Ruins to re-use: Romano-British remains in post-Conquest literary and material culture

Research output: ThesisNon-UWA Thesis


This thesis examines the re-use of Roman material culture in England following the Norman Conquest at St Albans, Chester, and Colchester. It argues that the material legacy of Roman Britain conveyed a sense of imperial authority, antiquity and longevity and an association with the early Christian church, which were appropriated to serve transitional Norman royal, elite, monastic and parochial interests in different architectural forms. Importantly, this thesis examines literary evidence describing the Roman past, Roman buildings, and even instances of re-use, which were produced at each town as part of the intellectual expansion of the twelfth century. This thesis comprises of two introductory chapters, followed by three central case study chapters, and culminates in a comparative discussion chapter which evaluates re-use in the context of competing socio-political interests following the Norman Conquest. It expands upon previous understandings of re-use by focusing on topography, building material and hidden reuse, in addition to the re-use of portable remains and decorative emulation. The aim of this thesis is to develop an interdisciplinary methodological and theoretical approach to examine re-use, in the knowledge that this yields a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon. In addition to literary and archaeological evidence, it draws theoretical perspectives from history, art history, and literary criticism. The underlying tenet of this thesis challenges the view that re-use was often unremarkable. Through an examination of multi-disciplinary evidence, it becomes clear that re-use was a complex, nuanced and, above all, meaningful part of the architectural endeavours of the Normans, and was used to secure their primacy at these towns and across their emerging nation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The University of York
Award date1 Jul 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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