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The Romans in Britain

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Roman Building

The Romans were extremely good at building things, roads, buildings, bridges, walls....anything they needed.

They were very well trained, had lots of men to help and always did things the best way, not trying to save time or money.

The Romans invented concrete which meant that they could build much bigger buildings than anyone could have done before. They also used arches a lot to make their buildings very strong.

On this page:

Hadrians Wall
Aqueducts
Roman Roads
How to build a Roman Road


Hadrians Wall

One of the most famous things that the Romans built was the frontier between England and Scotland, called Hadrians Wall, named after the Emperor who ordered it built.

It was started in 120 A.D. and took nine years to build.

It was built to protect Roman Britain from raids by the Picts and Scots. Those were the tribes that lived in Scotland then. It stretched for over 100Km across Northern Britain, and was 5 metres high and 4 meters wide.

It was built so well, that you can still go and see parts of it today, nearly 2000 years after it was made.

What is less well known is that the Romans did invade Scotland and built another wall (The Antonine Wall) in 142AD roughly between Glasgow and Edinburgh.    It was not as solid as Hadrians Wall, and most of it has disappeared but there are some bits you can still see.

It was called the Antonine Wall because Emperor Antoninus Pius was in charge at the time.

The Romans only stayed for about 30 years, after that they went back to Hadrians Wall further south.


Aqueducts

The Romans built fantastic bridges all over Europe, like this aqueduct (a bridge to carry water) in Pont du Gard in Southern France. This one had a path for walking across, one for riding a chariot across and a channel for getting water across!

Roman Roads

It was important for the Roman army to be able to move soldiers and all their baggage around the country. They built roads as straight as possible, in order to travel as quickly as they could.

The roads connected forts and important towns

Many of our modern day roads are in the same place as Roman ones.

If you are ever travelling on a really straight road, with no bends, it's probably an old Roman one. (They have put some new Tarmac on it since then!)

Before the Romans came, roads were just mud tracks high on hills. When planning a new road, Roman surveyors would look for the straightest flattest route.

This would follow the valleys and go straight over hills if no other route was possible.

The surveyors used a Groma. This was a wooden cross with weights hanging from it which gave them a straight line.

The most famous Roman Road

'Watling Street' is the name given to a long straight road that the Romans built from the Kent coast, up through London towards Leicester. Then the road bent round to North Wales. It consisted of 11 straight lines that might change direction where they met.

The reason for building the road was to make sure that the Roman Army could march into central England easily once they arrived at the shore.

Much of Watling Street is used as roads today and many parts of it are still called by the same name.


How to make a Roman Road

  1. Plan your route carefully.
  2. Clear any trees and grass out of your way.
  3. Dig a deep trench and fill the bottom with layers of stones.
  4. Make sure the road will be wide enough for soldiers to march along.
  5. Cover the surface with small gravel or cobblestones.
  6. Make sure that the surface of the road is curved, so that all the rain will run off to the ditches at the edge and not make any puddles.

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