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Castor "Praetorium" 1957-73

In the 1820s Edmund Artis discovered the remains of a grandiose Roman villa (a ‘praetorium’ in his parlance) which once extended over much of what is now Castor village.


Excavations since 1970 have shown that the villa was substantially built in herringbone masonry (limestone corn-brash) and that it flourished primarily in the fourth century AD. Its wall stubs are still visible in some places today.


The main north wing was terraced into a south-facing hill-slope, possibly in two storeys, and offered magnificent views towards the river Nene and Durobrivae Roman town. Under the garden of ‘Elmlea’ behind Castor Church the eastern rooms of the main wing were found to have plastered and painted walls and polychrome mosaic floors. The house was laid out around a rectangular courtyard, probably a garden, and its east and west wings extended beyond the present village street.


An independent bath-building was a free-standing element of the west wing: its under-floor heating system was heavily sooted.


Who lived in such splendour is a mystery, but probably a wealthy local magnate and his family, perhaps one of those named on the Waternewton Christian silver plate.

S.G.Upex, ‘The Praetorium of Edmund Artis: a summary of excavations and surveys of the  palatial Roman structure at Castor, Cambridgeshire, 1828-2010’,  Britannia 42, 2011, 23-121

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