Roman city wall and gate identified

SEVENTY YARDS of Roman city wall and the remains of a Roman city gate have been identified by archaeologists in Exeter.

Survey work being carried out on the one and a half miles of mainly 12th to 14th-century medieval defences have revealed nine small stretches where the original third-century AD Roman wall still survives. Detailed examination of the ramparts has shown that thousands of blocks of Roman basalt building material still makes up parts of the facework of the defences.

In one 18yd (16.5m) stretch of wall the Roman facework masonry has been found to survive to a height of 12ft (3.6m).

Excavations have also revealed the remains of a timber city gate 30ft (9m) wide, built between AD160 and 180.

Exeter's defences were begun AD55 when the site was a 40- acre Roman fortress. A town, known as Isca Dumnoniorum, home to the Dumnoni tribe, developed within the earth and wood fort walls after about AD75 and expanded its defences to enclose 93 acres in the late second century. Then in the early third century the city fathers had a stone wall built.

Some 75 per cent of this defence system, largely refaced in medieval times, still survives today, and Exeter's archaeologists have found that the original Roman basalt facing is still in place along some stretches.

The wall, which is being renovated by Exeter City Council, has a colourful history. It endured, albeit never successfully, seven sieges; in 893 and 1003 at the hands of the Danes; in 1067 for 18 days by William the Conqueror; in 1497 for just two days by the pretender to the throne Perkin Warbeck; in 1549 for five weeks by Cornish Catholic rebels; in 1643, for three months by the Royalists; and in 1645/46 for seven months by the Roundheads.

In its time, the wall has seen both comedy and cruelty. In 1967 one of its Anglo-Saxon defenders sought in vain to help drive William the Conqueror away by standing on top of the city wall and breaking wind in the Norman leader's direction.

The wind of a different variety, however, was used by Exeter's textile manufacturers to dry their cloth, which they had the habit of hanging from the ramparts - that is until 1641, when the city fathers banned the 'very prejudicial' practice in case the weight brought the decrepit masonry tumbling down.

But Richard III developed a more unfortunate use for the ramparts by displaying along it the heads of rebels 'placed in basins'.

Exeter City Council is planning a archaeological survey of the wall next year.

It is currently engaged in a programme of renovation and conservation, which is opening up previously inaccessible areas to the public.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?