NGRef: TQ1794
OSMap: LR166/176
Type: Fort, Minor Settlement, Pottery

Roads
Iter II/Watling Street: SE (11) to Londinivm
Itinera II, VI & VIII: Watling Street: NNW (8) to Vervlamivm (St. Albans, Hertfordshire)

The Roman name for this small industrial settlement astride the main military highway into Britain is contained in a single classical source but its identification is fairly secure. The Antonine Itinerary of the late second century contains the name Sulloniacis in Iter II, the longest road-route in Britain, some 9 miles from Verulamium (St. Alban's, Hertfordshire) and 12 miles from Londinium (London); these figures match the measured distances to Brockley Hill fairly well.

This small settlement was placed roughly halfway between the Roman provincial capital and the old tribal capital of the Catuvellauni, and is thought to have been the site of a fort erected during the initial years of the Roman invasion. During its short occupation period, the fort seemingly attracted a small group of local Britons who settled beside the road leading from the main gates of the encampment. These people would have provided services to the soldiers of the garrison; apart from the obvious brothels, vintners, bakers and ale-houses, other, more mundane trades would also be represented, such as cobblers, blacksmiths, potters and tailors.

The rapid conquest of lowland Britain meant that the Roman auxiliary force were not stationed at Sulloniacis for very long, before the fort was demolished and the unit moved closer to the scene of military action. The Roman presence was maintained, however, by the building of a posting-station or mutationes, where official users of the Roman road would be cleansed, fed and quartered, before continuing refreshed upon their journey, supplied also with a change of horses. The establishment of the Mutatio perhaps pursuaded a number of the civilian population to remain behind after the garrison had moved on, to offer their services instead, to the numerous travellers who would have frequented the posting-station, placed as it was on the main military highway into the heart of the new Roman province.

Excavations in 1970

TQ174941 - Excavations conducted in 1970 within the grounds of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital to the south-west of the Watling Street found much evidence in confirmation of a flourishing pottery industry in Roman Brockley Hill. A number of clay-pits were dotted about the site, some of which contained pottery wasters of the late-1st century, very likely connected with the kilns to the immediate north, which were excavated in 1950/1. Two industrial quernstones were also found, set upon a tiled floor and associated with pottery and coins of the 4th century.

See: Historical Map and Guide - Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001);
Britannia ii (1971) p.274.