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  • About The history of British and Irish towns A town is not just an overgrown village. It has its own economy. Goods are made and traded there. So a good site might be on a bend in a navigable river, or beside a river crossing. The development of towns is generally complex. In those of our historic towns not too mangled by Blitz or boom, you can trace the growth from medieval core through belts of GeorgianVictorian and modern buildings, almost like tree rings.

    Check your conclusions with a series of town maps. The date and magnificence of churchespublic buildings and places of entertainment give other clues to the periods of greatest prosperity.

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    City status in England and Wales was traditionally given to towns with cathedralsbut from size of population became the chief factor in such designations. Roman In the century before the Roman conquest a few tribal centres oppida grew up in southern Britain, though only one appears truly urban - Calleva Silchesterwhich was laid out c.

    Some tribal centres were rebuilt as Roman district capitals after the conquest - Canterbury, Silchester, St Albans and Winchester.

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    Other district capitals, such as Carmarthen, Carlisle, Cirencester, Exeter and Wroxeter, perhaps replaced a tribal meeting-place nearby, but as towns they were Roman creations, as was London, capital of the new province of Britannia. Other towns began life as legionary fortresses with settlements of ex-soldiers, like Caerleon, Chester, Gloucester, Lincoln and York, while Bath and Buxton were Roman spas.

    Roman towns were laid out on a grid plan, with a forum in the centre forming a market place, surrounded by shops, offices and a basilica. In the 4th century AD many gained defenses. The early Anglo-Saxon arrivals had no use for Roman towns, living as they did at subsistence level.

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    Even where Romano-British culture continued, the imperial economy which sustained urban life had collapsed. As trade revived in the 7th century, the Anglo-Saxons developed coinage and trading centres, for which they used the term wic borrowed from Latin vicus. Some were beside former Roman towns well-sited for trade. Lundenwic lay west of the walled Roman Londinium. Hamwic Southhampton was downstream of the Roman fort and harbour of Clausentum. Eoforwic York was founded outside Roman Eboracum.

    Fordwich Kent and Ipswich Suffolk retain the -wic suffix which provides a clue to their trading status. Urban life blossomed more widely in the 9th century. As the Vikings threatened, Saxon kings were driven to resurrect ruined Roman towns as walled market townswhich would generate income for their own defense see Alfred's work on Bath and the Charter of Worcester.

    Meanwhile the Vikings were founding their own boroughs. They too made use of Roman defenses where they could - at Leicester, Lincoln and York - but also founded towns like Derby. In Ireland the Vikings built fortified bases to wait out the winter between raiding seasons. A few of these - Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford - developed into Ireland's first true towns in the 10th century. Medieval The 12th century was a time of new town foundation throughout western Europe.

    The population was rising in a period of bountiful harvests. Kings, barons and churchmen hoped to reap the profits of urban property and markets. Some were to prosper, others to fail. Look for place-names like Newton, Newport and Newmarket.

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    As the Normans pressed into Ireland they founded inland towns, such as Trim, as well as building on Viking foundations along the coast. Meanwhile the first burghs were formed in Scotland. Some were existing centres like Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Perth and Stirling, which were granted a degree of self-government by royal charter. Others were new creations, often beside a royal castlesuch as Roxburgh. New towns continued to spring up in the 13th century, for example Salisbury, created to serve the new cathedral begun in It was the most successful of the English medieval planned towns, rising in wealth above many an older town.

    Edward I was a notable town planter. He laid out a series of towns between and beside his new castles in north Wales, such as Caernarvon and Conway. But as the climate cooled afterfamine periodically stalked the land, weakening resistance to infection. People crowded together in towns became more vulnerable to epidemics.

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    The Black Death nearly halved Britain's population in the midth century. Few new British towns were founded after that, until populations began to rise once more in modern times. By about thirty English provincial towns had over 5, inhabitants, but none in Wales.

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    In Ireland and Scotland only Dublin and Edinburgh qualified. Dublin was the centre of English government in Ireland, while Edinburgh was emerging as the Scottish capital. But London dominated Britain's trade. However, sooner or later, you're likely to meet someone who interests you, and communicating with them won't be possible unless you become a paid member. Subscribing means having the freedom to use the SmartPick service, see the members who have checked out your profile and message and chat to others as often as you desire.

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