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When the Romans invaded Britain in AD 43 the area we now call London was sparsely populated. The Thames was the scene of great tribal battles and ceremonies. Perhaps this explains why there was no significant settlement there before Roman times; the river was a frontier between the tribes.

Hackney was actually outside of London then, or Londinium as the Romans called it. The area that is now known as the City is in fact the area covered by the original Roman settlement of Londinium.

The land was made up of a mixture of open oak and hazel woodland with bracken undergrowth and grassy clearings and streams. The ground, as can be seen on the map was a mixture of sand, gravel and clay, with marshland around rivers.

Hackney itself was a heavily wooded area with flood plains surrounding the river Lea. Prior to the Roman invasion it lay in the territory of the Catevallauni tribe. There were eleven separate tribal kingdoms in England and Wales at the time.

The most important place in Britain when the Romans arrived was Colchester in Essex, or Camulodinium, as it was called, and this is where Emperor Claudius decided to site his capital. It was therefore imperative for him to have a crossing over the Thames so access to Camulodinium could be gained from the channel ports of Kent. That crossing was the first London Bridge and although it has been rebuilt many times it has never moved very far from where the Romans wisely sited it. A port soon sprung up around the bridge as ships could sail up the Thames and so London was born. It was very soon after England became Britannia, a province of Rome, that the administrative centre, in effect the capital, moved from Colchester to London.

And it was from this crossing that the road system of London emerged. Hackney's landscape would have been dominated by the one Roman road running through it; one of the eight Roman roads that led out of London. This road was called Ermine Street and led to the north of England; Lincoln then York.

Although there is no evidence of Roman settlement in Hackney there have been several archaeological finds, most notably burial finds and a possible shrine.

Buy related books

cover
Londinium: London in the Roman Empire by John Morris

Under Hackney: The Archaeological Story, Keith Sugden

In Association with Amazon.co.uk

Roman finds
Archaeological finds in Hackney from the Roman period and geology of the area. The Building Exploratory




Londinium street.
A reconstruction of a street in Londinium. MOLAS




Londinium AD60
Londinium in AD 60. Click to see an enhanced version which can be zoomed in on. MOLAS
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