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Which Are the 11 Oldest Towns in England?

The towns of England that have stood the test of time reveal more than just the scars of history. These places show the negative and positive influence of human civilization. The oldest towns in England display beautiful architecture and amazing past stories. People from all over the world visit and learn about these places’ history. Here is the list of the 11 oldest towns in England. 

List of 11 Oldest Towns in England

  1. Colchester
  2. London
  3. York
  4. Winchester
  5. Chester
  6. Bath
  7. Durham
  8. Norwich
  9. Canterbury
  10. Exeter
  11. Salisbury

1) Colchester

According to records, Colchester is the oldest town in Britain, founded by the Romans in 43 AD. Once known as Camulodunum, it was a bustling hub of Roman trade and culture and the first Roman capital of Britain. With their approximately two-and-a-half-mile length, the town’s well-preserved Roman walls are the oldest and longest in Britain, providing evidence of its rich history.

Colchester was a thriving city with theaters, temples, and a forum in the time of the Romans. In 60 AD, it was also the scene of the well-known Boudica uprising against Roman power. The Romans demonstrated their tenacity and will when they rebuilt Colchester despite being devastated by Boudica’s army.

Colchester has developed over the ages, combining medieval and modern-era elements with its Roman past. Today, museums like the Colchester Castle Museum, which has one of Britain’s most significant Roman collections, allow tourists to delve into its rich history. Travelers and history lovers alike should make time to visit Colchester because of its lively cultural scene and ancient appeal.

2) London

Since its modest beginnings as a Roman town in 43 AD, London has developed into a major worldwide city and the capital of England. It was founded on the banks of the River Thames as a key place for trade and military defense and was formerly known as Londinium. The Romans laid the groundwork for what would grow to be one of the most important cities in the world by building walls around the city and a bridge across the Thames.

Londinium flourished as a hive of trade and culture during the Roman era. Its public baths, temples, and forum demonstrate the skill of Roman urban design. But in 60 AD, the Iceni tribe, led by Boudica, overthrew the city in part as a protest against Roman control. This loss did not stop Londinium from rebuilding rapidly and growing further.

Londinium went into perishing in the early 5th century following the Roman withdrawal from Britain. London didn’t start to rise again until the Middle Ages when it emerged as England’s political and commercial hub. London has endured hardships throughout the ages, including wars, epidemics, and fires, yet it has always recovered, proving its adaptability and perseverance.

London is a dynamic, multifaceted city today that skillfully combines modern innovation with its historic heritage. London provides both tourists and locals with an enthralling trip through time, with its famous sites like the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

Also read: Best Places To See in London

3) York

York, formerly known as Eboracum when it was built by the Romans in 71 AD, is a city rich in legacy and history. York was founded as a military stronghold to protect Roman Britain against northern invaders because of its advantageous location at the meeting point of the rivers Ouse and Foss. Here, the Romans built a legionary fortification that subsequently served as the province of Britannia Inferior’s imperial capital.

York prospered as a major military, commercial, and administrative hub throughout the Roman era. It had an amphitheater, public baths, temples, a basilica, and all the amenities of a Roman metropolis. The city’s wealth was further increased due to its advantageous placement on important Roman highways, which promoted trade and communication.

York was a significant city even after the Romans left Britain in the early fifth century, changing under Anglo-Saxon and Viking control. In Old English, it was called Eoforwic, and in Viking times, Jórvík. York saw the establishment of a prosperous Viking trading community, which developed into a major hub in the network of Viking trade that spanned Europe.

York’s great Gothic cathedral, York Minster, was constructed over several decades beginning in the 13th century, making its medieval past even more remarkable. The city is still surrounded by its massively renovated medieval walls, which were first built during the Roman era and provide captivating views of the old streets and structures within.

With its cobblestone lanes, antique buildings, and thriving cultural life, York is a fascinating mix of old and new that draws tourists from all over the world. 

4) Winchester

Established as Venta Belgarum by the Romans in 70 AD, Winchester stands as one of the oldest and most revered cities in England. Situated in the center of Hampshire, Winchester functioned as the capital of the Wessex kingdom before emerging as the Anglo-Saxon capital of England. It became a vital hub for trade, administration, and defense due to its advantageous location on the River Itchen and its proximity to important Roman routes.

Winchester was a prosperous Roman town with a forum, public baths, and an amphitheater during the Roman era. It served as a major Roman military outpost and administrative hub in southern Britain. The town was previously surrounded by the city’s Roman walls, which are mostly ruined throughout the years but serve as a reminder of the town’s significance at this time.

Following the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the early fifth century, Winchester remained a prominent Anglo-Saxon city. It was the seat of government for the Anglo-Saxon monarchs of England and eventually became the capital of the kingdom of Wessex. Founded in the seventh century, Winchester Cathedral has seen numerous expansions and reconstructions over the years, making it one of the biggest cathedrals in all of Europe.

Winchester’s rich heritage is reflected in its lively markets, old buildings, and narrow lanes, all of which bear witness to its fascinating medieval past. The famed Round Table, which has been connected to King Arthur and his knights since the 14th century, is kept in the city’s historic Great Hall, which dates back to the 13th century.

Winchester is a thriving city today that skillfully combines its historic past with modern living. It is a well-liked travel destination for tourists looking to experience its rich history and quaint environment because of its historic landmarks, cultural attractions, and gorgeous surroundings.

5) Chester

Chester has a dynamic and diverse history spanning more than two millennia, having been founded as Deva by the Romans in the first century AD. Chester, a military colony and castle on the River Dee in Cheshire, was founded to defend the Roman province of Britannia from the Celtic tribes of Wales and the north. The city was surrounded by magnificent defensive walls constructed by the Romans, which are now the most intact in all of Britain.

Chester was a thriving Roman town with a forum, amphitheater, and public baths during the Roman era. It functioned as a crucial Roman military outpost and administrative hub in northwest Britain. Roman remains may still be seen in the city’s street plan, where the main thoroughfares still trace the ancient Roman routes, and in its archeological monuments, which include the Roman Gardens and Amphitheater.

Chester remained a thriving Anglo-Saxon and later Norman colony long after the Romans left Britain in the early fifth century. With trade, especially with Ireland and the Continent, it developed into a thriving medieval city. During this time, the city’s medieval structures were constructed, such as the stunning Chester Cathedral and the unusual Rows, a collection of old two-story retail galleries.

6) Bath

Bath is a city known for its natural hot springs and breathtaking Georgian architecture. It was built by the Romans in the first century AD as Aquae Sulis. Bath is a lovely spa town in Somerset that was founded around its natural thermal springs, which the Romans dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva. Around the springs, the Romans built a complex of baths and a temple, establishing a well-liked retreat for rest and recuperation.

During the Roman period, Bath was known as Aquae Sulis and was a bustling center of Roman life with a temple, baths, and a sacred spring dedicated to Sulis Minerva. The Roman Baths complex, which is remarkably well-preserved, offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the city’s Roman heritage. The Great Bath, the best-preserved Roman bath in Britain, is filled with steaming hot water from the springs and is surrounded by an array of Roman artifacts and statues.

Bath went through a period of collapse following the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the early fifth century, but it later recovered and became a thriving medieval town. In the 18th century, during the Georgian era, it gained appeal as a spa town again, becoming a chic retreat for the affluent and privileged. The exquisite terraces, crescents, and squares that define the city’s Georgian architecture are testaments to this era of wealth and cultural sophistication.

Bath is today a well-liked tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its breathtaking architecture, extensive history, and restorative thermal springs. 

7) Durham

Located in northeastern England, Durham was established in the 10th century AD and is a city rich in architectural grandeur and history. Its history begins when the monks of Lindisfarne, fleeing Viking assaults, established a fortified town and built a wooden shrine to hold the relics of St Cuthbert. Later, this community gave rise to the spectacular Durham Castle and Cathedral, which now dominate the city’s skyline and are both UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Early medieval pilgrims came to Durham because of its connection to St Cuthbert, whose shrine drew pilgrims from all across Britain and Europe. As a result, Durham became increasingly significant as a religious center and destination. The monks of Durham Cathedral built a flourishing community around the cathedral and fortress and were instrumental in the Christianization of the area.

Durham’s strategic significance as a defensive fortress against Scottish invasions is another aspect of its medieval past that is noteworthy. The Prince-Bishops of Durham lived in Durham Castle, which was first constructed in the 11th century to guard the cathedral and its valuables. The Prince-Bishops possessed both secular and religious authority in the area.

The city’s historic core provides visitors with an enthralling trip through time with its cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, and picturesque riverbank location. The 1832-founded Durham University contributes to the dynamic cultural environment and youthful vitality of the city, while the Durham Dales, with their charming villages and gorgeous scenery, provide chances for outdoor enjoyment and discovery.

Also read: Difference Between England and Great Britain

8) Norwich

Located in the center of Norfolk, East Anglia, Norwich is a city with a rich and varied history that was founded by the Anglo-Saxons in the fifth century AD. The city, which was once known as Northwic, was founded as a regional hub for trade and administration, taking advantage of its location on the River Wensum and closeness to the North Sea. During the Anglo-Saxon era, Norwich rapidly gained prominence, and by the time of the Norman Conquest, it was among the biggest towns in England.

Norwich was a bustling market in the Middle Ages, known for its textile industry and especially for fabric production. The spectacular medieval architecture of the city, which includes the renowned Norman cathedral and the ancient Norwich Castle, which was constructed by the Normans as a royal palace and defensive bastion, is a testament to the wealth of the city during this era.

With its winding lanes and alleys, Norwich’s medieval street plan has managed to preserve much of its historic charm and individuality. With many of them constructed from the unique native flint, the city’s medieval guildhalls, churches, and merchant homes provide an intriguing look into its rich architectural past.

Norwich went through a period of industrial growth and expansion in the 18th century, and the textile sector is still very important to the city’s economy today. Historic factories and warehouses, some of which have been converted into museums, galleries, and cultural spaces, are testaments to the city’s industrial past.

Norwich is a thriving, international city today that skillfully combines the best aspects of its ancient history with the present. 

9) Canterbury

Founded in the 6th century BC, Canterbury boasts a rich cultural and historical legacy, making it one of England’s most significant cities. Canterbury, which is in the southeast English county of Kent, was first settled by the Celtic people before the Romans came and founded the town of Durovernum Cantiacorum in the first century AD. The town’s layout is still influenced by the Roman wall and grid system of streets that they constructed around it.

Canterbury played a significant role as a hub for trade and administration throughout the Roman era, linking Britain with the Roman Empire. The remnants of the city walls and gates, as well as archeological sites like the Roman Museum, which displays relics from this era, are testaments to the city’s Roman past.

Because of the introduction of Christianity at Canterbury in the sixth century AD, its medieval history is especially noteworthy. The foundations for Canterbury’s position as the spiritual hub of England were laid by St. Augustine, who was dispatched by Pope Gregory the Great, who founded his mission in Canterbury in 597 AD and went on to become the city’s first Archbishop. Founded in 597 AD, Canterbury Cathedral is the mother church of the Anglican Communion worldwide and serves as the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. A must-see for anybody visiting the city, the cathedral boasts breathtaking Gothic architecture and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Canterbury flourished as a religious and pilgrimage center during the Middle Ages, drawing travelers from all across Europe to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket, who was crucified inside the cathedral in 1170. The city’s ancient alleys, like the famed King’s Mile and St. Dunstan’s, are dotted with quaint shops, lively marketplaces, and timber-framed buildings that provide tourists with a lovely trip down memory lane.

Also read: Why England Was the First Country To Industrialize

10) Exeter

Exeter is a historic city in Devon, southwest England, that was founded as Isca Dumnoniorum by the Romans in the first century AD. Exeter, which is located on the River Exe, was built as a fort and administrative hub to keep the surrounding Celtic tribes under control and to repel Saxon invasions from the Roman province of Britannia. The Romans established a grid street pattern that would impact the growth of the city for centuries to come, as well as a defensive wall that remains in places around the city today.

Exeter, also known as Isca, was a thriving Roman town featuring an amphitheater, baths, and forum during the Roman era. It functioned as a crucial Roman military outpost and administrative hub in southwest Britain. 

Exeter was a prosperous Anglo-Saxon settlement even after the Romans left Britain in the early fifth century. Later on in the Middle Ages, it played a significant role as a religious and cultural hub after becoming the capital of the kingdom of Wessex. Exeter Cathedral, a magnificent Gothic church known for its elaborate vaulted ceilings and exquisite stained glass windows, was established in the 12th century and is a testament to the city’s medieval past.

11) Salisbury

With roots in prehistoric ages, Salisbury is a city located in southwest England’s stunning Wiltshire countryside. Situated nearby and a site of pilgrimage and mystery for thousands of years, Stonehenge is an ancient monument whose history is intricately linked to this city.

The current city of Salisbury originated when it was rebuilt and moved from its original location at Old Sarum in the 13th century. An amazing feat of medieval engineering, Salisbury Cathedral’s construction took 38 years to complete, starting in 1220. At 123 meters (404 feet) high, the cathedral’s spire is the tallest in all of Britain, making it a marvel of Gothic construction. The world’s oldest working clock, exquisite woodwork, and stained glass windows grace its exquisite interior.

Bishop Richard Poore designed Salisbury’s grid street pattern in the 13th century, and it remains the city’s layout to this day. The medieval marketplace of Salisbury, encircled by quaint buildings with timber frames, has served as the hub of the city’s community for generations and is still home to a thriving market on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

The city’s medieval walls provide a glimpse into its defensive past, despite having been mostly destroyed in the 18th century to create room for urban expansion. A


The oldest towns in England tell the captivating stories of the past. These towns offer a fascinating journey through England’s diverse past. This guide listed the 11 oldest places in England that you should visit to have an idea of the places that have shaped England.


What Is Britain’s First Town?

Colchester is Britain’s first Roman city that was founded in 43 AD.

What Was the First Capital of England?

Winchester was the first capital of England when the 7 Anglo-Saxon kingdoms united under one king in the ninth century.

What Is the Main Town in England?

London is without doubt the main town of England with a population of approximately 9.7 million. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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