After two earlier skirmishes, Britain was finally invaded, under Emperor Claudius, in AD 43. After establishing a base on the Medway, the Romans progressively fanned out to cover the south and east of England and then the whole of England and Wales. In some cases the local tribes reached an accommodation with the Romans but in others, notably Boudica’s Iceni, there was considerable resistance.

When the Romans reached what is now Yorkshire they established a base at Isurium Brigantium (Aldbrough). Cartimandua the wily Queen of the Brigantes, accepted Roman terms that established Brigantia (and with them the Parisi) as a semiautonomous client kingdom. Thus, the tribes lived in relative tranquillity while the Romans dealt with the more belligerent tribes. In AD 51 Cartimandua demonstrated her loyalty to the Romans when she handed over, in chains, the British resistance leader Caratacus, who was seeking sanctuary after his defeat by the Romans in Wales. However, the peace came to an end in AD 57 when Cartimundua divorced her husband, Venutius, in favour of his armour bearer Vellocatus. Incensed, and in spite of Cartimundua holding his brother and other relatives hostage, Venutius staged a palace revolution and led “nationalist” Brigantes in a challenge to the Romans. Emperor Vespasian eventually sent the IX Hispana Legion to suppress the revolution. As a result, the insurgents were repressed and Cartimundua retained the throne. However in 69 AD Venutius staged another revolution. The Romans were only able to provide limited auxiliary support for Cartimandua who was evacuated, leaving Venutius in control of a kingdom at war with the Romans. Cartimundua was not heard of again.

It seems that Cartimundua and/or Venutius had their base at Stanwick-St-John close to modern Scotch Corner. There, a massive earthwork and stone enclosure of around 650 acres was constructed on the site of an Iron Age hill fort around 50 AD. There has been considerable debate as to whether it was a defensive structure or a Brigantian trading post. In any case, it fell out of use around AD 70.


The Base at Petuaria (Brough)

The Romans established an early civitas capital at Petuaria (Brough) together with forts at Hayton and Malton. There was also a settlement at Derventio (Stamford Bridge). These were used in the conquest of the Parisi. The legionary fortress at Eboracum (York) was occupied by the Legio IX Hispana in 71 and by 130 it had become the only active military base in the area. It became the provincial capital and by the early fourth century it was the headquarters of the Dux Britanniarum.

In the second half of the fourth century, the Romans constructed a series of signal stations along the coast in an effort to protect the region from coastal raids by Anglo-Saxon pirates from southern Jutland and Frisia. These stations probably included Occulum Promontorium (Flamborough) and Spurn with up to another three between being a possibility. Coastal erosion will have erased all potential Roman sites within three miles of the present coastline.


The main Roman roads to and within Yorkshire were of military origin. The principal route was Ermine Street which ran from Londinium (London) to the legionary fortress of Lindum (Lincoln) and then to the settlement at Winteringham on the south bank of the Humber. From here there was a ferry crossing to Petuaria, a Roman naval base on the north bank, and then on to Eboracum via Hayton and Derventio. Ermine Street was built in the 70’s and there was a diversion available if the ferry could not be used due to adverse weather conditions.  The “diversion” branched off north of Lincoln (near modern Scampton) and then took a wide loop to Eboracum via the forts at Danum (Doncaster), Lagentium (Castleford) and the settlement at Calcaria (Tadcaster). A northerly branch road left near modern South Newbald led to the fort at Delgovicia. Another road led from Eboracum to a station at, or near, Bridlington (Gabrantovicorum).


There are few signs of Roman establishments in modern Holderness but there were villas along Ermine Street north of Petuaria and also near to modern Bridlington and Bishop Burton.


At the beginning of the fifth century, Roman Britain was under threat of attack from Anglo Saxons, Scots and Pictish pirates. The Romans, faced with problems closer to home, were forced to progressively recall their legions. The end of Roman rule finally came in 410 when, under the pressure of attacks on Rome, Saxon attacks on Britain and the eviction of his magistrates, Constantine formally withdrew from Britain. The Anglo-Romans were left to fend for themselves.

V 2.2

The Romans