The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Pompey’s Pillar And Sphinxes, The Serapeum, Alexandria, Egypt

Pompey’s Pillar and Sphinx at Alexandria in Egypt.

Latitude:31.182515  Longitude:29.896394. On the rocky hill called ‘The Serapeum’ near the center of Alexandria, Egypt, are three monuments dating from the Roman period. The ornate granite ‘triumphal pillar’ or monolithic column (over 20m high) has wrongly been called ‘Pompey’s Pillar’ (it was probably erected to honour the Emperor Diocletion (297-300 AD) when he saved the city from famine. The pillar is also known as Awud as-Sawari (The Horseman’s Pillar). The two monuments (at either side) are Roman copies of the Sphinx, although much smaller than the more well-known Great Sphinx at Giza. Both are made from pink granite and of an earlier date than the pillar; they show the body of a lion and the head of a man. The Serapeum, at the south-west side of the city, on Shari Amûd al Sawari, northeast of the Catacombs of Kom al Shuqqafa, was the site of the Temple of Serapis and the Sanctuary and Library buildings, which were built either by Ptolemy I or III, the ruins of which are now the Acropolis Archaeological site. The  city of Alexandria was conquered by Rome in 30 BC. Pompey the Great was murdered in Egypt (48 BC).

Old Postcard showing Pompey’s Pillar at Alexandria, Egypt.

The Insight Guide – Egypt (1988) says of the site that: “Long before Alexander arrived on the scene, this hill was the citadel of Rhakotis, dedicated to the worship of Osiris. The Ptolemies in their turn built a temple of Serapis on its summit. Here, with a collection of 200,000 manuscripts given to her by Mark Antony, Cleopatra endowed the second great Alexandrian library, which was to remain attached to the Serapeum until the temple itself was destroyed by a Christian mob; and thus here, for 400 years, was the most learned spot on earth. Today not much of the Serapeum remains: some tunnels in the rocks with crypts and niches and a few marble pillars. What the Christians wiped out in 391 A.D. later vicissitudes have put paid to. But the principal attraction, a solitary 72-foot (22 meter) high pillar of pink Aswan granite, seems to touch the sky defiantly and when European travelers arrived in the 15th century it caught their attention. No scholars they, but since they had heard of Pompey, they named the pillar after him and said his head was enclosed in a ball at the top. It actually has nothing to do with Pompey: according to an inscription on its base, it was dedicated to the Emperor Diocletian in 297 A.D. and it may once have had an equestrian statue on top, which would explain its Arabic name. Even less is left of the temple to Isis that once stood on the hill than of the Serapeum. You can see a statue of Isis Pharia, found near the site of the Pharos, as well as two granite sphinxes.”  

Alice Taylor (1964) adds to that that: “Among the best-preserved remains of the Roman period in Alexandria are Pompey’s Pillar and the sphinx. The red granite pillar, eighty-five feet high, was erected by Diocletian in 297 A.D. Excavations here have unearthed dozens of fragments of other Roman objects and buildings, but they are only fragments.”

And Taylor (1964) also says that: “In the last years of the Ptolemaic era a succession of rival rulers, constantly at war with each other, fell under the rising power of Rome. Cleopatra VI, the last of them, a woman of remarkable ability, tried her best to save the dynasty.”

And further to that Alice Taylor adds with regard to Egypt that: “Most of the Roman rulers, like the Greek, considered Egypt a “”cow to be milked””, although at times the people appear to have been fairly prosperous. Gradually, despite persecutions, Christianity gained converts. Many sought refuge in the harsh lonely desert, where they created the world’s first Christian monasteries. Later, Christianity became the official religion, known as the Egyptian (Coptic) Church, and the non-Christians in turn were persecuted.”

View of Pompey’s Pillar c 1850. (Wikimedia).

Edith Flamarion (1997) writes regarding Pompey the Great that: “One man especially became the champion of Egyptian independence: the roman imperator (commander) Pompey the Great, wreathed in glory after suppressing a revolt in Rome, clearing the Mediterranean of pirates, and crushing the powerful Asian king Mithradates. In 64 BCE he over-threw the Seleucid kingdom; the following year, he reduced Syria to the status of a Roman province—thereby creating a Roman stronghold in the Middle East, at the gates of Egypt—and took Jerusalem. Auletes made an alliance with Pompey, sending him 8,000 cavalry for his wars and many gifts, among them a heavy gold crown. 

In 60 BCE, though, the pharaoh had reason to tremble, for Pompey allied himself with Julius Caesar, who became consul the following year. The Egyptian king sent to Rome the huge sum of 8,000 talents, which brought him official acknowledge-ment of his authority. Julian law declared Ptolemy XII Auletes “”an ally and friend of the Roman people,””  which made him, in reality, a vassal.

“The looming military presence of Rome may have alarmed the Alexandrians, who rebelled against the ruler. Driven out by his subjects, Auletes fled Egypt for Rome. There, beginning in 57 BCE he launched a campaign of politicking and corruption, seeking to regain the throne of Egypt and to rally to his cause every powerful citizen of the Roman capital. Auletes bribed senators, spending so much that he was obliged to borrow from Rabirius, a wealthy Roman financier. 

“In the meantime, the Alexandrians put his eldest daughter, Berenice IV, on the throne, and sent a delegation to Rome to request the Senate to arbitrate the conflict between father and daughter. While Rome hesitated, equivocated, and consulted sacred texts, Auletes simply arranged to have a number of the delegates assassinated. But Rome was reluctant to commit a large armed force to returning Auletes to power. In despair, the deposed pharaoh left Rome for Ephesus, in Asia Minor. Cleopatra, then about ten years old, remained in Alexandria, where her half-sister now reigned.

“It was then that Rome decided upon a military intervention. One of Pompey’s lieutenants, Gabinius, governor of Syria, marched on Egypt at the head of a mighty army—an expedition in which the ten thousand talents promised by Auletes undoubtedly played a part. Leading the cavalry was a fiery twenty-four-year-old officer named Mark Antony. Gabinius took Pelusium, then Alexandria; Archilaus, Berenice’s husband, died in combat. Auletes entered the Egyptian capital as its conqueror, and immediately had his daughter executed.

“With the pharaoh back on the throne, Gabinius quit Egypt, leaving behind a military guard composed in the main of German and Gallic mercenaries. The Roman Rabirius, Auletes’ creditor became his prime-minister in Egypt.”” And the rest ‘they’ say is History! 

Sources & Related Websites:

Flamarion, Edith, Cleopatra – From History to Legend, (New Horizons), English Translation – Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1997.

Ingram, David, (Insight Compact Guide), Egypt,  APA Publications GmbH & Co. Verlag KG Singapore, (Reprint 2008).

Taylor, Alice, United Arab Republic, (Around The World Program), Nelson Doubleday, Inc And Odhams Books Ltd., 1964. 

Youssef, Hisham & Rodenbeck, John, (Insight Guides – First Edition Reprint), Egypt, Hans Johannes Hoefer, APA Publications (HK) Ltd., 1988.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompey%27s_Pillar_(column)

https://www.ask-aladdin.com/Alex-Travel-Information/PompeyPillar.html

http://brewminate.com/serapea-of-ancient-egypt/

http://tvatravels.com/adventures/egypt/alexandria-city-lost-glory/

© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2018.


Affetside Cross, Near Bury, Greater Manchester

Affetside Medieval Cross, near Bury, in Greater Manchester.

   OS Grid Reference: SD 75471 13676. At the edge of Affetside village green, near Bury, Greater Manchester, stands an old cross of uncertain date. It is probably Medieval but, because it stands on the old Roman road (Watling Street), some historians have even considered it to be a Roman cross or milestone, or even a Roman column, but that seems unlikely. It is probably a pilgrims cross. Watling Street runs southeast from Affetside towards Manchester, and northwest in the opposite direction towards Ribchester. The village green has some modern standing stones and a large pond. Affetside Cross is best reached from the A 676 (Ramsbottom road) and then southeast for ½ a mile along the almost straight-running lane that is the Roman road, bringing you into the picturesque little village, where you’ll find the old cross beside the green – you can’t really miss it!

Affetside Cross.

   Affetside cross is about 4¼ feet high on its three steps, well actually two steps, as the top step is in effect the base which the gritstone shaft is socketed into, while the two lower circular, tiered steps are well worn with age. The shaft is formed from one complete length of local stone. At the top of the shaft there is a collar with a round or bun-shaped capital which may originally have held a stone cross, or maybe it never did? This is perhaps why the cross-shaft has taken on the appearance of a Roman column! There looks to be some faint carving on the shaft, or is this simply the mason’s tool marks. Thought to be Medieval in date and probably a pilgrims cross that was used ‘as a place to stop and pray for a safe journey’ by those weary but very religious travelers – making their way to Whalley Abbey by way of Bury, Ramsbottom, Helmshore, Holcombe Moor and Accrington – from the late 13th/early 14th century until the Dissolution of that holy place in 1537, when pilgrimages ceased. It would seem though the present monument is a market cross and more recent in age maybe 17th century, being re-erected about 1890, according to Pastscape.

Information Plaque (now very hard to make out).

   The village of Affetside stands on the Roman road Watling Street which runs from here into Manchester (Mamucium) where there was a Roman fort and settlement, while in the opposite direction it runs to the fort at Ribchester (Bremetennacum). Is it possible that the pillar of the Affetside cross was a Roman milestone as the village is actually about halfway between the two forts; maybe it was re-fashioned by Medieval masons into what we see today. Or does the cross mark the site of a beacon – at which time an earlier monument or cross had stood here, apparently. These questions can never really be answered with certainty, we can only guess.

   Authoress Jessica Lofthouse (1964) does not say anything about Affetside cross but she mentions the village and Roman road, saying that: “Driving the civilizing power of Rome through the north-west came Julius Agricola and his road-builders in 79 A.D. Follow the line of the Manchester-Ribchester highway through Affetside and north by Blacksnape and Over Darwen.”

Sources and related websites:-

Lofthouse, Jessica, Lancashire Countrygoer, Robert Hale Limited, London, 1964.

Shotter, D. C. A., Romans in Lancashire, Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, Yorkshire, 1973.

http://affetside.org.uk/cross_history.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affetside

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=44366&sort=4&search=all&criteria=affetside&rational=q&recordsperpage=10

http://www.bury.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=11677

                                                    © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.

 

 

 


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Caerwent Roman Town, Monmouthshire, South Wales, Part 2.

Caerwent Roman Town Walls, South Wales,

Caerwent Roman Town Walls, South Wales.

OS Grid Reference: ST 4692 9062. The Roman town of Venta Silurium, founded by the Romans in 75 AD, is now the modern village of Caerwent in Monmouthshire, and is located just to the south of the A48 road and just west of the M48. It is 5 miles west of Chepstow and 11 miles east of Newport. The modern village is built around the Roman ruins, which are some of the best preserved in Europe. Large sections of the Roman town walls are still in place, according to Wikipedia. The River Severn is a couple of miles to the south. In the village is the medieval church of Saints Stephen and Tathan, an ancient foundation which may date back to the early 6th century AD? Housed in the church porch are two Roman inscribed stones. The Roman legionary fortress of Caerleon is 8 miles to the west.

Continued from part 1:-

Typical Roman shop (illustration).

A typical Roman shop (illustration).

Pound Lane Shops And Houses. Shops:- The remains of these buildings were excavated in 1947-8, part of insulae VII. As is typical of these buildings the commercial part of the property occupies the front and the residential the back. Several phases of construction and re-development are also noticeable. Two narrow-strip buildings occupied the plot in the mid-2nd century separated by a passage. Each had a large work space/shop at the front and 4 or 5 residential rooms at the back. The buildings were single storey. It is uncertain but possible that the upper parts were of timber. The floors of the living areas were of concrete and the roofs were tiled while the walls were plastered and painted. The shop to the west was probably a blacksmith, the one to the east is unknown. At the beginning of the 3rd century both buildings were joined as one with some alterations. Again, it appears to be the blacksmith who had prospered. Towards the middle of the 4th century further alterations show that the blacksmith family who lived here became even more prosperous. The rooms were enlarged, two had mosaic floors, even the roof tiles were re-placed by stone slabs, and columns added a decorative feel to the front of the building, with a courtyard replacing the front of what had been the second shop. This once again illustrates that by the mid 4th century Britain was still a prosperous place to live. The building took on the feel of a very smart townhouse. The house was still occupied by the beginning of the 5th century, but evidence of industrial activity in some of the rooms suggests that its status had declined dramatically in-line with the waning of Roman influence and fortunes.

The Courtyard House: The remains of this building lie to the rear of the shops occupying the northwest corner of insulae VII. Two wings of the house have been excavated. The plan is of standard courtyard design and dating from the fist half of the 4th Century AD. Before this date the area appears to have been just an open space. The West Wing fronts onto a side street today known as Pound Lane. A Total of 13 rooms of varying size with only the lowest courses and foundations surviving are visible. The south wing had 5 rooms as did the west wing but all smaller than the south wing so perhaps they were bedrooms. Most were found to have floors of yellow concrete but one had a mosaic laid on stone-slabs beneath which was found a hypocaust system. The Romans not only invented concrete but also central heating. During the excavation traces of painted wall-plaster were found. It is quite possible that the house had an upper storey, as there was some evidence of a staircase. In keeping with its 4th century origins the house was roofed with stone-slabs. Part of the courtyard surrounding the house was paved and an enclosure to the north suggests a small garden.

Time Team visited in 2008 – their remit to explore the areas that had not been investigated. Mick Aston had hoped to look for medieval remains as he did not like the Roman’s, but was told by the dig’s lead archaeologist that they did not have time. They did ‘goephys’ and dug trenches in Insulae XIV opposite the Romano-Celtic Temple where they found more shops and, Insulae 1, where they found a large town-house with private bathing facilities similar to others found in the suburbs of the town. The best find had to be the penknife handle with two gladiators – someone’s once prize possession and one of only two found in the UK.

Later History: After the Roman occupation ended Caerwent became the administrative centre for the Kingdom of Gwent. The name Caerwent translates from the Welsh as ‘Fort of Gwent’. Post-Roman metalwork (broaches and fastening pins have been found, dating to between the 4th-7th centuries AD). The town is mentioned in the ‘Roman Cosmology’, a treatise written in the 7th century but based on an earlier account. It is then mentioned in the Life of Tatheus written in the first half of the 12th century. The saint came from Ireland and after performing a number of miracles was given the site of the Roman Town by the local king, Caradoc, to set up a monastic settlement. In 1910 a trench was dug just outside the East Gate where 30 skeletons were found within a cist of stone slabs of post roman date across the wall of a Roman building. A number of people thought the bones included those of St Tatheus. And in 1912, with due ceremony, the bones were interred in a coffin in the south aisle of St Stephen’s church. In favour of the reburial was a later discovery that a gift of 3 bones of St Tatheus had been made to Tewkesbury abbey in 1235 and that the note records that: St Tatheus is ‘buried at Caerwent’. Against is the fact that several other cist graves dating from the 4th-9th centuries AD have been found at Caerwent. All are of Christian origin. V.E Nash Williams’ interpretation of a structure built later over the west end of the Public Baths as an early Christian Church, has also now been disproved.

There was certainly some occupation in the Norman Period as a motte can be seen in the southeast corner of the site. The parish church of Sts Stephen & Tathan is also worth a visit for the Roman artefacts in the porch. St Tathan (Tatheus) was the son of the Irish king, Tathalius. He left his father’s court to become a Christian missionary and, after receiving ‘a heavenly vision’, sailed up the Severn estuary, landing in south Wales (maybe at Portskewett) in the late 5th century. He is said to have founded a monastery at Llandathan (St Athan) in south Glamorgan – either soon after his arrival in south Wales or at a later date?

Then sometime after 500 AD Tathan founded a monastic school at Caerwent when the local king, Caradog, or maybe his son, Ynyr, gave him a ‘parcel of land’ there. St Cadoc is thought to have studied for the monastic life at this monastery. St Tathan was not made bishop of Caerwent as some historians have suggested, but he was apparently a renowned miracle-worker. The date of his death is uncertain but it was perhaps sometime after 524 AD and maybe as late as 560? His feast-day is 26th December, a day which coincides with that of St Stephen the proto-martyr. The supposed relics of Tathan lie beneath a large stone beneath the floor of the south aisle of the church. However, another legend claims that he was the son of Amwn Ddu and Anna of Glamorgan, which would make him a close relative of St Tewdric of Mathern. This alternative legend says that St Tathan’s relics were buried at Llandathan (St Athan) in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Roman Inscribed Stone. Drawing by R. G. C., (1924)

Roman Inscribed Stone. Drawing by R. G. Collingwood (1924)

The Paulinus Stone or The Civitas Silurum Stone: The large block of bath-stone is a statue base with a dedication to: Tiberius Claudius Paulinus, a commandant of the second Augustan legion about 214-17 AD. After this he held office in two Gallic provinces. In 220 he returned as Governor of Brittania Inferior (Britain had been divided into two provinces: inferior and superior at the beginning of the 3rd century by the Emperor Septimus Severus). As the inscription does not include this latter information the stone, which is a statue base (pedestal), probably predates this. Of singular importance, however, is the reference to the local civil administration: it tells us that the Silures were administered by a council. The dedication reads:-

To (Tiberius Claudius) Paulinus (once) commander of the second Augustan legion (next) proconsul of the province Gallia Narbonensis (now) Imperial Governor province of Lugdunensis by decree of the council of the community of the state of the Silures.                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The stone was found in 1903 having been re-used as part of a post-Roman construction of blocks in the centre of the village on which the war memorial now stands. It can now be seen just inside the church porch.

Roman altar stone.

Altar Stone.

A second Roman antiquity which also stands in the church porch is a stone made of yellow sandstone. This is an altar-stone dedicated to the god Mars (Ocelus). The inscription reads:-

To the God — Mars (Ocelus) — Aelius Augustinus — optio (a junior officer) — Paid his vow willingly and duly.

 

Caerwent’s earliest mention post-Rome and Medieval is in the works of John Leland (1540) by which time most of the internal buildings had been robbed out to create cottages and the church. In the late 18th and early 19th century the first tourists arrived leaving their impressions—the worst aspect of which, from our point of view, is that what was left of the limestone was being burned for lime!

Octavious Morgan was the first to conduct an archaeological dig in 1855 revealing a small bath-house together with another building in insulae XX. The extant ground plan of the town emerged during further excavations between 1899 and 1913 by the Clifton Antiquarian Club, funded by Lord Tredegar. Finds from this dig, which exposed 2/3% of the town, are now in the Newport Museum. Further digs in 1923 revealed the Public Bath House; in 1925 the walls on the SE side were excavated, while in 1946-7 the Pound Lane Shops and courtyard house; in 1973 the town cemetery outside the East Gate; in 1981 a large courtyard house in the NW corner, and then in 1992 the Forum Basilica was excavated.

Newport Museum and Art Gallery: The museum in John Frost Square is open Tuesday to Friday 9.30am to 5 pm, and Saturday 9.30 to 4pm. Entry is free. The museum houses many of the artefacts found at Caerwent over the years: a 2nd century broach in the form of a hare, a fragment of a painted wall depicting a girl’s face found in 1901, a statue of the mother goddess found near the temple precinct in 1908, a number of mosaic floors including the one found in the mansion, roof finials in the form of a lantern, a pine cone, locks and keys, a pewter bowl scratched with the Christian Chi Ro monogram, pots, coins and agricultural equipment. Other artefacts are housed in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

Sources and other related websites:-

Barber, Chris, More Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London, 1987.

BBC Publication, Roman Britain, The British Broadcasting Corporation, London, 1966.

Brewer, Richard J., Caerwent Roman Town, Cadw Welsh Historic Monuments, 1993.

Evans, J. Barrie, The Parish Church Of St. Stephen & St. Tathan Caerwent – A Short Guide.

Spencer, Ray, A Guide to the Saints Of Wales and the West Country, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed, 1991.

Wilson, J. A., A Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain, 4th Edition, Constable, 2002.

https://romaninscriptionsofbritain.org/inscriptions/311

https://romaninscriptionsofbritain.org/about/terms-of-use

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caerwent

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caerwenthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venta_Silurum

http://maryinmonmouth.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/in-steps-oif-st-tatheus-of-caerwent.html

http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/caerwent-roman-town/?lang=enhttps://museum.wales/1493/

https://museum.wales/1493/

                                                      © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.

 

 


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Caerwent Roman Town, Monmouthshire, South Wales, Part 1.

Caerwent Roman Town Walls, South Wales,

Caerwent Roman Town Walls, South Wales,

OS Grid Reference: ST 4692 9062. The Roman town of Venta Silurium, founded by the Romans in 75 AD, is now the modern village of Caerwent in Monmouthshire, and is located just to the south of the A48 road and just west of the M48. It is 5 miles west of Chepstow and 11 miles east of Newport. The modern village is built around the Roman ruins, which are some of the best preserved in Europe. Large sections of the Roman town walls are still in place, according to Wikipedia. The River Severn is a couple of miles to the south. In the village is the medieval church of Saints Stephen and Tathan, an ancient foundation which may date back to the early 6th century AD? Housed in the church porch are two Roman inscribed stones. The Roman legionary fortress of Caerleon is 8 miles to the west.

Under the Romans Caerwent was known as Venta Silurium (Silurum) or in translation ‘market of the Silures’. The Silures had been an Iron Age tribe occupying south-east Wales and had presented an irritation to the conquest for the Romans. In the early days of the invasion they had sheltered the Romans’ public-enemy-number-one, Caratacus, until he fled to what he thought was the safety of Cartimandua’s Brigantines. She handed him over to the Romans, a good will gesture the Romans would not forget. Gradually following the establish-ment of the legionary Fortress at Caerleon around AD 74 and a series of auxiliary forts across the south – the Silures were subdued. In accordance with Roman Policy of Pax Romana once subdued the Silures were encouraged to settle, although for a time they remained under military rule. The cost of military rule was enormous so it would not have been long before a civil administration would have been established. The administrative capital Venta Silurium was sited astride the mainroad from Gloucester to Caerleon. The town sits on a slight rise in the middle of a valley surrounded by good agricultural land in an area that had been occupied by the Romans since AD 50.

Caerwent Roman Town Walls (Illustration).

Caerwent Roman Town Walls (Illustration).

The Extant Remains:  The total circuit of the wall exceeds 1 mile en-closing an area of 4 acres divided into 20 plots (insulae). The walls are the best preserved of any Roman town in Britain. The internal and external roads would have been of rammed gravel with cambered sides to allow rainwater to run off; and the local civitas (administration) was responsible for repair and resurfacing. The early settlement appears to have had a sprawl of properties along the main road. But the layout we see today is later, possibly even as late as the early third century, which might account for certain oddities – the walls are not square – the insular somewhat jumbled. The actual population was probably about 3800 individuals at its height. Public buildings are of the standard Roman variety.  A Forum Basilica complex occupied the whole insulae VIII; the site of several temple complexes are known and one is visible to the east of the Forum Basilica, another has been excavated to the south in insulae XII, and a third is possible outside the east gate. Whilst the largest houses show evidence of private baths. Public baths have been excavated in insulae XIII.  A mansio which was a kind of inn frequen-ted by members of the Postal Service and other officials has been located in insulae XVIII to the left of the south gate. This was a courtyard building with a forecourt where the weary traveler would have dismounted. Several rooms had hypocausts, at least one having a mosaic floor. A latrine lay in a corner of the courtyard surrounded on three sides by a sewer, suggesting the building was not just a domestic building.

Caerwent Roman Town Wall (photo: Mortimer-Cat - Wikipedia).

Caerwent Roman Town Wall by MortimerCat – Wikipedia).

The Town Walls:  The town had 4 gates. The main ones were the West and East gates opening onto the town’s main thoroughfare. The West Gate originally had a double arched carriageway flanked on either side by a square tower projecting out in front of the wall. Little now survives except part of the south tower and its masonry floor. The west wall, however, built of limestone running from the west gate to the south-west corner survives in places to a remarkable 5 metres (17 feet) and is backed by an earthen bank. From these remains the wall is believed to have been about 7.5 metres in height (25 feet) with a walkway and parapet – none of which survives anywhere along the wall. The wall would also have been originally vertical on both sides. But the method of construction can be determined from this section of the wall. Rows of limestone were laid front and back and the core then filled in with more pieces of limestone and mortar leaving a distinctive herringbone pattern. The wall was clearly built in sections and by different gangs.

Unlike the West Wall the South Wall is not completely straight but bows outwards in its middle section. It also stands to a magnificent 5m (17 feet) in parts. Also, unlike the West Wall the remains of six hollow 5-sided towers (bastions) project from the walls but not bonded to the wall – meaning they are later additions probably 4th century. A new outer ditch had to be made to allow for the towers. The fourth tower from the west is the best-persevered standing to a height of 4m (13ft). Internal joist holes in this tower suggest there were originally two wooded floors beside the ground floor with a top platform also of wood. The South Gate consisted of a single arched carriageway. The piers survive and may originally have supported an overhead chamber. Both sides of the passage were originally recessed allowing the heavy doors to swing back. The carriageway was made up of stones and iron clinker with a slab-lined culvert. At a later date the carriageway was blocked.

The East Wall is also bowed. As with the West Wall there are no external towers. Sadly all that remains of the East Gate, which was constructed the same as the West Gate is the inner angle of the south tower. The East Wall is some 30m shorter than the west wall so avoiding a marshy area and taking advantage of higher ground.

The North Wall is the least well preserved of the four walls. Surviving to just 1.8m (6 feet) in height in parts but it is known that, like the South Wall, it had 5 towers of which little sur-vives. Like the South Gate the North Gate is not centrally placed though the plan is similar with a single carriageway. Sockets for the gates can still be seen. Again and probably in the late Roman Period the North Gate was blocked off – being filled in with rubble from other demolished buildings. The North West Tower of the gate survives to a height if 2.4 metres (8 feet).

Roman Temple at Caerwent by andy dolman (Geograph)

Roman Temple at Caerwent by andy dolman (Geograph)

The Romano-Celtic Temple: The remains of the temple lie to the east of the forum. Excavations were begun in 1908 and concluded between 1984 and 1991. No trace of the deity worshiped here was found. The construction was of traditional Romano-Celtic design. The extant remains show a square inner shrine (cella) with an unusual back projection surrounded by another separate room known as the ambulatory. This would have contained a statue of the deity. The entrance porch would originally have had steps, whilst the small projections at the entrance are probably the bases for pilasters (rectangular columns). The temple stands in its own courtyard surrounded by a boarder wall on 3 sides and an entrance hallway with a central doorway and a tessellated floor on the fourth side facing the main street. Few people actually entered the cella; most of the congregation would have been expected to gather in the courtyard between the hallway and the temple proper.

The Forum Basilica: A central feature of all main roman towns wherever you went in the Empire was the Forum Basilica essentially an administrative assembly hall and market place. The Caerwent example occupies the whole of insulae VIII. Building began in the early second century probably under the auspices of the 2nd Augustan Legion based at Caerleon, as the design is similar to that of the headquarters building there. It was largely rebuilt in the third century probably after structural problems were identified. It continued in use as a forum basilica until after 340 AD when it seems to have been converted into industrial units and was demolished at the end of the 4th Century. It was first excavated in 1907 and again between 1987-1992. The Basilica and the northern end of the forum remain uncovered for public view.

The basilica was 56m (182ft) by 80m (260ft) and would have towered over surrounding buildings but is small by other examples in Roman Britain. Access to the basilica was by steps some of which have survived. There was also access from the side streets. In plan the basilica comprises a great hall, and a rear range of rooms and chambers. On excavation the parts of the walls were found to have survived to 1.8m (6 ft) having been incorporated into early 19th Century farm buildings. The external walls were massive requiring foundations up to 1.8m (6ft) with Corinthian columns rising to a height of about 9.2m (30ft) rendered and painted off-white. It is believed the basilica was in excess of 20m (65ft) in height. The roof initially of tile was partly replaced by sandstone slabs at the end of the third century. The hall would have been used for public meetings and ceremonies. The chambers at each end would have served as tribunals for the local magistrates to hear cases. The rear ranges of rooms were offices for local administrators and their records, while the central room would have held a statue of the reigning Emperor, and the largest room known as the curia would have acted as a council chamber. The Forum is surrounded on 3 sides by a range of rooms entered on the fourth side from the main street through an archway. These rooms would have provided space for shops, taverns and offices, with a larger open front that would have been closed with wooden shutters. A second storey above would have provided yet more rooms.

To be continued………

Sources and related websites:-

BBC Publication, Roman Britain, The British Broadcasting Corporation, London, 1966.

Brewer, Richard J., Caerwent Roman Town, Cadw Welsh Historic Monuments, 1993.

Evans, J. Barrie, The Parish Church Of St. Stephen & St. Tathan Caerwent – A Short Guide.

Wilson, J. A., A Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain, 4th Edition, Constable, 2002.  Constable,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caerwent

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venta_Silurum

Photo from Wikipedia website – Click below for further details:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venta_Silurum#/media/File:CaerwentWall.jpg

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/486475

http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/caerwent-roman-town/?lang=en

https://museum.wales/1493/

                                                     © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


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Cobers Laithe Earthwork, Swinden, Near Nappa, North Yorkshire

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, near Nappa (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, near Nappa (looking north-east).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-east).

    OS grid reference: SD 8669 5340. Sadly next-to-nothing is known about the oval-shaped earth-work or enclosure near to Cobers Laithe farm on  Swinden Moor, which is also known as Swinden Earthwork and Swinden Roman Camp, just 1 mile east of Nappa, North Yorkshire. Was it a Roman camp, as a few have suggested, or was it perhaps a Brigantian settlement – at the time of the Roman invasion? Or was it a more typical Iron Age settlement or enclosure? We don’t know with any certainty. And also it is a bit of an odd sort of earthwork-enclosure as it is intersected through the middle by a stream, and there are a numble of circular pits (bell pits), especially at the N side. The earthwork lies on private land. It is located in a field close to Mill Lane at Swinden – between Bank Newton and Nappa, just 380m to the west of Swinden Moor Head farm. On the earthwork side of the lane Ash Tree Farm is about 530m up the fields to the east.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking east)

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking east)

    It is quite a large earthwork measuring roughly 107m x 87m and it used to have a smaller inner earthwork with a circular bank but this seems to have disappeared altogether, maybe due to farming and the stream. At the time of my visit the outer bank and ditch of the earthwork were deep in grass and reeds in several places, but despite that they are quite pronounced at the SE and SW sides. And at the N, NW and NE sides the bank and its associated ditch are still quite well-defined, and there is a possible entrance at the NW. But as to whether they were ramparts designed for warfare or security, we don’t know, but in my opinion I would think they were non-defensive.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (the enclosure south-side). (the inner enclosure).

(The enclosure at the  southern-side).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (grassy bank and ditch)

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (grassy bank and ditch)

    The oval-shaped layout of the earthwork or camp does ‘not’ look particularly Roman to me. We know the Romans always built square-shaped fortifications. Although it could have been a ‘temporary’ Romano-British camp. However, there does not appear to have been much, if any, Roman activity in the area; and the theory that there was a temporary Roman fort or camp at Long Preston, in the field near St Mary’s church, seems to have all but died a death. In all probability the earthwork here at Swinden was a Brigantian camp, settlement, or enclosure. But another distinct possibility being that this was a more typical Romano-British farmstead.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (southern-side grassy earthworks.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (southern-side grassy earthworks.

    The relatively flat part of the earthwork, nearest the lane and fence, is on the south-side of the little stream while the northern and, by far the largest part of the earthwork, lies just beyond the stream and up the slight slope of the field beyond. But unfortunately the stream in between the two sections has made for some very muddy and boggy conditions, and so it is not easy to reach that ‘northern’ section unless you have wellies! Its quite obvious that the steam is a ‘more recent’ feature, having gouged out the channel through the centre of the ancient earthwork. To put it another way: the stream was not here when the earthwork was constructed. It was formed from a spring further up the field over hundreds of years, but certainly ‘not’ thousands of years.

    The northern part of the earthwork is pock-marked by holes or depressions (bell pits) in the ground, which are probably the result of quarrying for coal a few hundred years or so back. This poor or cheap coal substitute being used by local farms. Some of the holes have now become ponds.

    The Pastscape website has the site of an alleged Roman camp (monument no. 45530) about a ¼ of a mile to the north-west at Swinden (OS grid ref: SD 8617 5440), though this is perhaps an error? See the website link below.

Sources and related websites:-

Click on this Geograph link for a good photo of the enclosure on Swinden Moor:-     http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2837370

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45530

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45517

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=28080

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swinden

http://www.gisburn.org.uk/nappa/

http://www.longpreston.info/history/history.html

http://mapio.net/o/1975548/

                                                        © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.


Ring Stones Earthwork, Worsthorne, Burnley, Lancashire

Ringstones Earthwork near Worsthorne, Lancashire.

Ring Stones Earthwork Worsthorne, Lancashire. South-eastern side.

    OS grid reference: SD 8863 3301. On Worsthorne Hill above the two Swinden reservoirs at the east side of Burnley, Lancashire, there is a rectangular-shaped earthwork which has often been considered to be Iron Age in date, but it appears to be Romano-British, and most probably mid to late 4th century AD. It is similar in design to the Bomber Camp Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancashire. This quite large site is also called ‘Slipper Hill Earthwork’ and ‘Hameldon Pasture Earthwork’. It is conjectured to have been a Romano-British farmstead, or maybe a temporary camp, although without any “real” concrete information that is still ‘open to question’. The site can be reached from St John’s Church in Worsthorne. From here take the Gorple road going eastwards on what becomes a rough track for about ¾ of a mile. Take the track on the left just after Brown Edge Farm, climb over two stiles and continue along here for 600m, eventually climbing a 3rd and 4th wall stile. The site is in the field to the right. There is a stile but it’s on the wrong-side of the earthwork; so the two gates are in the way and the site seems to be on ‘private land’. You can probably reach the earthwork from a path at the the north-western side of the field.

Ring Stones Earthwork (western side)

Ring Stones Earthwork (western rampart looking south).

    This quite large rectangular earthwork measures 56m x 41m and has very well-defined outer banks (ramparts) that are curved at the corners, and there are also prominent ditches. The outer banks (ramparts) are 3 feet high in places, especially at the S, W and N sides – the bank at the E side is not quite as high. At the E and W sides the ditches are quite well-defined. The NE side has what could be an entrance with extended banks at either side running out from the earthwork for 15m – and a trackway or path traversing from east to north-west across the inside of the site, although these could be a more recent features? The NW side has a circular (banked) feature with large stones inside, which could perhaps have been a 17th century lime kiln? At the W and NW sides, in particular, the outer banks (ramparts) have large and small stones embedded into them at intervals – an indication of how these were built. At the NW side a second, smaller earthwork measuring 18 yards square can just be made out – although this is now very faint in the ground and only just visible.

Ring Stones Earthwork. The western rampart.

Ring Stones Earthwork. (Western rampart looking north).

    The author Walter Bennett in his acclaimed work ‘History of Burnley’ did a survey of the earthworks in 1946. In this he called the site: “an enclosure that is 50 yards square with ramparts 2 yards wide and 1 yard high with an outer ditch 2 yards wide.” He says of the smaller enclosure: “It is 18 yards square.” He goes on to say: “the site was excavated in 1925 at which time a gateway 7 yards wide at the SW side was paved with boulders laid in a gravel foundation. At the S side there was a drain. A regular course of large stones flanked the gateway entrance at either side, and a floor of gravel and flat stones or cobbles. The rampart was built of earth and stones. There was a well-constructed road 7 feet wide which ran towards Bottin Farm on the Worsthorne to Roggerham road.” This is ½ a mile to the west. Could this have been the ancient straight trackway which runs back down to Gorple Road, or another track that heads north-west from the site to Swinden?

Ring Stones Earthwork (from the south-east).

Ring Stones Earthwork (from the south-east).

    But what makes this site interesting is the fact that a smaller, square-shaped earthwork feature joins onto the larger one at the north-western side, although this is fainter and more difficult to make out at ground level. So was this also a Romano-British farmstead, or was it something else? Almost certainly it was linked to, or was part of, the larger farmstead. It may be that this structure, and the larger one, only lasted for a short period of time because at that ‘time’ in Late Roman Britain, especially in the northern parts of the empire, daily life was becoming difficult with warring factions and tribal infighting on the increase – the Roman army now almost incapable of holding these rebellious northern, British tribes back. And soon the Roman army would retreat back to Gaul. Britanniae would then be left to its own devices! But the question must be asked: what was this Late Roman farmstead or camp doing here at the east side of Burnley?

Sources and related web-sites:-

Bennett, Walter, History Of Burnley – Vol I, Burnley Corporation, 1946.

Hall, Brian, Burnley (A Short History), Burnley and District Historical Society, 1977.

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45317

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1009488

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/ring-stones-lancashire/


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Primrose Hill Earthwork, Gisburn, Lancashire

Primrose Hill Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancashire

Primrose Hill Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancashire

    OS grid reference: SD 8476 4725. Near Coal Pit Lane – about 1 mile to the south-east of Gisburn, Lancashire, there is a small, square-shaped earthwork that sits upon the north-side of Primrose Hill. But unfor-tunately hardly anything is known about this solitary earthwork apart from the probability that it dates from the Roman period. This earth-work is located beside a footpath close to Hesketh Farm. There are other Roman features in this area: 600m to the north-west is the well-defined earthwork known as Bomber Camp, and 500m to the south-east there are faint traces of the Roman road that runs from Elslack to Ribchester. The Primrose Hill earthwork can be reached from the A682 out of Gisburn, turning onto Coal Pit Lane for maybe ½ a mile, then walk along the footpath/track towards Hesketh House Farm. Via off to the north before the farm, then north-east along footpath (following tree line) for 160m to reach the low hill (Primrose Hill) on the right.

Primrose Hill Earthwork near Gisburn, Lancashire,

Primrose Hill Earthwork (in the foreground) near Gisburn, Lancashire,

    This roughly square-shaped earthwork or earthen platform on Primrose Hill is about 1m (3 feet) high and 10m (nearly 33 foot) square. It is quite prominent when viewed close-up from just below the hill itself, but from further afield it is not particularly visible and would be easily walked passed. There is a dearth of information with regard to this site – although it is conjectured to have been a Roman watchtower or signal station – the later being more unlikely due to the smallness of the earthwork. A watchtower seems more plausible due to the feature being situated on a hill with lower ground on the N side and its nearness to a Roman road on the S. If this “were” a watchtower of the late Roman period, it would have been garrisoned by only ten soldiers at any one time. The thinking being that this particular watchtower never even saw the light of day, it was quickly abandoned and never begun, leaving just an earthen platform. The nearby Roman earthwork ‘Bomber Camp’ ended its days in a similar vane – only surviving for a short period of time towards the end of the 4th century AD.

Primrose Hill Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancs.

Primrose Hill Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancashire.

    The author John Dixon in his work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’, (Volume One), says of this earthwork that: “During June 1971 the site was excavated by Alan King and the Chorley College of Education. No post-holes or masonry were found, nor any finds. There was no ditch around the earthwork, but the boulder clay of the mound contained sand-stone while the drift below was more calcareous, and so it was given to be man-made.” And so with the lack of any ‘good’ credible information this Roman earthwork, if that’s what it was, shall have to remain just a miscella-neous earthwork of uncertain date – at least until further information arises.

Sources:

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume One), Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2012/06/27/bomber-camp-gisburn-lancashire/