Wroxeter (Viroconium Cornoviorum) was the fourth largest town in Roman Britain and estimated to be about the size of Pompeii.
It began as a legionary fort. A settlement grew up around the fort, and became a thriving city of great importance, numbering in excess of 5000 inhabitants at its height. Most of the population that swelled this new city came from the ranks of retired legionaries and tradesmen. The city grew to cover an area of some 73 hectares and acted as the tribal capital of the Cornovii. The civic areas were some of the largest in Britain, with the bath and forum occupying 2 entire insulae, or city blocks.
The most impressive remains include the municipal baths. These date from the 2nd century and stand beside a large exercise hall. After the Roman influence waned, the site became the headquarters of a British or Irish chieftain.
Unlike many other Roman cities, Wroxeter was not redeveloped as a Saxon or medieval centre, with the result that we can more easily see the Roman layout of the city. Aerial photographs have also revealed the existence of a Romano-British temple.
In February 1859 workmen began excavating the baths complex, and by April much of the present site was exposed and thronged with fascinated visitors, including Charles Dickens. Donated by the landowner for public viewing, Wroxeter thus became one of the first archaeological visitor attractions in Britain.