Manchester Wordsquare

Object name: Manchester Wordsquare

Date: Roman Manchester

Materials: Terracotta

Manchester Museum, Manchester, UK

EMu user since 2000


juneThe area of Manchester lay within the territory of the native Celtic tribe, the Brigantes, when the Romans arrived. The commander of the Roman legions, Julius Agricola, decided the area around the confluence of the Rivers Irwell and Medlock (now Castlefield) was an excellent position to defend against the Brigantes, and a Roman fort was built in 79 AD. This position was on the Roman road linking Chester (Deva) and York (Eboracum). He called the place "Mamuciam", meaning "breast-shaped hill". At this time a garrison of 500 men were stationed in the fort, probably made up of soldiers from Romania and Spain. By 160 AD the fort had been rebuilt and a settlement (or vicus) of 2000 civilians had grown up within its walls. Many of the civilian Britons would have married Roman soldiers, forming the basis of the Romano-British population of what we now call Manchester.

The remains and reconstruction of the later fort can be seen in Castlefield. Many important archaeological finds have come from excavations here, such as a word square bearing the beginnings of the Lord's Prayer, the oldest Christian artefact known in Britain, dated to the late second century AD.

Around 411 AD the fort was abandoned when Roman forces withdrew from Britain. In the following centuries Anglo-Saxons began to settle and spread across England, and the Saxons renamed the town "Manigceastre".