Living in Exeter for a few years I got used to walking past Roman Walls on a daily basis, but a recent relocation to Dorchester, Dorset, has meant I’m now discovering new kinds of Roman features on my way to the supermarket.
Dorchester has Roman wall of its own, a very small bit and just the core, but there’s also the pretty intact remains of a Roman Town House, the foundations of a Romano-British temple at Maiden Castle, a hill fort with earthworks you can follow which represent the line of an old aqueduct, and the Maumbry Rings – a Stone Age Henge used by the Romans as an amphitheatre.
Looking at an Ordnance Survey map of the area it’s clear to see these are just a small sample of the area’s archaeological features, but easy targets for my camera on a lunch break. It’s hard to capture one image that makes it clear what Poundbury Camp looks like, but all the other sites fit neatly within the range of my 10-20mm lens. It was also a bit overcast on the day I visited the Camp but converting the image to a black and white one in Lightroom turned the clouds from dull to dramatic with barbed wire fences standing in for soldiers.
If you’re into Romans Dorchester is a great day trip destination. I did my homework before relocating, and in Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ (Casterbridge being a fictionalised version of Dorchester) he wrote:
“Casterbridge announced old Rome in every street, alley, and precinct. It looked Roman, bespoke the art of Rome, concealed dead men of Rome. It was impossible to dig more than a foot or two deep about the town fields and gardens without coming upon some tall soldier or other of the Empire, who had lain there in his silent unobtrusive rest for a space of fifteen hundred years.”
I think he may have been going a bit OTT – Dorchester hasn’t changed much since he wrote it (most of the high street is Grade I or II listed) and while it’s not as Romanesque as he suggests there are plenty of reminders of what the Romans did for us around the town. And plenty of lumps, bumps, and broken masonry to photograph.