Oldest town in Britain

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The title of oldest town in Britain is claimed by a number of settlements in Great Britain.


Thatcham in Berkshire is often said to be the oldest town in Britain, since its occupation can be traced back to a mesolithic hunting camp, which was discovered there beside a Post-glacial rebound period lake, and there is evidence of human occupation within and around Thatcham covering the past 13,000 years or more.

There is strong evidence to support the case that people settled in Thatcham in the Mesolithic Age (10,000BC - 4,000BC). Thatcham has strong evidence that it was settled by the Romans, then Saxons, and was mentioned in the Domesday Book. Subsequently it received medieval charters.

Thatcham has a place in the 1990 Guinness World Records as being the strongest claimant to the longest continually inhabited settlement in the UK.[citation needed] It is mentioned in the 1993 Guinness World Records book as an example of a place with early prehistoric occupation with a comment on the difficulty of showing continuous habitation.[1]


Abingdon in the English county of Oxfordshire (historically Berkshire) also claims to be the oldest town in Britain in continuous settlement, with people having lived there for at least 6,000 years. In 1991 evidence of a late-Iron Age enclosure of 33 hectares known as an 'oppidum' was discovered underneath the town centre. Unlike other major earthworks discovered from this period, it continued to be used as a town throughout the Roman occupation of Britain and subsequently became the Saxon settlement of Sevekesham or Seovechesham at a time when most other Roman cities were being abandoned.[2][3][4]

In 2010 the issue of whether Thatcham or Abingdon was the longest inhabited town was disputed after the popular TV program QI claimed on its website's Fact Of The Day that it was Abingdon.


Amesbury along with Stonehenge in Wiltshire is claimed to be Britain's oldest settlement dating back to 8820 BC according to a project led by the University of Buckingham. The place is said to have been a transport point with the River Avon acting as a transit route. Evidence of frogs legs being eaten as well as 31,000 flints and animal bones have also been found.[5]


Colchester claims to be Britain's oldest recorded town.[6][7] Its claim is based on a reference by Pliny the Elder, the Roman writer, in his Natural History (Historia Naturalis) in AD 77. He described Anglesey as "about 200 miles (322 km) from Camulodunum, a town in Britain", where Camulodunum was the Roman name for Colchester. It is claimed that this is the first known reference to any named settlement in Britain.

However, Camulodunum clearly existed for a substantial period before AD 77. From around AD 10, Cunobelinus (the Cymbeline of Shakespeare's play), ruled much of south-east Britain from Camulodunon (the "fortress of the war god, Camulos") until his death in AD 40. Following the invasion by Claudius in AD 43, Camulodunum became the first garrison and capital of the new Roman province of Britannia. In AD 50, Britain's first city, Colonia Claudia Victricensis, was founded there, but the city was razed and its citizens massacred in Boudica's rebellion in AD 60. The Roman provincial capital subsequently moved to Londinium (London) where it remained until the end of Roman colonization and influence.


Newstead, Scottish Borders is claimed to be the oldest continually inhabited settlement in Scotland. Originally the vicus of the Roman fort at Trimontium, the masons who built nearby Melrose Abbey lodged there during the 12th century.


Ipswich, the county town of the English county of Suffolk, also claims it is England's oldest continuously settled town, with a history of continued occupation since the Anglo-Saxons.[8][9]


  1. ^ Matthews, Peter (1992). The Guinness Book of Records 1993. Guinness World Records. p. 175. ISBN 978-0851129785. 
  2. ^ "Guide to Abingdon, Oxfordshire". BBC. Retrieved October 2, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Abingdon". Royal Berkshire History. Retrieved January 18, 2008. 
  4. ^ "Frontier territory along the Thames". British Archeology. Retrieved October 2, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Amesbury in Wiltshire confirmed as oldest UK settlement". bbc.co.uk. 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Colchester Tourist Board (2011). "Culture and Heritage". visitcolchester.com. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Colchester Tourist Board (2011). "Colchester - Britain's Oldest Recorded Town". visitcolchester.com. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "History of Medieval Ipswich". Retrieved June 13, 2007. 
  9. ^ ""England's Oldest Town"". Retrieved June 27, 2007. 

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