Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, a Digital Edition

Plate 1.8: Plan of Ancient Verulamium

Plate: Engraved by George Vertue (1684-1756) after William Stukeley (1687-1765) in 1721.

Object: An extensively labeled map of the Roman remains of Verulamium with inset images of two ancient British coins and a section of Roman wall. The Roman ruins today are encompassed by the modern city of St. Alban’s in Hertfordshire. Stukeley’s original map is preserved at the Society of Antiquaries of London.


Click here to access an interactive map providing full transcription and translation details for Plate 1.8.

Upper Left Quadrant:

Sti Iuliani Ptochotrophium fundatum a Galfrido Abbate circa 1120

Ecclesia Stephani ab Ulsino Abbate aedificata circa 950

Via Romana Watlin Street vocata

Insignia Monasterii

Fossa nunc Tonman ditch

Porta Urbis Antiquae

Fossa profunda

Sopwell Domus Monialium fundata 1140 a Galfrido Abbate

Fons Sacer

Canalis Subteraneus

Ecclesia Caenobii ab Offa Rege fundata fuit cicra 793 e ruinis Verolanii

Agger Fishpoolhead ex ruinis Urbis confectus

Capella Stae. Mariae Magdalenae aedificata ab Ulfino Abbate hodie omnino Sublata.

Murus hic Aratro c[u]m planatus.

Pars muri adhuc residua


Agger Altissimus cuius summitatem adhuc aequat murus circa 9 ped. latus.

Via Londinum Versus

Rudera Caenobii

Caenobii Molendinum

Burgus St Albani ubi olim Sylva Holmshurst Anglorum Proto-martyris (sub Dioclesiano) morte clara

Upper Right Quadrant:

Verolanium Urbs Britannico-Romana a Voadicia Icenorum Regina Sub Nerone excisa fuit.

Via Hemstediam ducens

Constructionis Murum Antiquorum Specimen ex Silicis et Laterum Ordinibus alternis.


Fossa duplex

Muri Antiqui Reliquiae


Trames pedestris

Huic porta olim fuisse videtur

Murus hic Sepibus coronatur Sat tamen conspicuus

Scala Pedum

Trames ducens ad Gorhambury Villam olim Vicecomitis Verolanii


Umbra Strati


Pavimentum tesselatum

Sti Germani Capella ubi Synodus olim celebrata ab Ulfo Priore fundata circa 945 nunc penitus versa.


Left Banner: Nummi Antiqui Brittannici / Verolamium Civitas / Boadicia Regina [Ancient British Coins / City of Verolamium / Queen Boudica]

Bottom Left Quadrant:


Porta Caenobiij

Stagnum olim desiccatum ab Alfirico Abbate circa 960 nunc prater

Ecclesia Caenobii

Rome Land


Crux Memoriae Eleonorae Reginae Sacra ab E.I exstructa

Vicus Vulgo Fishpool Street

Ecclesia Divi Petri aedificata Ulsino Abbate 950


Ne cineres etiam Verolanii penitus aboleantur: Vestigia Romanorum in Municipio olim celeberrimo quantum ex ruderibus fieri potest adumbrata, velut Tantae Vrbis Cenotaphium Societati Antiquariae Londinensi cujus impensis aeri incisum, vovet. W. Stukeley. Anno 1721

Bottom Right Quadrant:

Ecclesia Divi Michaelis ubi dormitat Magnus Verolanius; aedificata ab Ulsino Abb, 950.

Domus parochi

Pastura plana super murum

Nunc Arva & Pascua

Pars Muri adhuc restans Gorhamblock nuncupata.

Vallis appellata “The Hollowes”

Tonman Ditch

Molendinum de Kingsbury olim Manerium Regium & Castellum

Murus heic ad fundamentum erutus


Colne Fluvius

Via Regia ad Redburn Non longe hinc Prioratus Stae Mariae de pratis. [Royal Road to Redbourn.

Oster Hill

Scala Pedum


Click here to access an interactive map providing full transcription and translation details for Plate 1.8.

Upper Left Quadrant:

St. Julian’s Almshouse founded around 1120 by Abbot Geoffrey

St. Stephen’s Church, built by Abbot Wulsin around 950.

Roman road, called Watling Street

seal of the Monastery

a trench, now Tonman ditch

ancient city-gate

a deep ditch

Sopwell Priory which was founded in 1140 by Abbot Geoffrey [de Gorham]

Holy Well

underground canal

The Monastery Church was founded by King Offa around 793 from the ruins of Verolamium.

Fishpoolhead Rampart / Causeway made from the ruins of the city

Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, built by Abbot Wulsin; today it is entirely submerged.

This wall was flattened by a plough.

A part of the wall that still remains.


An enormous pile, whose surface still equals a 9 foot wall.

the road toward London

ruins of the abbey

monastery’s mill-house

City of St Alban’s where there was once a Forest, Holmhurst [Holywell Hill], famous for the death of the first Martyr of England under Diocletian.

Upper Right Quadrant:

A British-Roman City, Verulamium, which was destroyed by Boudica, Queen of the Iceni during Nero’s reign.

A road leading to Hempstead.

A model of an ancient city wall, made out of alternating rows of brick and flint.


a double ditch

relics of the ancient wall

a hollow


A gate appears to have been here once.

The wall is surrounded by hedges and yet is sufficiently visible.

scale of feet

A footpath leading to Old Gorhambury House, which belonged to the Earl of Verulam.


covered by shade


tessellated pavement

Chapel of St. Germanus [of Auxerre] where a Synod was once gathered. The chapel was established by Ulf, Prior [of St. Albans] around 945. It is now entirely changed.

Ancient Verulamium

Left Banner: Ancient British Coins / City of Verolamium / Queen Boudica

Bottom Left Quadrant:


abbey gate

Stagnant water, which was once drained by Abbot Aelfric around 960, now a meadow.

St Alban’s Abbey Cathedral

Rome Land

bell tower

Cross Sacred to the Memory of Queen Eleanor, built by Edward I.

a street, commonly known as Fishpool Street

Church of St. Peter, established by Abbot Wulsin


Let the ruins of Verolamium not be entirely obliterated: The Roman remains in the once celebrated town can be drawn as much as possible from the ruins, like a cenotaph of the city. In the year 1721 William Stukeley dedicated himself to engraving it in copper at the expense of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Bottom Right Quadrant:

St. Michael’s Church, where Great Verulamium rests. It was established by Abbot Wulsin around 950.

Parish house

a flat pasture above the wall

now fields and pastures

Part of the wall that is still standing, called Gorhamblock.

a valley called “The Hollows”

Tonman Ditch

the Kingsbury Watermill, formerly King’s manor and fortress

The wall was here destroyed to the foundation.


River Colne (or Ver)

Royal Road to Redbourn. The Priory of St. Mary’s is not far from these meadows.

Oster Hill

scale of feet

Commentary by Noah Heringman and Katherine Hobbs: This plate shows a map of the ruined city of Verulamium in Hertfordshire, originally drafted and annotated by William Stukeley on a visit to the site in 1721. Verulamium, a municipium under Roman rule that had earlier been occupied by Britons, was subject to a series of wars and invasions, eventually becoming the town of St. Albans upon the construction of a Benedictine monastery in the 790s A.D. The abbey was built to honor the saint, who was England’s first martyr (Bohun 1710, 8; Heylyn 1709, 195). Verulamium is notable for having been controlled by many different groups over time and has connections to several important episodes in British history. The subject thus affords an opportunity for Stukeley to display both classical erudition and zeal for British antiquities in the same compass.

Verulamium was a wealthy city, and was the site of a mint even before the Roman invasion in the first century A.D. (“Some Account” 1783, 132). Eighteenth-century accounts such as John Collinson’s Beauties of British Antiquity noted the “several pieces of ancient money” found at Verulamium; these seem to match the coins illustrated on the map. The coins were observed to have the inscription “TASCIA” engraved on one side and “VER” on the other, signifying, according to this author, “the tribute of Verulam” since “Tasc, in the British tongue, signifies tribute” (Collinson 1779, 79). In fact, this inscription may refer to the Catuvellauni leader Tasciovanus. A traveler’s account included in the Annual Register for 1782 notes coins from the “British mints” containing “the word Ver… but no prince’s name to distinguish the reign,” linking them speculatively to the reign of “Cunoboline [a pre-Roman leader], whose coins are so frequent” (“Some Account” 1783, 132).

The town’s wealth made it appealing to invaders, one of whom was Boudicca, queen of the Iceni, who led a revolt in 60-61 A.D. An eighteenth-century account of the abbey, drawing on Tacitus for its account of this revolt against Roman occupation, declares that Verulamium was “rich and opulent[,]… a greater temptation to a plundering foe than mere castles and military posts” (Newcome 1795, 3). Boudicca’s assault receives much attention in eighteenth-century accounts; the appearance of her name reinforces the importance of this episode for the study of British antiquities. John Gifford’s History of England details Boudicca’s ill-treatment by the Romans in quasi-patriotic terms to justify her violent destruction of the Roman city. This queen of “dignified deportment” and “magnanimous spirit” roused the “flame of indignant virtue” in the Iceni and other groups of Britons (Gifford 1790, 1.19). Although not all accounts are so sympathetic to Boudicca’s cause, the destruction of Verulamium as a symbol of Roman rule is presented here as important in regaining lost British dignity.

The ancient site, labeled in large capitals, occupies a large proportion of the map and attracted the keen interest of many eighteenth-century observers. The wall, the outline of which is shown winding around the ancient city, seems to have been an impressive manifestation of Roman defenses. The writer whose travel account is included in the Annual Register for 1782 notes that these Roman walls were added onto pre-existing defenses of ditches and ramparts, an observation that exemplifies the merging of different layers of political and cultural influences on the site of Verulamium. He also observes that the area (once) enclosed within the wall is peculiar for being oval-shaped and “depart[ing] from the Rectangular form of the Romans.” It is “placed on a slope, and the other side bounded by the river Ver, which in former times might have… given greater security to the town” (“Some Account” 1783, 131). The construction of the wall is illustrated in detail in the upper-right hand corner, corresponding to the Annual Register's description of the twelve-foot-thick walls, arranged so that “By intervals of abo[ut] three feet distance, are three, and in some places four, rows of bro[ad] and thin bricks…which seem design[ed] as foundations to sustain the layers of flints and lime” (132). This 1782 account draws not only from the writer’s personal observation but from the present engraving of Stukeley’s map; the writer cites Stukeley’s measurement of Verulamium’s dimensions and in a note refers to his “admirable plan” of the city (132).

In the eighteenth century, the area formerly within the Roman walls was “inclosed into fields” (“Some Account” 1783, 133), as portrayed on the plate. The same account notes that as the fields were being tilled, the ancient streets were revealed along with various artifacts under the hedges. The most notable was Watling-Street, a major road running all the way “from Dover into the north,” which was the source of the Saxon name of for Verulamium, Watlingcester (Geography 1744, 80). By juxtaposing the modern hedges with the ancient grid of streets, Stukeley’s map hints at the complex relationship between the “improvement” of land and the conservation of antiquities that is given pictorial form in other engravings in Vetusta Monumenta.

Verulamium / St. Albans also marks the site of intersecting religious traditions, residing at a symbolic juncture between the pagan past and the rise of Christianity. The first English martyr, Saint Alban, was beheaded on Holmhurst Hill in the fourth century A.D. The Annual Register account describes St. Alban’s martyrdom at length, detailing some of the associated legends; according to this story, the executioner’s eyes fell out and a fountain sprang up, while a river that had been separating Holmhurst and Verulamium dried so that Alban’s followers could cross (“Some Account” 1783, 133). Alban’s supposed remains were found by Ossa, King of the Mercians, who founded a Benedictine monastery on the site in the 790s (“Some Account” 1783, 134; Bohun 1710, 8). The site of the monastery had held an earlier church that was destroyed in wars between the Britons and Saxons (Heylyn 1709, 195). The new abbey church was built partially from old Roman materials found around the area; Collinson notes that the “ancient part [of the Church of St. Alban] and the steeple are built entirely of Roman brick, fetched by the abbots from the old city” (Collinson 1779, 80). The new monastery became the basis for the town of St. Alban’s, and the abbot of St. Alban’s was, according to Peter Heylyn, given “precedency of all English abbots” by virtue of Alban’s position as the first English martyr (Heylyn 1709, 195).

The abbey was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1539 during the Dissolution of Monasteries, but the abbey church survived and was subsequently converted to a parish church (Heylyn 1709, 195-196). By this point, Verulamium was a place of conflicting identities, as is evident in The Ruines of Time, a poem written by Edmund Spenser in 1591, relatively soon after the harsh episode of the Dissolution. In the poem, Verulamium, or Verlame, personified as a woman, is presented as “sorrowfullie [be]wailing” the unstoppable effects of time, lamenting that she once “the garland wore / Of Britaines pride” but now must “lye in [her] owne ashes” (Spenser [1591] 1989, lines 233-34). Having seen so much change and destruction over time, Verulamium aptly illustrates Spenser’s thesis that built monuments all eventually fall to ruin, and true longevity only comes from the written word. Scholars have noted that this poem is “informed by the Tudor destruction of the medieval Catholic past” and reflects the tensions present in the early years of English Protestantism, tensions resulting from the need to acknowledge that Early Modern Britain was built on a pagan and Catholic past and to reconcile the Protestant present with this past (Prendergast 2008, 178; cf. Melehy 2005). Stukeley and his collaborators, who consciously revived the Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries, has the benefit of historical distance in grappling with these tensions. Hence this map celebrates the rich historical texture created by religious and political conflict while also promising an enlightened overcoming of these differences.

Although Spenser’s Verlame admonishes her hearers that built works must, “as a vapour[,] vanish and decaie” (line 56), the city’s physical remains as of 1721 still bore abundant witness to many centuries of violence and transition. Some of the Roman remains have been repurposed, rather than “vanishing,” as noted by the eighteenth-century commentators who took interest in the use of Roman bricks to build a Catholic monastery and the subsequent conversion of this same abbey to a Protestant church. Each phase had built physically on the last, which is evident in Stukeley’s rendering of the city, containing items ranging from Roman walls to a cross built by Edward I in 1291 to the eighteenth-century town of St. Albans. Stukeley’s engraving celebrates the coexistence of the diverse historical layers that make up Verulamium. Clearly, even if Spenser’s Verlame insists that “vaine moniments of earthlie masse” ([1591] 1989, line 419) are no match for the longevity of “wise wordes… / Recorded by the Muses” (lines 402-03), the physical site itself and the historical traces left behind in pieces of walls, evidence of roads, and excavated coins proved to be more and more intriguing for antiquaries in the centuries following Spenser; many of these remains, in fact, came to light only after Spenser’s time. By the time Vertue engraved Stukeley’s map in 1721, Verulamium could be seen to display many layers of historical resonance, all contributing to its—and by extension Britain’s—unique identity in the present.

Works Cited:

Bohun, Edmund. 1710. A Geographical Dictionary. London: R. Bonwicke, et al.

Collinson, John. 1779. The Beauties of British Antiquity; Selected from the Writings of Esteemed Antiquaries. London: John Collinson.

Gifford, John. 1790. The History of England, from the Earliest Times to the Peace of 1783. 2 vols. London: Harrison.

The Geography of England. 1744. London: R. Dodsley.

Heylyn, Peter. 1709. A Help to English History. London.

Melehy, Hassan. 2005. “Antiquities of Britain: Spenser’s Ruines of Time.” Studies in Philology 102, no. 2: 159-183.

Newcome, Peter. 1795. The History of the Ancient and Royal Foundation, Called the Abbey of St. Alban. London: J. Nichols.

Prendergast, Thomas A. 2008. “Spenser’s Phantastic History, The Ruines of Time, and the Invention of Medievalism.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 38, no. 2: 175-196.

“Some Account of the Antient Verulamium, near St. Albans—of its Ruins, &c.” 1783. In The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1782, 131-35. London: J. Dodsley.

Spenser, Edmund. (1591). 1989. The Ruines of Time. In The Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser, edited by William Oram, Einar Bjorvand, and Ronald Bond, 225-61. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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