Located just to the south of Lichfield, the Roman ruins of Letocetum are based in the village of Wall, which was an important staging post on Watling Street, the Roman military road going into North Wales. Roads were a crucial part of the Romans’ success, providing quick and effective routes of navigating less well-known lands. Staging posts like Wall were designed to provide overnight lodging and rest for horses.
At Wall Roman Site you can still discover remains of a travellers’ inn as well as the public baths, with its clear sequence of cold, warm and hot rooms. There is also a museum which houses many of the items excavated onsite and provides a fascinating insight into how Roman life might have been at Wall.
Despite the site being owned by the National Trust, for the most part Wall Roman Site is managed and maintained by English Heritage. As with most of their open-air attractions, Wall is accessible all year round at reasonable times.
Watling Street itself is an ancient trackway that was paved and extended by the Romans, connecting Wall to the Roman City of Wroxeter, just outside of modern-day Shrewsbury. Much like Wall, the Roman remains at Wroxeter also feature the remnants of a bathhouse.
Letocetum was founded in 50 AD to establish a fortress and establish a presence during the invasion of Britain. Although the local area itself could not sustain a large garrison of troops, the settlement developed with successive bath houses and mansions as a resting place en route to larger Roman settlements.
Following the fall of Rome, the rise of Christianity, and the erection of a cathedral in nearby Lichfield led to the decline of Wall, as well as the destruction of the buildings. Due to the relics of St Chad at Lichfield, pilgrims flocked there instead, meaning Wall fell largely into ruin, though a settlement remained.
The excavations for the site took place in 1912–13, concentrating on the sites of the mansion (inn) and bath-house, but at the time there also showed substantial evidence of a much wider settlement incorporating basilica, temples, and amphitheatre.
Although originally named Letocetum, the village’s modern name of ‘Wall’ came about from the remains left in the village which were discovered by locals. This came about when the Manor near Wall was built in the twelfth century. The first Roman remains to be recorded at Wall were coins and pavements that were discovered in 1686. Antiquarian and archaeology pioneer William Stukeley is said to have witnessed ruined walls being pulled down in the eighteenth century to provide material for building new houses. It is thought that these walls are the ones which gave Wall its current name.
‘The Friends of Letocetum’ was formed in 2008, a local group of volunteers who help manage the site, and facilitated the re-opening of the Museum.