Lincoln was famously built by the Romans who conquered Lincolnshire in 48 AD. Initially a legionary fortress was built in uphill Lincoln, though the legion moved on to York in 71 AD, and subsequently it developed into a colonia, being a town for retired soldiers. It was known as Lindum Colonia, which is presumed to be a Romanisation of the Celtic name ‘Lindon’ meaning ‘place by the pool’. Lindum Colonia stood at the junction of two major Roman roads, Ermine Street, running north from London to York and the Fosse Way, leading south west through Leicester to Exeter.
Accessible from the sea via the rivers Witham and Trent, the Romans deepened the former to enable ships to reach the town directly. They also created the famous Fossdyke to link both rivers, all of which created an inland port. Subsequently, the town became a major settlement. It boasted a forum (public square or marketplace), basilica (public court) and public baths which were erected in the second century. The town was laid out in a grid pattern surrounding the forum. The population at this time has been estimated at between 6,000 and 8,000.
In the late fourth century the prosperity of the town declined. Roman civilisation was breaking down in the country as a whole and the last Roman soldiers left the country in 407 AD.
Many fragments of this infrastructure can still be seen today. Incorporating primarily key buildings and the remains of the defensive wall and gates, this includes:
- Newport Arch, the best preserved gate to the city.
- Well and site of former church, St Paul in the Bail
- Wall at the Lincoln Hotel, Eastgate
- Castle Roman Wall
Today, self-guided tours of the key remaining Roman sites can be found as either an interactive smartphone web app from visitlincoln.com, or a printed version can be bought for £1 from the visitor information centre in Castle Square.