“ Address: Shropshire / SY5 6PH / England „
The Roman City of Wroxeter was discovered 150 years ago and was a popular visitor attraction for the Victorians, including Charles Dickens. Going by its Roman name of Viroconium, the site was the fourth largest Roman town in Britain. Originally a Roman fortress, after it was abandoned it became a civilian town and popular retirement home for former Roman soldiers. Obviously not very much remains some 1800-2000 years in the future, but it is still very interesting nonetheless.
After you park in the free car park, you walk into the entrance which doubles as a gift shop, and where there are clean, well-stocked but fairly uninspiring toilets available. The staff were welcoming and friendly, and after checking our membership card, handed over our free audio tour handsets. Before starting the tour we had a walk around the museum. It is only a small museum, but well laid out and informative. The descriptions were clear, and I felt I got a better understanding of the site, its origins and how it was used. There are also artefacts found at the site. After this we went outside and started the audio tour. I estimate it took about 40 minutes but it was very cold, as it is an open site in the middle of a field with no shelter. The audio tour takes you around the site, and you stop at a numbered plaque and press the corresponding number on the handset's keypad. There is often a little bit of info on the plaques showing an artist's impression of what the site looked like when it was being used. Usually you are looking at a few brick remains, sometimes they have been marked out with more modern bricks to show a clearer explanation of how it was supposed to look. Whilst most of the site is at quite a low level the dividing North wall of the baths is still there (you can see it in the above picture).
Originally, the public baths were outside, but I am guessing that the Romans hadn't factored in a West Midlands winter! Subsequently large covered baths were built, but these would still have limited use in the winter, as they would be reliant on the natural light. As well as exploring all parts of the baths, and how they operated we also 'see' the market area and our narrator on the audio tour, a former Roman soldier, really brings the town to life, complete with sound effects of markets and Roman baths in the background. Not all the site has been excavated, but it really is impressive how much they have discovered and managed to piece together from such a small area. This is far from being the most comprehensive Roman site in Britain, but they have done a good job with what they have.
If you enjoy Roman history, or indeed history in general than I think this is well worth a visit, the admission for adults is £4.40 (from April 2010) and this includes the audio tour. It is free to members of English Heritage who manage the property. You will learn about the archaeological practices as well as the lives of the residents of this city during its heyday. I found the staff in the ticket office/shop helpful, there are drinks and snacks available to purchase as well as Roman themed gifts, guide books and postcards. There is access to most of the site for wheelchair users, but some grassy slopes and cobbles which will be difficult. The site is open every day until 5pm from March until 1st November, although it is open during winter months, it shuts earlier and is open only Wednesday to Sunday. As I have already mentioned, it is an open air site (although the museum is inside), so weather is a consideration if you visit. I enjoyed my visit (although it was very cold in early Jan) and do recommend you stop here if you are in the area.