NZ 1: Edge of Empire

he will walk across the high Alps,
gazing upon the monuments of great Caesar,
the Gallic Rhine, the terrifying Channel,
the most remote Britons
(Catullus 11 c.50BC)

Who the first inhabitants of Britain were, whether natives or immigrants is open to question: one must remember we are dealing with barbarians, (Tacitus ‘The Agricola’ c.AD98)

This week, there was a meeting in Bristol. A collaboration between National Trust SW curators and archaeologists…joining with professors and researchers from across the SW universities. The theme was ‘post-colonial legacies’

‘What did it mean ?’ I asked Barbara. She said that it was about slavery. About stuff the British had done to the world.

I said ‘Might it be about second sons of English landowners going out into the newly colonised world and planting vineyards. I was thinking of George Wyndham’s journey to New South Wales in 1827 from Dinton House (now NT’s Philipps House in Wiltshire). The legacy being Wyndham Hunter Valley wines..( now available in Morrisons and similar supermarkets). Barbara was not keen…best not to put a positive gloss on things.

The classical portico of Dinton House (renamed Philipps House) in Wiltshire. George Wyndham left here in the 1820s and travelled to New South Wales and began the Australian wine industry. He named the house he built there Dalwood after the farm on the edge of Dinton Park.

Archaeology gives us a glimpse down the deep tunnel of time.. gives us various perspectives.

Here we are… 2 days after Brexit. A little island on the edge of Europe.

2000 years ago, the Romans thought us as wild and distant. A good source of slaves and hunting dogs ‘These things, accordingly, are exported from the island, as also hides, and slaves, and dogs that are by nature suited to the purposes of the chase’ (Strabo c. AD10-20)

Just 400 years later, Britain had become integrated into the Roman Empire and the landscape was peppered with Roman villas and towns.

Bit of a shock when the Roman army left and the Emperor Honorius rejected the Brits appeal for help… and told us to look after ourselves.

How did Britannia cope? Most people think that things caved in pretty quickly in the 5th century. However, over Christmas, I did some post-excavation work on Chedworth Roman Villa and found a radiocarbon date from a foundation trench that suggests that wealthy owners in Gloucestershire were still commissioning new mosaics 50 years after Honorius’s letter.

Could this be true? Nancy has sent off some bone from the same context to get a back-up date. What remained of the Roman Empire in Britain? What did the Romans do for us…..and what did the Britains do to the world….and what happened when we left…did we ever leave?…did the Romans ever leave Britain? perhaps yes..and then again no. There is always a post-colonial legacy.

The whole point of this ramble is to take you to New Zealand.

There was a gap in the blog in October because Janet and I went around the world. We stopped in Canada on the way out and Australia on the way back.

The idea is to blog our road trip and link New Zealand places to National Trust places. We’ll see if it works..