"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Monday, 2 October 2023

Wall (Letocetum) Museum, Roman Town and Church


D and I revisited the Roman ruins at Wall (Letocetum) near Lichfield recently.

The Jubilee Milestone is to be found near the car park. It was erected by people living in the Parish of Wall to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen in 2012.  Wall once had a Roman milestone but it was lost during agricultural improvement in the 1970's although a fragment of a similar stone can be seen in the museum.

Last time we went the museum was closed and I deliberately timed this visit so it would be open as its full of items found mainly during archaeological investigations between 1912 and 1914 of what remains of the Roman town and the Roman cemeteries nearby.

The museum is fairly small but has a lot of items and very friendly and informative volunteers.

If you click on the photos to enlarge them in a gallery I think you'll be able to read the labels of the items displayed.

This is the fragment of a milestone.

I loved this duck brooch probably used to fasten a cloak and we bought replica pin badges.

Wall is looked after by both the National Trust and English Heritage!

The church of St John the Baptist is on a hill behind the Roman site.

Wall was a small Romano-British town located on the Roman road called Watling Street which was the principal route from London to the West Midlands.  There have been several archaeological investigations on the site since the C19th.

The town developed around forts built by the Roman army on the hill where the church is now located.  The first fort was built as part of the Roman advance into Wales in the middle of the 1st century AD.  It was later superseded by 3 more forts. The final one was abandoned in the 2nd Century AD.  The museum (please see above) houses finds made in the baths, mansio (or inn) and also from cemeteries discovered to the west and south west of the town. The town was also an industrial centre which produced glass, pottery and metal work. 

The baths and mansio ceased to be used towards the end of the 3rd century AD.  Early in the 4th century a wall and 3 ditches were built to defend an area in the east.  The history of Wall is uncertain after this date but by Medieval times Lichfield was the main town in the district and Wall remained a small village.

The ruins are comprised of baths, hot and cold rooms, changing rooms, exercise hall and the mansio or inn.

The baths (see photos below) were a focus of social life in a Roman Town and they were a place for relaxation, exercise, meeting  friends as well as for bathing. Inside the bathhouse the rooms were large and the walls would have been covered in plaster and then decorated with pictures of gods and goddesses from Classical mythology and animal and flower motifs.  The baths were made up of hot rooms, warm rooms, cold rooms and a changing room.

The exercise hall was an open courtyard in Mediterranean countries but in England would probably have been under cover. Exercises included ball games, wrestling and weight training.

The foundations of the mansio suggest it was probably two storey and it provided lodging and fresh horses for travelling Government officials and accommodation for visitors. It may also have been used for town administration.

The mansio contained a courtyard which probably contained a fountain.

Plants in Walls

Timothy had to be reminded that there was a sign saying "no climbing"!!!!

Exercise yard

We were lucky to have the site (and museum) to ourselves as people were leaving as we arrived and were arriving as we left!  Wall is a pretty little village.

The church of St John the Baptist is normally open in the summer but I was told by a villager that it was now locked due to thefts :( But I did go and have a quick look at the churchyard and exterior. It was a shame it was closed as I understand it has some good Victorian stained glass by Kempe and an unusual wrought iron lectern.

The church is Grade 2 listed and was built in 1843 by Scott and Moffat. It was probably designed by Gilbert Scott. The clock on the tower came from Shenstone Court and was installed as a memorial to all those who died in World War One.

There are lovely views from the churchyard towards Letocetum and the surrounding countryside.

A couple of photos taken by D in the village.



I am so glad we returned when the museum was open although its a nightmare place to find. The sat nav was determined to send us by the M6 toll road :( and the A5 had a particularly nasty double roundabout - a nightmare when you don't know the route! The A38 towards Lichfield has several of those huge nightmare islands with zillions of exits and traffic lights every few feet which means if you find yourself in the wrong lane its impossible to switch to the right one!!!  Even with the sat nav I managed to get totally lost on the way home! 

Photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera and those marked *D were taken by my son with the Canon SX50HS bridge camera. (I don't particularly rate my photos but if anyone wishes to use one of mine or my son's I would be grateful for an email first - thanks).

Reference: English Heritage Guide book to Wall, Information boards in the museum and around the site.