Wall Village holds many surprises as LDTA members discovered on Thursday 19th May. Considering it is such a small area, it has a great deal to offer. We met in the Village Hall and were welcomed by John Crowe and Julie Moulds, who acted as our knowledgeable guides for the afternoon. Julie, explained that the Roman site is managed and maintained by English Heritage, and owned by the National Trust. In 2008 a dedicated group of volunteers formed The Friends of Letocetum, to facilitate the opening of the Museum.
A replica Roman Milestone commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee marked the beginning point of our tour. The landmark is located at the original junction of Watling Street and Ryknild Street and was the idea of The Milestone Society, a group who restore ancient finger posts and milestones. Opposite the monument stand a row of modern bungalows, nothing remarkable on the surface but underneath them Roman columns were found hiding buildings that were without doubt far grander. On the edge of this area human bones and pottery have been discovered pointing to evidence this may have been a cemetery.
Continuing the tour, we passed the library encased in a redundant red telephone box, this was bought from BT for £1 and contains books to borrow, donated by the residents of Wall. Like Roman soldiers, we valiantly marched on up the Butts up to the top of the hill where St John’s Church stands. The word ‘Butts’, usually refers to an area used for archery training, but this area in Wall refers to an ancient British track. Standing in the churchyard gave us a wonderful vantage point looking down on to the Roman site below.
A quick peep inside the church was all we had time for, but we did learn that St John’s was consecrated in 1843 and built by George Gilbert Scott who also designed the Albert Memorial in London for the bereaved Queen Victoria. Lichfield Cathedral was also restored by the architect in the Victorian era. Workmen digging close to the church unearthed a large earthenware statue probably dedicated to the goddess Minerva. John, explained that there has almost certainly been a place of worship at this location for centuries and artefacts with Christian symbols have been found over the years. During the 1920’s a bronze bowl inscribed with a “Chio Rhio” Christian symbol was found at a site of a burial, proving that Christian worship was practised before the end of the Roman period.
We were amazed at the history contained within the village, a stone arch once spanned Watling Street alongside the Trooper Inn where a Roman Well was discovered. The locals from the village started to excavate the well but when WW2 broke out filled it back in. After the war the project was resumed and the custodian of the Roman site volunteered to be lowered down on a rope attached to a winch to the bottom of the well. No health and safety in those days! Unfortunately nothing of interest was found. Our walk revealed the strategies used to defend the area, ditches and long grass concealed wooden spikes or sharp metal that projected out of the soil, making it hard to see by incoming invaders. Over the years there have been many interesting finds including a hoard of coins and a window frame still complete with glass, the building of the M6 toll road has unearthed other significant objects.
The name Letocetum, means ‘grey wood’ and began life as a military staging post but soon developed in to a civil settlement offering a high standard of living. We were able to see remains of a ‘mansio’ for travellers and public baths, with its sequence of cold, warm and hot rooms here soldiers could find lodgings for the night and change their horses. The recently refurbished museum provides a fascinating insight into Roman life and displays many of the pieces found in the village. As a local history site this is an excellent venue for school parties and educational visits can be arranged. The outdoor site can be visited by the public at any time. The museum is open on the last Saturday and Sunday of the month and bank holiday Mondays between 11am and 4pm.
The website www.wallromansitefriendsofletocetum.co.uk provides more information about Letocetum and planning an educational visit.
The Roman God Apollo must have been watching over us, the weather was fine and warm during the tour but on arrival back at the village hall the heavens opened. LDTA members were greeted by a sumptuous feast. Fortunately for us not dormice cooked in honey and poppy seeds but a delicious English afternoon tea. Volunteers Sheila, Jane and Jean had been busy since midday preparing a selection of sandwiches, home baked scones served with jam and cream, followed by cake and biscuits all accompanied by a good cup of tea. I’m sure the Romans would never have left Wall if they had tasted the refreshments! Each table had been adorned with a pretty vase of flowers making our food ever more pleasant.
Wall Village Hall is a practical community building and is suitable for a wide range of activities, from martial arts training to wedding receptions, hopefully not at the same time! If you would like to hire this building more information can be found by visiting www.wallvillagehall.com
Many thanks to John and Julie for making our LDTA networking meeting so enjoyable and to the ladies who provided and served the afternoon tea.