The Roman Fort
Cirencester's recorded history begins soon after the invasion of Britain by the Emperor Claudius in AD 43. In the following years the victorious army over-ran the West Country. In order to link up with the forces fighting further north, a road known as the Fosse Way was constructed about AD 47 linking the Exeter area with Lincoln passing through the Cotswolds. The future site of Cirencester was selected for one of the forts for the military, especially the cavalry; it is thought that up to 800 cavalrymen and their logistical support were housed here. Tombstones of two auxiliary cavalrymen have been found in Watermoor, Cirencester.
Later, about AD 75, a town was established, replacing the fort as the chief city and administrative centre for the British tribe known as the Dobunni, who had not opposed the newcomers. Their tribal centre was formerly at Bagendon, some four miles north of Cirencester, where some earthworks survive today and excavations have revealed coin-mints and many pre-Roman artefacts. The new centre, now known as Cirencester, was formally called Corinium Dobunnorum in Roman references. By the 2nd century, it was the second largest town in Britain, covering 240 acres, compared with the 330 of London with a population of up to 15,000, not far short of the population of today!
The defensive "wall", at first built only of earth, was later faced by an external wall of stone and extra stone towers were added. Most of these defences have disappeared, but their line on the eastern side can be traced in the form of an earthen bank alongside the river in the Abbey Grounds (where a section is exposed to view) and along Beeches Road to the City Bank Playing Field in Watermoor, where a footpath runs along the top of the bank.]
There were at least four gates in the encircling walls of Corinium through which the great Roman roads passed. They crossed in the centre of the Roman town, [now indicated by the crossing from South Way to Tower Street where it cuts Lewis Lane]. Ermin Street on the NW-SE axis passed north through the gates to Gloucester and Wales and departed south to Silchester and the south coast. The Fosse Way and Akeman Street, from Lincoln and Colchester (via Verulamium or St Albans) respectively, converged just outside north-east gate and continued as one road to Bath and the south-west.