Type: Fort, Settlement.
Ermine Street: NNW (19) to DVROBRIVAE (Water Newton, Cambridgeshire)|
via Great Stukeley
WNW (18) to Thrapston (Northamptonshire)
Via Devana: SE (15) to DVROLIPONTE (Cambridge, Cambridgeshire)
SSW (14) to Sandy (Bedfordshire)
Ermine Street: SSE (15) to Wimpole Lodge (Wimpole Lodge, Cambridgeshire)
The only classical geographical work which mentions the Roman name for Godmanchester is the seventh-century Ravenna Cosmology, in which the name Duro viguto (R&C#101) occurs between the entries for Durolitum (near Romford, Greater London) and Durobrivae (Water Newton, Cambridgeshire). The duro component of all of these names is Celtic in origin, meaning 'strength' or 'a strongpoint'; the name Duro-vigutum possibly means 'the thriving strongpoint', the suffix perhaps stemming from the Latin verb vigeo 'to thrive, flourish' or 'lively'. The modern name gives no clue as to what the original Romano-British town was called.
"Godmanchester Cambs. Godmundcestre 1086 (DB). 'Roman station associated with a man called Godmund'. OE pers. name + ceaster." (Mills)
|DEO ABANDINO VATIAVCVS D S D|
|"To the god Abandinus, Vatiacus dedicates this out of his own funds."|
(RIB 230a; Britannia iv (1973), p.325, no.4; also RIB 2432.4)
The only epigraphic evidence from Godmanchester recorded in the R.I.B. is an inscribed bronze feather, very likely some sort of votive object, dedicated to a god named Abandinus (vide RIB 230a supra).
A strategic site on Ermine Street at the crossing of the River Ouse. Traces of the defences and internal buildings of an early Claudian fort of around 6 acres (c.2.4 ha) have been found to the south of the civil settlement, and the east gate of a Neronian fort, which lies on a different alignment.
Ermine Street ran through the town, south-south-east to settlements at Wimpole Lodge and Braughing towards Londinium, and north-noth-west to the settlements and forts at Durobrivae (Water Newton) and Longthorpe towards Lindum. Around 6 miles NE from Godmanchester, a branch road off Ermine Street led WNW to Ratae (Leicester) via a possible settlement near Thrapston on the River Nene, and a settlement on the River Welland at Medbourne. Also, the Via Devana led south-east to a settlement at Duroliponte (Cambridge) and on towards Camulodunum (Colchester).
On the settlement site at Godmanchester, which lies below the present town, evidence of ovoid huts were found which predate the Roman period. The mansio and bath-house were built in c.AD120. The first of three successive shrines or temples lay to the west of the mansio, dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries. Several bronze votive feathers were found, one inscribed: 'To the god Abandinus Vatiaucus gave this from his own resources'. Two 2nd century buildings were demolished when the supposed Basilica was built to the east of the mansio in the early 3rd century.
The mansio and bath-house were gutted by fire towards the end of the 3rd century, and although the bath-house was rebuilt, the replacement was a much smaller building. A supposed granary was built on the site of the mansio.
The earliest town defences were of early Hadrianic date, with a V-shaped ditch, 3m wide and 2m deep enclosing an area of 8.06 Ha. New defences in the shape of an irregular hexagon were ereced in late 3rd c. and enclosed an area of c.11 Ha. They consisted of a 2.97m wide Masonry wall, a clay rampart 9.75m wide. The original 4.9m wide, U-shaped ditch was replaced in the 4th c. by a 11m wide ditch. The S gate has a central carriageway with footways either side, measuring 9.15m overall, flanked by rectangular gate towers.
A corridor villa lies only a mile to the north-east at Rectory Farm, Huntingdon (TL2371), and another small settlement lay two miles north along Ermine Street at Huntingdon itself (TL2471).
Other substantial Roman buildings have been found outside of the main settlement to the north-east (TL2571).
The area of the mansio in Pinfold Lane was further explored in 1969, during which four main occupation periods were identified:
Pottery recovered from the site of the mansio include shards of native British Iron-Age, Roman ceramics of all periods, also some Anglo-Saxon pieces.
Inscription on the neck of a buff storage-jar recovered during excavations at Godmanchester in 1965: FAXIATIS[AMICI(?)]|LAGONAM[AMPLAM(?)] "May you produce, my friends (?), a large (?) storage-jar" (restored text and translation from Britannia II (1971) p.296).