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Digging up the Collections.....The Romans of Stratford

Within our collection of local archaeology, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has Roman items found at the Tiddington dig, as well as a seemingly contradictory brooch.

Nicola Tinsley
Men working at one of the Tiddington excavations. From the archive at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Men working at one of the Tiddington excavations. From the archive at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

This week I have been rediscovering some of the hidden gems from Roman Tiddington. Shakespeare’s interest in the Romans is evident from some of his plays, in which he provided opportunities to bring great historical figures to life. The Roman world must have seemed a million miles away from everyday life in Stratford, but it’s actually closer than you might think. Warwickshire had many Roman settlements, perhaps the most famous in Alcester and Baginton’s Lunt fort, which was a training camp. In 1925, a Roman settlement was uncovered at the Tiddington golf course, leading to some of the first Roman excavations in the county and revealing some remarkable finds. We even have an archive full of information, field notes, plans, and photographs of the excavations.

Photograph of one of the Tiddington excavations. Caption on the back reads: ‘Tiddington Romano-British Settlement. One roasting oven and foundation of enclosing walls on W&S. Looking East’. From the archive of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Photograph of one of the Tiddington excavations. Caption on the back reads: ‘Tiddington Romano-British Settlement. One roasting oven and foundation of enclosing walls on W&S. Looking East’. From the archive of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Tiddington seems to be a bit of an anomaly: it was not close to the major roadways of Watling Street and the Fosse Way (as other Roman settlements in the area were). It is believed to have been a rural, agricultural site, slightly off the beaten track. A little more surprising is the fact the site has evidence of industry, with two tile kilns and slag from industrial processes (of which there are what seem to be hundreds of bags for me to review!). But even the slag tells archaeologists more about a site as it is evidence of industrial processes and the chemical compounds can be examined.

The Romans who lived here didn’t lack luxury either. Tweezers for personal grooming were amongst the finds along with sherds of imported samian ware, gaming counters, and styli for writing. Jewellery, such as this elegant pin with a tapered hand, was found alongside other brooches and beads.

Pin

One brooch is particularly remarkable and highlights another dilemma about the site and archaeological excavations undertaken in the past: the fact that Alveston Manor and Tiddington are really one and the same in a geographical sense. The land continued to be inhabited after the Romans and became a settlement area for the Anglo-Saxons. This brooch has been labelled Tiddington (usually indicating Roman finds) as well as Alveston Manor (usually Anglo-Saxon), leaving me slightly confused, though determined to discover which period it actually belongs to.

Brooch