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Birmingham's Roman Fort (Metchley)

Birmingham's Roman fort (Metchley) is centred on what is now Vincent Drive in Edgbaston and extends from the main campus of the University of Birmingham to the University's Medical School and the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Archaeological excavations, including several excavations as part of new developments by the University have revealed the history of the fort and details of its layout. You can find Detailed reports of the excavations below.

Roman Birmingham 3: Excavations at Metchley Roman Fort

Roman Birmingham 4: Excavations at Metchley Roman Fort


The fort was established in the middle of the first century AD as part of a network of forts across the Midlands, linked by a network of roads. Part of the Roman road which ran from here to another fort at Wall near Lichfield can still be seen in

Sutton Park. The fort was originally about 200m square. The excavations have revealed ditches and turf ramparts defending the fort; timber gateways and a guard chamber; roads; timber buildings including barracks, granaries, workshops, stables, the headquarters building and the commanding officer’s house; ovens and hearths. There was a civilian settlement or 'vicus' outside the fort - Birmingham's first village.

The fort was extended on three sides by the addition of defended annexes, which were used for tethering horses, storage and ironworking. Later the fort became a military stores depot and there were livestock pens inside it. In the later 1st century AD a smaller fort was built inside the earlier one. Although military occupation of the fort ended by the end of the 1st century AD, the site was occupied until the end of the 2nd century AD, probably as a livestock enclosure.

Pottery found on the site includes vessels made in the Severn Valley and Malvern Hills; fine tableware from France; storage vessels that would have contained olive oil from southern Spain; and mixing bowls made near the fort itself. There were also several pieces of glass, from cups and bowls. Charred grains of wheat and barley tell us what sort of food soldiers in the fort were eating, and debris from blacksmithing resulted from repair of tools and weapons. You can find out more in the leaflet below.

Metchley Roman Fort as it would have looked when first built

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Plaza


The Plaza contains the northern part of the fort, which was designated a scheduled monument in 2002, and includes the defensive lines of the first fort, the northern annexe and the later, smaller fort. The Plaza is a public space between the new hospital entrance, the University of Birmingham’s Medical School, University railway station and the University’s main campus. It includes the main pedestrian path to the new hospital. The innovative design of the plaza protects archaeological remains below ground whilst interpreting them above ground. The defensive lines have been indicated in the Plaza design by banks representing the fort’s ramparts, and the line of the main north-south road through the fort has been indicated. Interpretation panels explain fort. The Plaza is open to visitors all the time.

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Last Updated : 3rd September 2013