The Newarke in Roman Leicester

R2 smallHere in Leicester UK we are fortunate in having a rich urban history, not least of which is the establishment of the city by the Romans in the 2nd century AD. Ratae Corieltauvorum as it was known was founded on the site of Iron Age settlement where the Roman Fosse Way connecting Lincoln and Exeter crossed the river Soar. Currently the Digital Building Heritage Group is working on a 3D digitally animated reconstruction of several key periods of Leicester History, focussing on the area called The Newarke where De Montfort University now has its campus including what it looked like in during the Roman period. The Newarke lay outside the Roman walls of the city and in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD was largely agricultural with some light industry / crafts like brick and tile making, a cemetery lining the road to the south gate and small trading craft plying the River Soar taking goods to and from the wharfs below the city walls on the river bank. The general layout of the city was as one might expect on grid and the city was surrounded by a stone wall with an embankment on the inside and ditches on the outside.Passing to the north of the Newark was a man-made water-course part of which still survives in a set of embankments called the Rawdykes. It seems likely that this supplied the city with fresh water and in particular the two Roman baths, one at Bath Lane near the river and the other much larger one at Jewry wall. How the water was directed past the high walls into the city is unclear but we have shown a water-wheel lift outside the walls to lift it up and over. This is not the only possibility but given the current evidence available is an option which would have been feasible.D4 smallBelow is a 1567 Latin edition of the 1st century AD Roman author Vitruvius’s book De Architectura published by Francesco De Franceschi and illustrated by the architect Andrea Palladio where Vitruvius describes in detail several types of water-lift including Archimedean screws. The knowledge of how to build these machines would have been widespread in the Roman world as water-lifting was common in mines, agriculture and other industrial processes as well as for domestic supply. They were often powered by slaves.vitruvius_screw_1567_p348 small


About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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