Norwich today.
This map shows the trade and communication routes around
Norfolk in the Roman period. It also shows how different the coastline
and river estuaries were at that time.
Some of the roads built to link Caistor with other towns and settlements are still in use, nearly 2000 years later. One of the main routes into Norwich, the A140, on the far side of the valley, follows the line of the Roman road that once led from Caistor to the major Roman towns of Colchester and London. The road would have crossed the river over a wooden bridge and entered the town at the spot where you are standing now.
This area of the town would have teemed with activity, as boats were
loaded and off-loaded along the wooden river-side quay. The River
Tas is part of a network of waterways, providing routes to transport
goods around a large area of Norfolk. Small river boats carried loads
between the town and the sea-ports on the coast. There, the cargoes
were transferred to or from large sea-going ships which traded around
the coast and across the North Sea.
An engraved stone from a ring found at Caistor, showing
a Roman sea-going ship and a lighthouse.
Goods such as corn from the rich
farmlands around Caistor were taken down river, while items such as
fine pottery and wine were imported from the continent and brought
up river to the town.
This group of Roman pottery from Caistor includes a
plain grey jar and a small lamp, both made in the town. The fine red
decorated dish is samian ware imported from France. The Romans were
very fond of seafood; shells left over from their meals have been
found all around the town.
The river was also an important resource in another way. Caistor had
a sophisticated system of water supply and drainage. Evidence suggests
that a clean water supply from springs east of the town was carried
into the town by a wooden pipeline. The slope of the ground down towards
the river aided the flow of water around the town. Waste water was
carried out into the river along underground drains built beside and
beneath the streets. The town's public baths were one of the heaviest
users of water. The large bath buildings were only partly excavated
in the 1930's and stood just the other side of the hedge.
A few years ago a small piece of rolled lead sheet was found on the
riverbank, in dredgings from the riverbed, not far from this spot.
Once unrolled it revealed a curse scratched into the lead, asking
the river god Neptune for help in the return of several stolen objects
and the blood of the thief that had taken them. The thief had taken
a wreath, bracelets, a cap, a mirror, a head-dress, a pair of leggings
and ten pewter vessels. If Neptune was successful in finding the thief
and the goods, he was to accept the leggings as an offering of thanks.
Last updated on 13 August 2009 by John Peterson