Camulodunum: A Bit Of An Anagram

River Colne

If you find yourself on the A12 in the east of England, then sorry. There are various ways to hell, some paved with good intentions; the A12 is paved with a sort of Swiss cheese tarmac that gives the unwitting driver the kind of experience you might otherwise find in a chiropractor-themed zombie movie.

Bones are both shaken and stirred.

Roman wall; there’s a fair bit of this

You will, therefore be looking for distractions. Botoxing your gonads might be one such. Or wondering at the town of Margaretting – an Essex stroinghold – and how it got its name. The verb ‘To Margaret’ clearly has a long lineage connoting, as it does, the action of destroying through the cunning application of a handbag: as in ‘She margaretted the unions with her sturdy Gucci patent leather double clip’.

However for a proper and guaranteed way of uplifting the spirits, branch off to Colchester, today’s iteration of Camulodunum, an ancient British settlement.

Set on the flatlands of Essex and cuddled by the meanders of the river Colne, it’s an attractive proposition, that recently gained City status which may or may not be a good thing. I’m a bit cynical about the relevance of gongs and awards for people; I wonder what towns get out of such an uplift.

Anyway, on Sunday I diverted from the joys of contraflows and average speed checks to have a peek at a town – sorry, city – I’ve bypassed countless times.

As background, it has a lot of history. After its Ancient British status, the Romans came a courting and via the expedient application of negotiation and violence took control in the first decades after BC became AD. As an aside, when did BC become BCE and why? Who decided this? I was taught that our current calendar started when someone stuck a stick in the space time continuum and decided that was the point hotels in Bethlehem were at a premium. Okay, they needed a marker and that’s the one the western world adopted. To me, it’s just a label, shorthand. So why change it? I guess I’ll never get religion.

Back in time, Claudius had taken over in Rome and was seen as a bit dithery, with some not sure of his legitimacy. Bit like Rishi Sunak but with less teeth and more toga. To prove himself he decided to conquer some of Eastern England, led a bunch of legionnaires – legend has it he brought Elephants, which had to be the ultimate first century big boy’s toy – and set up the new Colchester as his capital from where he set forth to conquer all.

It didn’t all go according to plan for the Italians as, after Claudius died, the place was run by the ancestors of Berlusconi or some such. Nero was in there somewhere. They sequestrated Norfolk, pissed off the Iceni and especially Boudicca and had the place burnt to the ground. Including a temple to Claudius which I took a tour around its foundations.

Now whatever did the Romans do for Essex? They proved you could build on it. What Essex lacks in building materials, esp stone, it makes up for in tanning fluid but that wouldn’t support a temple. So they created this fascinating structure from grit stone – a sort of packed seashells and sand you get near the coast – some mortar and packed sand. There’s lots of sand in Essex.

Natch, after the Romans lost on penalties they withdrew and the temple was deconstructed, but its base remained. Thus when Norman appeared from over the way and decided ‘I want me some castles’ the one in Essex was always going to be a challenge. As anyone who has employed a builder knows, there’s a lot of sucking of teeth and frowning when said builder views the site for the first time and a sort of ‘I wouldn’t start from here’ vibe. That must have been the case in Essex but the builder – whose ancestors merely suffer a shite review on the Best Builder website but at the time was more likely to have found himself part of the structure if he disappointed his client – struck lucky with the Temple footplate. He built to the Roman specification thus creating the biggest castle keep in Europe and so today we have a lovely Norman castle to potter around, climb up and down and enjoy as one of the main Colchester sites.

I had tea, a cake of enormous dimensions and girded my loins to return to the A12. One thing was very apparent as I ground my way south and west towards London; if there is any Roman blood in the national veins, it’s very diluted, so far as their road building prowess is concerned.

Ah me; ready for the road?

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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25 Responses to Camulodunum: A Bit Of An Anagram

  1. Sadje says:

    It is a very historic place. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An excellent tour enabling me evermore to avoid the A12

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think somebody, probably The Archbishop of somewhere, decided it might upset some folk if we continued to say Christ. God, am I even allowed to say Christ? Anyway, I’m sure a committee was formed and they came up with BCE and CE. They probably met in Lowestoft!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. joylennick says:

    As an ‘old Essex girl’ I found that all very interesting. Thank you. Although husband and I drove many miles on Essex roads when younger, my interest in local history was disrupted by five years of being shunted around as an evacuee in World War 11 (South Wales and Derbyshire). Since marriage, we have moved around a tad. Canada briefly, and the last 23 years, Spain. Recommended! How could anyone dislodge you from your beautiful garden though…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. noelleg44 says:

    Geoff, you take us on the most interesting and historical walks. I love going along. I am reading a series of books by Rosemary Rowe set in Roman Britannia – in Glevum (Gloucester). They are mysteries, solved by a mosaic maker ( hence I loved seeing the mosiacs), and they are packed with details about Roman life, food, and customs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A lovely stroll through history, Geoff. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Erika says:

    Beautiful area!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. tootlepedal says:

    You make the A12 quite tempting. Is there a cycle lane?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. willowdot21 says:

    Great photos Geoff and I enjoyed the history too 💜

    Liked by 1 person

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