Everyday life with the Romans

man in costume with a shield

David Freeman in Romano-British
clothing © David Freeman

Most people in the countryside continued to be peasant farmers after the Romans arrived. Life revolved around the seasons. There were crops to be planted and harvested, and animals to be milked, tended and slaughtered.

Excavations at Irby and Halewood show that farmers were growing cereals such as barley, emmer and spelt wheat, as well as beans and peas.

Animal bones rarely survive but bones from Irby or Court Farm show that sheep, pigs, cattle and chickens were all kept. Livestock were seen as a measure of wealth. Oxen were important to the local people and often occur in decorative metalwork such as mounts on wooden buckets.

Alongside farming, they also spun wool and wove their own clothing. Numerous spindle whorls show that spinning wool to make yarn was a common activity at the farms. The local farmers may have learnt bronze casting, to make decorative items such as brooches, and blacksmithing to make their own iron tools.

The influence of the Romans

girl wearing a simple gold bracelet and necklace

A museum visitor modelling examples
of Roman-inspired jewellery

Very little changed immediately when the Romans arrived but within a generation or two local people increasingly came into contact with Roman fashions. New farms were set up in the countryside, some settled by retired soldiers familiar with Roman manners and customs, some by natives from elsewhere in Britain. People began to use pottery in their everyday lives for preparing and serving food. Luxury wares were imported from the continent and more functional types came from other areas of England and were also made locally.

People gradually started to use Roman coins in the countryside to buy the new types of goods in local markets although traditional ways of exchanging goods and produce probably continued throughout the period.

New styles of clothing and jewellery were introduced. Brooches became a common dress accessory for men and women and hobnailed shoes appeared for the first time. Women now had access to Roman cosmetics and fashion jewellery.

The greater use of durable materials means that much more survives from the Roman period than before.