AN interactive exhibition focused on the history of the Iron Age town Calleva in Silchester is on show in Basingstoke. 

Silchester used to be a bustling town filled with trade and innovation, but it is now around 80 acres of fields, a couple of miles away from Basingstoke. 

Thanks to a series of archaeological excavations, the hidden history of this ancient town can finally be revealed.

An exhibition is being held to tell its story, until April 28, at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke. 

“The history of this site is truly fascinating,” says Sahar, who visited the museum. “I feel like I’ve learnt so much more about how life was in the iron ages and roman conquest.” 

Silchester was first inhabited by a group of Iron Age settlers from Northern France called the Atrebates, who sided against the Roman Empire.

For them, Silchester was known as Calleva, meaning ‘Woodland place’, due to its abundance of natural resources such as wood. Soon, Calleva became a centre for trade with the midlands, south Wales and southwest Britain, and as a result was one of the most prosperous atrebatic regions in Britain. 

After the Roman Conquest of Britain in AD43, Calleva expanded into one of the capitals of the administrative areas the Romans had divided Britain into, and so was renamed Calleva Atrebatum. This meant new defence features such as a high stone wall and gatehouses were added, as well as a Roman style bath house, which was the first stone building in Silchester and a source of luxury for the habitants.  

The excavation of Silchester was first started by Reverend James Joyce under the command of the Duke of Wellington in 1864, going on until the Duke’s death in 1884. After another excavation that ended in 1909 that revealed some Roman buildings, the site was considered to be completely unearthed. However, while taking a walk in Silchester, Professor Michael Fulford became convinced that there was more to the story, and so the University of Reading began another excavation in 1974. Due to more modern techniques of archaeology, the complete story behind Silchester was finally revealed. 

Now, the interactive exhibition hosts a plethora of different artefacts such as a grain jar used to create an oven, metal plates and broaches, and more.

Sahar, who enjoyed her time at the exhibition, would definitely recommend it.

She said “I enjoyed the interactive activities such as dressing up as a Roman and creating my own buildings using Lego. This exhibition is suitable for any group or family and is a great way to spend the day at Basingstoke.”

  • This article was written by Saba Ghandi, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter Scheme.