Prior to the Roman invasion, our local tribe the Atrebates, although not part of the Roman empire, were happily trading and paying taxes to the Romans just across the channel in Gaul. But by AD 25 tribes from north of the Thames, who were not so enamoured of the Romans, took their Atrebatic capital Calleva and displaced the Atrebates the the region around Chichester.
Verica, the Atrebatic king, went to Rome to enlist the support that culminated in the invasion of Britain in AD 43 and the restoration of the Atrebatic lands.
After the Roman invasion, this part of England was not under military control. Most of the Roman legions moved out to the Welsh and Northern frontiers where fighting continued.
People in this area found themselves part of the new Roman province of Britannia. This area very quickly returned to the status quo with the re-establishment of Atrebatic kings based on the previous tribal territories.
There is evidence of Roman period activity in our area; see the annotations in red on this map.
Roman roads, industry and finds on our area
Map: David Stokes
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Just to the north is the important Roman road from London, via a bridge at Staines to Silchester – it runs almost parallel to, and just north of the present-day A30. The map shows the possible branch road running SE towards the Roman temple at Farley Heath, near Shere, and onwards to Stane Street at Alfoldean. Click in left navigation bar for more information about this alignment.
Habitation and Industry
Along the Windle Brook, Romano-British sites have been excavated at Bagshot and in the Windlesham Arboretum. At Bagshot has been found shards of Roman pottery, a stone wall, a cobbled floor, a kiln and part of a potters wheel. In the Windlesham Arboretum, evidence of farm buildings covering the period 200-300 AD were were found.
Evidence of iron working has been found, apparently from the Roman period, at many sites along the Windle Brook.
To the east of our region, the main centre of Roman finds is between Chobham Park and the Stanners Hill. In 1962 a Dupondius of Domitian coin was found on the Common 200m south of the Old Slade earthworks . In 1772, in a field formerly part of Chobham Park, an earthen pot was ploughed up, containing a large quantity of Roman Coins of the Lower Empire.
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Although the Romans did adopt Christianity it appears to have come too late to make much impact on our area. In Rome, Christianity was not officially recognised until c.313 – by Constantine. Yet by this date, the development of Roman Towns and villas in Britain was already coming to an end.
The nearest religious buildings of this period to have been found so far are the temples at Farley Heath (south of Shere) and Wanborough (by the Hogs Back).
A Roman jet ring with a Christian symbol was found at Bagshot so there is evidence that towards the very end of the Roman era, Christians did live in our area.
It is possible that there was a Christian site at Bisley associated with the ‘holy well’.
It appears that when the ruling class withdrew back to Rome, only relicts of Christianity remained. For the mass of the local peasantry we can assume that Celtic paganism survived the ‘visit’ of the Romans.
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About 410 AD, administration of the Roman Province of Britain finally crumbled when the emperor Honorius ordered the legions to return to defend Rome. The Roman villas and towns soon crumbled. Without the towns, there was no use for the Roman roads that connected the towns – and the roads also decayed.