Norwich the Old City A History of Norwich Page 2

The Iceni & Romans

During the Iron Age, the area of East Anglia was occupied by a tribe of Celts called the Iceni. The most famous of the Iceni was Queen Boudicca (died 60AD). The exact location of her kingdom (or is that queendom) is unknown. Some say it was near Thetford, some 25 miles south west of Norwich; some place it nearer to Norwich. In his autobiographical novel Lavengro (1851), George Borrow, in describing Norwich, mentions " its mighty mound, which, if tradition speaks true, was raised by human hands to serve as a grave-heap of an old heathen king, who sits deep within it, with his sword in his hand, and his gold and silver treasures about him." Did the Normans later build their castle on top of the grave of Boudicca's husband, King Prasutagus? There is no evidence to support this, but that doesn't mean it's not true. Anyway, back to the story..

After the death of her husband, King Prasutagus, the Romans tried to exert their power over the area by raising the taxes.
When Boudicca led a protest movement, she was beaten and tortured, and her daughters raped. Soon after she raised an army and marched on, and sacked, the Roman towns of Colchester, London and St. Albans. But the victory was short lived. The Romans assembled an army of troops from the outlying regions, and in a final battle, the Iceni were all but destroyed. Boudicca escaped, but then took her own life with poison.
General map of Norwich areaThe vengeance of the Romans was severe, and to keep the Iceni under control they built their town of Venta Icenorum (Market of the Iceni) just a couple of miles south of today's Norwich in the wide shallow valley on the river Tas.

There is no evidence of Roman occupation of the Norwich area at this time, but as there was a cross-roads at Tombland at the time, one can assume there could have been some minor occupation. Certainly the early Anglo Saxons were invading the area and building small settlements.
The Romans controlled the area until around 410 AD. By this time the Anglo-Saxons were gaining a stronghold on the area that was to become Norwich ...

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Copyright © Ken Ward 2004
Last Updated: 28 November 2006

Time Line
Romans begin conquest of Britain under Emperor Claudius.
60Boudicca's Revolt
70Romans build town of Venta Icenorum
410Romans leave Britain and Saxons begin to invade.

Suggested Visits

The reconstructed
Iceni village at
Cockley Cley, Norfolk

The Iceni & Roman Gallery at Norwich Castle Museum.

The site of the
Roman town of
Venta Icenorum at Caister St Edmunds, Norfolk.

See the
Attractions pages.

For reviews of books with local interest
(old and new)
check out the
Old City Bookshelf