Folklore & Legend

Roman Theatre on the Gorhambury Estate – Ancient City of Verulamium

The Roman City Of Verulamium

During the Roman occupation of Britain, Verulamium (St Albans today) was one of the most important and third largest city of Roman Britain. Like most major cities, Verulamium had all the amenities Romans consider essential to a civilised society. One of which was an outdoor theatre built around 140AD. However the theatre at Verulamium was the only example of its kind in Britain. That being that it wasn’t an amphitheatre but a theatre with an arena and a stage.

History Of The Abandoned Roman Theatre

The range of entertainment at a theatre in Roman Britain was much more far-ranging than the theatre of today. Activities ranging from wrestling and dancing, to religious ceremonies and wild beast shows.

The theatre was built on a Celtic water shrine beside the major Roman road of Watling Street. Originally it was built without a stage. This was added around 160AD. Between the theatre and road laid shops and a large town house built around 170AD. Immediately behind the house is an underground shrine.

Circa 180AD the stage became used more often, so it was roofed and the theatre expanded. It was further expanded around 300AD reaching a capacity of around 2000 spectators.

The theatre remains visible today were excavated in 1847 and 1935. The row of shops and town house were unearthed in 1957 and 1961. The column is a replica of what they would have looked like.

In 2014 the site had a refurbishment to include new steps, pathways and handrails. The theatre is available to book for cultural entertainment and a local theatre company, Ovo usually use the venue at some point each year.


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