History

Durobrivae was a Roman fortified garrison town located at Water Newton in the county of Cambridgeshire, where Ermine Street crossed the River Nene. More generally, it was in the territory of the Corieltauvi in a region of villas and commercial potteries. The name is Celtic in origin, and essentially means “fort bridge”.

During the Iron age Britain was divided into distinct tribal areas. The area lay between the Catuvellauni to the south and the Corieltauvi to the north, with the Iceni to the east. The origin of Durobrivae is said to have been as a vicus attached to a “pre-Flavian” fort, established about half a kilometre to the east of modern Water Newton, between th 43 AD and  69 AD. Its first historical mention is in the late 2nd century. Archaeology of the Roman period shows that Durobrivae was then the production centre for a fine tableware known as Nene Valley Colour Coated Ware, from the 2nd century to the 4th. In Anglo saxon times, local settlement came to centre on Medeshamstede, now known as Peterborough.

The Water Newton Treasure is a hoard of fourth-century Roman silver, discovered near the Roman town of Durobrivae at Water Newton. The hoard consisted of 27 silver items and one small gold plaque. Because of inscriptions found on some of the pieces in the collection it has been suggested that they may have been used in a local church, and they therefore comprise the earliest probable group of Christian liturgical silver yet found in the Roman Empire.

The hoard was discovered during ploughing in February 1975; several items were damaged by the plough. It was probably buried by an inhabitant of the nearby Roman fortified garrison town of Durobrivae. There are nine silver vessels, and the remainder of the items are votive tokens engraved and embossed with the labarum (the chi-rho cross), mostly of triangular shape. The larger items include jugs, bowls, dishes, a strainer, and an unengraved standing two-handled cup of the form (cantharus) later used as chalices.

Due to the importance of this find, it is now in the British Museum, with replicas at Peterborough Museum.