The Romano-British north west

small round huts with thatched roofs

The Knutsford and Malpas Hoards are part of a growing body of evidence about the Roman-British north west.

The Roman military centre at Chester was founded in the AD70s, and around a decade later became home to the 20th Legion of the Roman army. The legion had been selected as one of the four to participate in Emperor Claudius’s conquest of Britain, and remained here until the 4th century.

Away from Chester, the North West was not heavily Romanised. People continued to live in roundhouses and their clothing would probably have been broadly recognisable to their Iron Age ancestors. However, some of their material culture such as jewellery showed local interpretations of Roman styles.

The presence of hoards like Knutsford and Malpas, and the rich Romano-British style jewellery tell of weath in the region, and links between the native Britons and the Roman army. Excavations at rural farmsteads such as Irby in Wirral, Birch Heath near Tarporley, and Halewood in Knowlsey have provided evidence of imported pottery being used by Britons.

The coming of the Roman army would have brought large new markets for some products of the north west. This could have been a decisive economic boost for some individuals or groups.  For example, the people who controlled the salt extraction in the Cheshire plains held a resource which would have been vital to the preservation of meats for feeding the army. It’s possible that the wealth seen in the Cheshire hoards was, in part, gathered by powerful and entrepreneurial individuals from such trade.