Roman History

Sawtry's Roman Past

When the Romans came to Britain in 43AD they embarked on a major road building program and one of those roads, Ermine Street was built past Sawtry and is, what is now, the Old Great North Road. Sawtry was in a good position for the Romans. They built their road close to the Meres here, their boats could then be brought in on the East Coast and by sailing across the meres they could then connect up with Ermine Street thus cutting out a many days of marching from the south east corner of Britain. The fact that salt marshes of the Wash yielded  a commodity special for the Romans, Salt, and the fact the soil in this area was a heavy Oxford Clay which was ideal for setting up kilns and pottery making the area an important stop off point.  As Sawtry was situated almost exactly halfway between two major Roman settlements, Godmanchester which was once the Roman town of Durovigutum and Durobrivae (meaning the Fort by the Bridge) at Waternewton near Peterborough, this area would have been a hive of Roman activity especially during the time that Ermine Street was being built. It was probably a sort of Roman Travelodge for the Army to break their journey northward and perhaps to be paid. In earlier Roman times soldiers would have been paid in salt which is where the word salary comes from. Pottery and Roman Artefacts have been found all around the village. Evidence of a Roman Settlement was found during an dig in the 1930s at Tort Hill.  Items have been found on The Bullock road that runs along the top of the hills behind Sawtry and if you were to follow it, the track would go all the way to Waternewton, a good vantage point for a marching Army. There have been coins found in Sawtry Fen including some Roman Burial Urns and cremated remains found by Sawtry Archaeology Society (now Sawtry History Society) in 1974. Evidence of  Roman presence here have been found as far south as Monks Wood to Holme in the north and on the hills above Glatton. Coins with heads of all the emperors have been found in the area showing that the Romans were settled here for a very long time.