News Letter No.6

Friends of the AMPHITHEATRE QUERNS WOOD and IV ACRE FIELD

Summer  2015

Useless fact no. 729. Not actually anything to do with the AQIVA complex, but, what the hell, let’s live dangerously. Close to Hyde Park Corner in London stands Apsley House. It was built between 1771 and 1778 for Lord Apsley, who was Lord Chancellor at the time, and who later became Lord Bathurst (there’s the local connection: clever, eh?). The house was known as Number One London, as it was the first property that travellers came to after passing through the tollgate at Knightsbridge. It was sold in 1807 to the Marquis Wellesley who, in turn, sold it in 1817 to his younger brother who was, by then, the Duke of Wellington, and whose descendants still live there.

Anyway, back to our little bit of Cirencester. We would welcome new members to our friends group who might bring new thoughts or skills or who generally would like to have an involvement in what we are doing. We can promise you a boring fun packed couple of hours at our monthly meetings. Alternatively, if you are able to provide extra arms and legs on an occasional basis, to help with specific tasks, that would be equally welcome. We do have a growing list of projects we would like to undertake over the next year, too many of which are unfortunately subject to financial constraints. For example, we would love to gradually build up a sculpture trail across the complex, so if any of our readers have good mafia connections that could help with fund raising, please let us know.

 OBELISK

In spite of all the clearance work done, the area rapidly became overgrown again, and the town council have done a further tidying up exercise. But it is a bit like the proverbial painting of the Forth Bridge, so the AQIVA group are in the process of planning a more regular volunteer maintenance programme for here and other areas of the site, to try to keep everything looking more attractive, welcoming and accessible. Have we mentioned anything about extra arms and legs being welcome…………….?

 Work to prepare the information board continues, and funding is still being sought to do maintenance work on the obelisk itself.

 AMPHITHEATRE

Wild flowers in 4 acre field are a regular feature of our newsletters, but the amphitheatre has its own naturally occurring plant life, every bit as attractive.

The amphitheatre is an extremely important part of both local and national history. At the entrance from Cotswold Avenue is a plaque showing what it may originally have looked like: for those who haven’t seen this, we show it below, together with a current view.

This leads nicely to what you have all been so eagerly anticipating – part 2 of our Roman history. We left part 1 with the Roman army crossing the channel with their buckets and spades expecting a nice few days at the seaside: they got more than they bargained for. Read on.

Before the Romans arrived the site of the Amphitheatre was a gently sloping hillside with outcrops of rock and probably covered with trees and scrub. In Rome events were unfolding that would significantly change Britain for the next 400 years. In January AD 41 the Roman emperor Caligula was murdered by the Praetorian Guard; he was replaced by Claudius who needed to establish his sovereignty. Taking advantage of a dispute between tribes in southern Britain, Claudius mounted an invasion. In AD 43 an army of 40,000 highly trained, battle hardened troops and auxiliaries crossed the channel. The army advanced through Kent where they met a substantial British force. The ensuing battle near Rochester lasted two days, leaving the Romans triumphant.

The Roman army continued across the Thames, firstly towards Colchester and later north and west. The territory of the defeated tribes fell under Roman rule and the taxes and tithes increased the wealth of the empire. It was reported to Claudius that his army had received the surrender of eleven Kings although there were still numerous tribes that refused to accept Roman rule.

By late AD 47 the Romans had secured a frontier that ran from the River Severn to the Wash. This was marked by a defensive ditch locally, and, for additional protection, where the frontier crossed the River Churn, a fort was constructed. This fort at Watermoor marked the arrival of the Romans in Cirencester.

The invasion of Britain continued north and west and as the British forces were diminished by the might of the Roman armies the frontier moved north. Along the line of the early frontier a road was constructed, and as the Latin for ditch is fossa the road became known as the Fosse Way.

The arrival of the Roman fort in Cirencester proved to be a magnet for the local people. The needs of the fort would have created local trade; supplying the troops with food, materials and labour. Subsequently a settlement grew up outside the ramparts of the fort, populated by the Dobunni tribe who moved down from their village in Bagendon.

By about AD70 there was no longer a need for a garrison in Cirencester and the fort was dismantled. However, by this time further business had developed. The Fosse Way was one of the country’s major routes providing opportunities for trade, and local sheep and wool products would have been in demand. The settlement continued to prosper and started grow towards being the second largest town in Roman Britain.

Next time – the construction of Corinium Dobunnorum and the Amphitheatre

 QUERNS WOOD

We still have the missing link from the end of the pathway through Querns Wood into the amphitheatre. It causes no problem at the moment but could revert to last winter’s quagmire with sustained rainfall. The cost of making an improved access via this link is around £1,000: we are looking at funding possibilities.

The 1st Cirencester Scout Group will be taking on a project to make some bat boxes to be located around the woods. Our thanks to Hailey Wood Saw Mills who have kindly offered to donate the wood for these.

 FOUR ACRE FIELD

Sorry, but we couldn’t completely ignore the wild flowers here, and the bumble bee mix along the Cotswold Avenue side of the field attracted bees and other visitors.

The ground along this strip had been left undisturbed for a great many years, and the preparation that was carried out prior to sowing never was going to clear everything that had been so long established, so the brambles and other vegetation that were there have started to reclaim their territory. Nevertheless, a good start was made and we will have to see what might be achieved next time round.

The benches and notice board have now been delivered and we are now trying to organise installation.

HERITAGE OPEN DAY

 On Saturday 12 September, we will be co-ordinating our event with the scout group. We will be offering guided walks and history of the amphitheatre, one starting at 11am, and the other at 2pm, starting at the scout hut car park. And we will be repeating the bat talk and walk that was so popular last year, starting at 6.15pm in the scout hut. Meanwhile, the scouts will be running a family fun day running from 10am to 4pm. They will have a range of activities, and refreshments will be available. We will have a table there where you can learn more about us.

 AND FINALLY

 Civic Society Fair – will be held from noon to 2pm on 24 September in the Bingham Gallery. This is to showcase what is on offer in Cirencester for local residents. AQIVA will have a table there.

Communication – there is plenty of information as well as photographs on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfAmphitheatre?fref=ts  If you would like any more detail, please contact Alison Horrocks (Secretary) on 01285 659628 or via email on

horbox@hotmail.comIf anyone would like to see previous newsletters, please let Alison know (sorry, but email only).

Meetings – from September onwards, our meetings will be switching to Thursday evenings, but still starting at 7pm at the Chesterton Primary School. Our remaining meetings this year will be:

Wednesday 26 August

Thursday 24 September

Thursday 22 October

Thursday 26 November

December – no meeting

Please come to any or all of these if you wish.

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