"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  It was later superseded by 3 more forts.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.


Rustic Pumpkin said...

The trouble with being a small bear is you have to climb to get to anything. I'm sure that's his excuse, and he'll be sticking to it.
What a wonderful selection of Roman artefacts. No wonder you were so eager to return when this small but well presented museum was open. It goes to show you don't have to be big to be better.
Do you know if the phone box was actually a working one? In nearby Porthgain there is a similar setup and the phone box is a working box because it is down in a hollow and there is no mobile phone signal. Even so, I wonder how many people actually use it today?

Rustic Pumpkin said...

p.s. for some inexplicable reason, the composition of the church in the centre of the trees makes me think of Thiepval.

Ragged Robin said...

Rustic Pumpkin - Thanks so much. lol! re Timothy.
The museum, although, small was even better than I expected and anything Roman ties in with D's OU studies in his final year.
I suspect the phone box does not work as they use it as a library but there again not sure. Interesting about the working one by you.
Yes I can see what you mean about Thiepval - such a pity the church was locked.

Billy Blue Eyes said...

who would think there was a place called Wall, Looks a very interesting place to ,a Roman two and a church to visit as well. Can't be bad

Ragged Robin said...

Billy BlueEues - Thanks so much - I agree it is an unusual name! Very interesting place though :)

Rosie said...

I enjoyed your post. I remember visiting a few years ago, the museum was open but it looks, from your photos, to be much improved with cleaner and brighter displays. We didn't go into the village so it was great to see your photos, maybe we will get there again one day:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much. When I parked by the church there were some huge gated properties so the village must extend up there. Hope you can go again - we found it very atmospheric.

The Quacks of Life said...

i am sure that a small little Bear like Timothy can be forgiven!

you know I've never been there! I had never heard of it! cheers for that!

The Wessex Reiver said...

I've learnt something with this post, there are two 'Roman' Walls, well three if the actual Wall is included. The village of Wall I know is situated on Hadrian's Wall, many of the older houses are built from stone robbed from it. I therefore never realised there was another 200 miles to the south. Fascinating and quite extensive ruins too. Good to see gladiator Timothy defending from the barbarian visitors.

Ragged Robin said...

The Quacks of Life - Thanks so much Pete and lol! Iam sure he can. Children were clambering all over them when we arrived and Timothy is so small :)
Well worth a visit if you are nearby. It seems somewhat off the radar and I enjoyed it as much as Wroxeter.Ruins open free most of the time but museum hours limited weekends in summmer so check EH website before you go.

The Wessex Reiver - Thanks so much Andrew.I've just learnt a lot too and I had no idea there was another Wall in the Borders by Hadrian's Wall.I think stones from the site of the Staffs wall were also used in local buildings! Extent of town was quite big once from excavations in the area.

lol! re Timothy.

CherryPie said...

I have visited the wall but never the museum or town.

Ragged Robin said...

CherryPie - Thank you.