To see what inner city life is like, we meet Grata, who shows us round her home and tells us what she likes and dislikes about living in Londinium.
Take a walk along Londinium’s busy Via Decumana and you will see all manner of businesses, shops and workshops selling goods and services but the living accommodation lies hidden behind.
Grata and her carpenter husband Solinus, have rented this house for two years. While Solinus works from home, Grata has turned the rest of the house into their home.
‘The place was in a mess when we moved in’, confesses Grata. ‘We had to repair some of the mud-brick walls and then re-paint them due to damp. We find it’s something that we have to do quite regularly’.
Rectangular is better than round!
The house is 10 years old so the oak frame and roof timbers – which you can see if you look up - are well-seasoned. Admittedly, the house is rather basic with its planked roof, but Grata is pleased with the living room’s one glazed window that lets in light but not draughts. Other rooms have open windows, shuttered or barred.
She says that it is infinitely preferable to the traditional British roundhouse she was brought up in on the outskirts of the town. ‘Like my childhood home, we have no separate bedroom here and sleep around the hearth in the living room but I love having more space and living right in the heart of town’.
Home is where the hearth is!
We walked through the open-fronted shop where Solinus was discussing a client's requirement for bespoke furniture and along the long corridor to the living quarters behind.
Here an ingenious sunken hearth is built into the floor. Unlike the more usual tile-built hearths, this hearth has a clay hot-plate and a built-in rubbish hollow for household scraps.
Grata proudly shows me the internal chamber pot set into the floor in the corner of the room. ‘Now there’s no need to pop outside, except to empty it!'
The back room, the workshop, backs onto the yard where they keep piglets, chickens and bees. ‘For a sweet life’ laughs Grata. The family also dumps their household rubbish there.
‘This does lead to some problems’ admits Grata, ‘It stinks in hot weather and there are the mice and flies to contend with - that’s the downside. That and the noise from the street – it’s never quiet!’