Ancient Monuments

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Part of the Roman town of Exeter, beneath Cathedral Green

A Scheduled Monument in St David's, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7228 / 50°43'22"N

Longitude: -3.5305 / 3°31'49"W

OS Eastings: 292063.597396

OS Northings: 92583.292278

OS Grid: SX920925

Mapcode National: GBR P1.8S2G

Mapcode Global: FRA 37H5.GDF

Entry Name: Part of the Roman town of Exeter, beneath Cathedral Green

Scheduled Date: 10 January 1973

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002632

English Heritage Legacy ID: DV 909

County: Devon

Electoral Ward/Division: St David's

Built-Up Area: Exeter

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Exeter Cathedral

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes part of the Roman town of Exeter situated beneath Cathedral Green. The structures, deposits and layers associated with the Roman Legionary Fortress of the Second Augustan Legion established between 55 - 60 AD and the subsequent town of Isca Dumnoniorum are entirely preserved as buried features. After the redeployment of the Second Legion to South Wales in around 75 AD the legionary fortress was dismantled and the site was re-used for the foundation of the new town, which served as both the commercial and administrative capital for the whole of the South West of England. The original timber buildings of the fortress were removed but the stone bath-house continued in use until the mid-80's AD when it was partially demolished to provide a site for the forum or civic centre, although some of the bath-house walls were re-used as part of the basilica or town hall. This building contained offices, a shrine, a council chamber, market hall and magistrate's court. In front of the basilica was a piazza lined with further shops and offices and beyond this an open livestock market. The forum was probably completed in the early 90's AD when work started on the new public baths. The basilica was remodelled in the mid 4th century. By the early 5th century a breakdown in the economic and administrative system led to the desertion of the town by the mid-5th century. By the early 6th century an early Christian burial ground was established over the site of the basilica (to the west of the current Cathedral). This was succeeded by a Saxon cemetery and a new Minster church was built in the late 7th century. From 1114 the current Cathedral and Cathedral Green were established. The richness and potential of the surviving archaeology in this area of the city was revealed by partial excavations in 1971. Modern surfaces, roads, pathways, street furniture, statues and memorials (a number of which are Listed Buildings) are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath all of these features is included.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-448306

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Roman town of Exeter was the administrative and commercial centre for the whole of the South west of England including Cornwall, Devon and Somerset. It was established on the site of an important Legionary Fortress and this served as the basis for the town for a considerable period of time. All the buildings associated with a town of this time were found in the central area, including the forum, basilica, piazza and baths. Following the collapse of the town this same area became established in ecclesiastic use for which it has since continued. As a result a considerable amount of the earlier archaeology has survives and it provides key information about the establishment of a major town during the Roman period and also information connected with its abandonment and collapse. For this reason the part of Isca Dumnoniorum which is present beneath Cathedral Green is remarkably well preserved and with its subsequent re-use as a cemetery provides an important insight into the social and economic changes within the town through time and its effects of the inhabitants.

Source: Historic England

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