NGRef: TL708063
OSMap: LR167
Type: Fort, British Capital

Roads
NNE (11) to Braintree (Essex)
NNW (11) to Great Dvnmow (Essex)
Iter IX: ENE (13) to Canonivm (Kelvedon, Essex)
SW (15) to Dvrolitvm (Harold Wood, Romford, Greater London)

Caesaromagus - The Field of Caesar

The Roman town of Caesaromagus lies to the west of the crossing of the main London to Colchester road over the Rivers Cam and Chelmer, beneath the modern town of Chelmsford. The Latin name means "Caesar's Field", possibly indicating that it was on this site that Claudius Caesar fought and vanquished the remaining British armies prior to the taking of the British capital Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex). The settlement was part-enclosed by earth defences during the period 160-200AD, but these were leveled during the first quarter of the third century.

Roman Chelmsford is mentioned in three of the major classical geographies. The second century Antonine Itinerary lists the town in two of its routes; it appears as the first road station in Iter V "The route from London to Carlisle on the Wall", as Caesaromago, 28 miles from Londinium (London, Greater London) and 24 miles from Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex), which the itinerary names Colonia. In addition, the town appears toward the end of the Ninth Itinerary, "The route from Caistor St. Edmund to London", which deals with the same road as the Fifth Itinerary, but in more detail. The town is again named Caesaromago but this time is listed 9 miles from Canonium (Kelvedon, Essex) on the route north to Colchester, and 12 miles from Durolitum (Romford, Greater London) towards London in the south.

The town appears in the seventh century Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#98) as Cesaromago, between the entries for London and Colchester, also as the ultimate legible entry in the Peutinger Table of the eleventh century. This document was an early medieval copy of an original Roman map which was cut into several pieces, and the Chelmsford entry appears on the western edge of the surviving British segment, obviously truncated on the left, the surviving letters of the name read -baromaci. The icon representing this town is shown connected to another icon above labelled Caunonium (Kelvedon, Essex), and the distance indicated between the two stations is 8 miles, which is within a mile of the measure quoted in Antonine Iter IX.

The Roman Military Presence

A rampart and ditches, found by excavation lying below the level of the Romano-British town, may indicate the presence of one single or two successive Roman forts. A tessallated pavement, discovered in the nineteenth century, may have belonged to a bath-house attached to the above-mentioned fort(s). A mansio was built next to the site of the bath-house to the south-west, and can be dated to c.120AD.

Excavations in 1970 Uncover Romano-British Temple

An octagonal temple built of stone masonry in the 4th century was located some 560 feet (c.170m) north-west of the mansio. Possible use into the fifth century may be indicated by coins recovered from the site. Excavations were conducted at three sites within the town during 1970:

  1. at nos. 191/2 Moulsham Street timber buildings associated with minor industrial activities were first erected around the turn of the 2nd century and remained in use until the early-3rd, being finally abandoned by the end of the 4th.
  2. at nos. 29-31 Rochford Road a Roman branch-road about 13 feet (4m) wide was uncovered, with two 1st-century cremation burials set within the silt of the south-western ditch, proving that the road was probably not maintained after it had been laid. To the south and west of this road lay an early Roman stone-quarry which was later used to dispose of late-Flavian pottery wasters. By the mid-2nd century this side of the road was fronted by timber buildings which continued to be occupied until the 4th century. In the area to the north-east of the road was the temenos enclosure of a Romano-British temple, The temple was octagonal in outline with a cella about 36 feet (c.11m) in diameter on foundations 3ΒΌ feet (1m) thick, and included an 8 feet (2.5m) wide niche in the west wall. This was surrounded by a porch 58 feet (17.7m) across, the collonnade of this ambulatory being supported on foundations only 2'3" (0.7m) wide. The temple was built upon the same site as earlier structures and has been given a terminus post quem of around 320-325AD, a small porch later being added on the east side. Of special note is an isolated post about 14 inches (c.0.35m) in diameter which was found within the sacred enclosure in association with a number of pieces of jewellery including brooches, rings and a bracelet. Some sort of native Votive totem-pole?
  3. Other investigations further to the north-east proved Roman settlement immediately adjacent to the River Can.
See: The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp.207-214 & fig.94;
Britannia ii (1971) pp.271/2.