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Boudica - the case for Atherstone and Kings Cross

Bob Trubshaw

'The site of the great battle which decided the fate of Roman Britain will never be known for certain, unless some quite remarkable finds are made, such as a mass burial with closely identifiable weapons in association.' So writes Graham Webster, one of the few respected Romanists to have tackled the thorny issue of Boudica's defeat [1]. Webster does make a clear assertion that the battle took place near Mancetter, the Roman town which now underlies part of Atherstone in north Warwickshire.

This suggestion favouring Mancetter relies primarily on regarding the local topography as being the location nearest Watling Street which best fits the scanty description in Tacitus. Webster does not, however, give any reasons to convince us why the battle necessarily took place near Watling Street (although this is of course a reasonable guess). Supporting evidence comes from the Roman fort at Mancetter which revealed finds of the correct period. Further, Webster suggests that the Roman fort known know as The Lunt, near Coventry, was adapted to provide facilities to train the horses captured from the Iceni. However, this idea is built upon little more substantial than several layers of supposition.

All-in-all, Webster fails to provide any clinching arguments for Mancetter, although the weight of probability tends to favour such a Midlands locale. Until some suitably high-powered academic chooses to challenge Webster, then most 'respectable' writers seem happy to take his speculation as a more-or-less proven theory.

For instance, the ornate grave goods found with an iron age woman excavated from a barrow at Birdlip in Gloucestershire clearly indicate royal status. Archaeologists have suggested that 'The Lady of Birdlip' may be Queen Boudica. Why an East Anglian queen should be buried in Gloucestershire is a little strange unless one accepts that she fought her last battle in Warwickshire and escaped to the Duboni tribal areas in Gloucestershire. Two other female skulls were found with her, which adds to the speculation that there were Boudica's daughters. Personally, I'm not convinced! [See 'The Lady of Birdlip' for a late 1999 update.]

What can be dismissed as entirely fanciful is the notion put forward by Lewis Spence in his book Boadicea - warrior queen of the Britons (1937). Never one to let absence of facts inhibit some enthusiastic speculation or down-right invention, Spence seems to be the originator of one of the 'folk traditions' of London, that Boudica was buried under platform 10 of Kings Cross station. Unfortunately, he provides no indication of what triggered this supposition.

References

1: Boudica - the British revolt against Rome AD60 Graham Webster, Batsford, 1978 (rev. edn. 1993)

Boudica's last battle - introduction | Did Boudica die in Flintshire? | In search of Boudica at The Gop | Boudica and The Gop | Buddug in Flintshire

Originally published in Mercian Mysteries No.25 November 1995.


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