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