News Letter No.7

Friends of the AMPHITHEATREQUERNS WOOD and IV ACRE FIELD

 Autumn 2015

Try not to be too disappointed, but we have no useless facts to amaze you with in this edition. However, regular visitors to the area will have noticed that quite a lot of work has gone on in terms of clearance and other changes across the whole complex, of which more further on. Much of this has been done by the Community Payback Team, and thanks are due to them for the several Sunday’s worth of effort that they gave us.

We mentioned in our last newsletter that we would love to create a sculpture trail across the complex, and this is still a longer term objective. Nevertheless, there are already in existence many items and locations of particular interest as you go around, so, in the shorter term, it is our intention to develop an App which will give a guided tour. Following an appeal to our readership, our thanks go to the several people who have kindly offered their time and expertise to work on this: we’ll keep you posted.

Our Roman history of the area continues and we’re now up to part 3. This has been moved to the end of the newsletter.

 OBELISK

Significant further clearance and general tidying up has been carried out at this location which should now see us through until spring, by which time we hope to have a more structured maintenance programme in place.

An interpretation board is being developed and will be placed next to the obelisk. This will give information about the obelisk (of which little is known) and the Bathgate cemetery which in Roman times extended to beyond the dual carriageway.

AMPHITHEATRE

Visitors come to the site and, apart from a fairly recently installed sign by the entrance from Cotswold Avenue, there is absolutely no on-site information, and nothing at all showing the layout. It is genuinely not unknown for visitors to come and then leave without actually having seen the amphitheatre proper, and being understandably somewhat disappointed at this (non) experience. It is the desire of the Town Council and AQIVA to address these shortcomings and to make the whole visitor experience more interesting, informative and enjoyable.

Fortunately, English Heritage is now taking a much more active interest in the site than has previously been the case and this is making more things possible. They have agreed to fund interpretation boards (probably located at either end of the amphitheatre bowl) as well as more general direction and layout signs. This is a joint project with input from EH, the Corinium Museum, the Town Council and AQIVA.

 There are plans to locate a topograph on the viewing platform which is to the right of the entrance from Cotswold Avenue (this is a sort of mounted plaque which shows the site and its context within the surrounding areas). Alongside this would be a reproduction of what the seating in the amphitheatre would originally have looked like. Disappointingly, our initial application for external funding to achieve this was turned down, but we will continue to look for alternative sources.

The Town Council are working with the Churn Project to deliver a training course in dry stone walling, focusing on repairs to the wall between the amphitheatre and the ambulance station, as well as along Cotswold Avenue. The Cotswolds Conservation Board (areas of outstanding natural beauty) will provide the trainer and English Heritage will fund the materials.

QUERNS WOOD

During October, a considerable amount of work was undertaken to clear along the sides of the pathways and to open up the exit from the woods into the amphitheatre, giving this whole section a much lighter aspect.

FOUR ACRE FIELD

Those of you who have been in since the end of September will have seen that the notice board and benches have finally been installed. We will try to keep the notice board fresh with anything new, though as we go from autumn into winter, there is currently little in the way of activities or events. It is gratifying to see how much the benches are being used, by all ages, and our congratulations (but no bottle of champagne) to the very first members of the public (see below) to avail themselves of this new facility. They say that everybody is famous for 15 minutes, so Sam, Darren (and Toby), this is your time.

We are currently working with the Town Council to plan the wild flower planting for next year

HERITAGE OPEN DAY

Took place in September, when we repeated the previous year’s guided tours of the amphitheatre, followed by the evening bat talk and walk. These were very well attended and are set to become an annual feature.

VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME

For those of you who have offered to become AQIVA Volunteers – we haven’t forgotten you!! We are currently working with the Town Council to develop a volunteer programme for 2016 which will dovetail in with CTC Estates Team’s work schedule for next year.

The Town Council is currently developing a Volunteers Policy and any work AQIVA volunteers undertake will be done within the framework of this policy to ensure safe practice.

 AND (NEARLY) FINALLY

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 our secretary, Alison, at aqivasec@gmail.com. If anyone would like to see previous newsletters, please let Alison know (sorry, but email only).

Meetings – held on the 4th Thursday of every month at Chesterton primary school, starting at 7pm. Next meetings:

Thursday 26 November

December – no meeting

Thursday 28 January

Please feel free to come along.

AND (FINALLY) FINALLY

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE AMPHITHEATRE SITE

 PART THREE – THE BUILDING OF CIRENCESTER

Thirty years after the Roman invasion, in about AD70, the wooden frontier fort that had been constructed in Watermoor was dismantled. This was simply because the area had been conquered, resistance to Roman rule quashed and the process of winning the hearts and minds of the local Dobunni tribe well under way. The settlement that would become Corinium had initially grown up to service the fort.

Most of the population of the growing settlement would have been members of the local tribe which was based in a hill fort at Bagendon.  People moved to provide goods and services to the fort, perhaps as bakers, market gardeners, butchers and so on.   After the soldiers moved on and the fort removed, the settlement continued to thrive. This was helped by its location on the junction of the Fosse Way, Ermin Street and Akeman Street. Also as a centre for trade in sheep, cattle and wool, within a short time it became the tribal capital (civitas) of the Dobunni. Hence the Roman name of Corinium Dobunnorum.

The first recording of Cirencester as Corinium Dobunnorum was not until AD 150 when it was mentioned in the writing of Ptolemy (the Geographia). No doubt the inhabitants would have been aware of a name for the settlement soon after the fort was established but no written records before Ptolemy have been found.

By the turn of the First Century the street grid was laid out and stone buildings constructed. It is thought that the quarry at the site of the amphitheatre was a major source of the building stone for the town. Large public buildings were constructed plus two market places and numerous shops and private houses. About this time the forum, basilica and amphitheatre were built, all the largest in size in Britain apart from those in Londinium. The forum or public square tended to be used as a market place supplementing the surrounding shops. Archaeology tells us that there was a cattle market adjoining the forum with a market hall and several butchers’ shops.

In addition the forum would have been a gathering place where news and proclamations were read out and a space for political discussions and debates. On the edge of the forum was the basilica: this was a large public building used by town officials, magistrates and others for business and legal transactions. In the Roman Empire any settlement which included a basilica could consider itself to be a city. Hence in Corinium, possibly to emphasise its status, the basilica was decorated with beautifully carved Corinthian capitals, Italian marble wall veneers and Purbeck marble mouldings.

Within the town, from about AD110 a number of private stone houses for wealthy individuals were constructed and probably occupied for the life of the town. As time progressed these homes became more luxurious with mosaic floors and sculptures. It is suggested that, apart from evidence of bakers, glass makers, blacksmiths and goldsmiths, there is also an indication of Corinium being a centre for stone-carving and a mosaic industry with two schools of art.

About the time of Hadrian (Emperor 117 – 138) there was a move for more civil development and the town walls were constructed. Five gates provided access to the town, a similar configuration to the present day road network. The walls were improved with towers and raised higher about AD 211. Not only did the walls provide extra security but demonstrated to all the importance of the town.

The busy population of the town were also provided with excitement and entertainment through the construction of the amphitheatre. More on this next time.

 

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