43 BC–450 AD - Roman Britain

The Roman Army invaded Kent in 43 BC and it gradually spread West and North until it had conquered most of Britain. Britain was part of the Roman Empire for nearly 500 years.

  • Roman houses were different form anything ever seen before in Britain. Here we are looking from the dining room into the courtyard of a Roman villa in Somerset (a model in Yeovil museum).

The Romans brought roads, military camps, towns, writing, international trade, new industries, new ideas and ways of doing things. They transformed some parts of Britain for ever. Although most people still lived on farms, now they were part of the Roman system. They paid taxes. They improved their farms to produce extra food to sell. They started to live a more Romanised way of life.

What do we know about the Quantocks in Roman times?

The Dumnonii tribe did not fight against the Roman Army. Soon the area was under Roman rule, with a new capital town at Exeter. Life was peaceful and quiet, and probably did not feel very different. The same families probably carried on farming the same land, or working iron, and change was slow.

  • These scraps of pottery prove that people lived on the Hills in Roman times. The red pot was made in France (Gaul) and the other pot was made locally

By now, the Quantocks was looking more as it does now: lots of small farms and fields, with woods and pasture on the higher land. Gradually Roman-style towns and villages began to grow on the lower land surrounding the hills and on the coast. As families grew richer they replaced their old Iron Age–style wooden round houses and built rectangular Roman-style stone houses (villas) instead.

The Quantocks was a good place to live. Some estate-owners became rich and built fine villas. Archaeologists found a villa at Spaxton. Another was found recently at Yarford. It had complicated mosaic floors, a luxury in Roman times, painted walls, central heating and a bath-house. It must have had wonderful views over the hills.

  • Part of the dining room floor of Yarford villa, made in the 4th century by craftsmen at Ilchester. The design shows a wine-jar.

There have been more important discoveries about the Roman Quantocks. In 2001, someone found a hoard of Roman coins at West Bagborough. A rich Roman buried this money to keep it safe, but never dug it up again.

  • Altogether 681 silver coins were found and 78 pieces of silver. The dates on the coins show that the hoard was buried in about AD 365.