About Dewa Roman Experience
Built on the former site of an ancient Roman fort, Dewa Roman Experience is a hands-on archaeological site containing the remains of this a Roman legionary base.
The Roman fort site at Chester was a strategic base for the Roman army circa AD 50. Initially the site had been a small fort used to defend Chester’s harbour and crossing point of the river Dee during campaigns against tribes in Wales and to the north and east of Chester. The name ‘Deva’ in Latin means ‘Holy One’, and takes its name from the river.
The Romans based themselves at Chester temporarily in the beginning, as resources were diverted to dealing with the Boudiccan uprisings in AD 60. A permanent military presence was established soon after, however, as the Romans attempted to conquer Britain in its entirety. The Second Legion was later stationed in Chester, circa AD 78, but the legion was withdrawn in AD 87 to help defend the Rhine frontier.
The Romans set great store by fighting conflicts at sea – Chester’s excellent harbour was therefore ideally suited as a base, and was subsequently developed into a major military centre. Its importance was demonstrated when the Romans chose it as the intended point of departure for a planned invasion of Ireland, although the plan never came to fruition.
Circa AD 90 the fort was occupied by the Twentieth Legion, and the legionary depot was rebuilt with stone. The Twentieth Legion was involved in campaigns against the Picts in Scotland whilst stationed in Chester, as well as periodically being involved in refurbishment work until the Romans’ departure from Britain in the 5th Century.
Today, visitors to Dewa Roman Experience may immerse themselves in Roman Chester – the fort was excavated in 1991 and visitors can wander through the streets and explore archaeological remains.
The visit begins with a virtual trip on board a Roman galley. There is a museum on site, and visitors can also take part in a number of historical themed activities, such as trying on Roman armour, firing a catapult and creating a mosaic. Additionally there is a soldier patrol, where visitors may experience life as a soldier, preparing for battle and defending a Roman amphitheatre.
Contributed by Chris Reid