Chris Upton examines the Lunt Roman Fort near Coventry - and discovers a unique feature.
A little less than 2,000 years ago the British were striving to get out of the European project. I know this is a familiar enough news story today, but the events of AD 60-61 somewhat dwarf the opt-outs and vetoes of our current relationship with the EU.
In those years - there is some debate as to the exact chronology - Queen Boudica of the Iceni tribe led a powerful revolt against the Roman Empire. It was one of the most concerted attempts to drive back the imperial forces in any part of the growing empire, and occurred only 13 years after the Roman sandal first set foot on the shores of Kent.
The rebellion failed, of course, though it did have the effect of making Rome reconsider its policy in this far-flung corner of her empire, and resulted in the sacking of the then governor of the province.
We do not know for certain where Boudica’s forces met their Waterloo, though many have suggested a location in Warwickshire, perhaps close to Mancetter. Not surprisingly, then, in the aftermath of the revolt, the Midlands was an early candidate for military reorganisation, with the strengthening of defences and the addition of new forts.
One of those new outposts was at Baginton, close to the junction of the Fosse Way and Watling Street. You may know it the place today as The Lunt.
The fort at Baginton, founded in around AD 61, was in operation for no more than 20 years or so, by which time the centre of Roman attention had moved much further north.
Unlike many of its fellow forts, the timber complex was never rebuilt in stone. It was, in all honesty, never intended to withstand a military attack; the local tribe – the Dobunni – were generally sympathetic to Roman occupation. A ditch, turf bank and wooden stockade were the only deterrents considered necessary.
Nor was this a large military site. What evidence has been uncovered of the barrack blocks suggests that the total compliment of forces there numbered only around 480 foot soldiers and 120 cavalry.
Compared, then, to the great legionary headquarters at Wroxeter and Chester and Gloucester, or the impressive fortresses on Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman fort at Baginton is relatively small fry. But in one feature it is unique.